Ngā hononga kura-whānau e puta ai ngā ihu o ngā ākonga Māori

Identifying priorities for Māori students: What it might look like


This section includes excerpts from case studies on the schools that participated in Ruia’s exploratory study.

Use the link at the end of each Ruia story to read a full version of the case study.

In addition, Hamilton Girls’ High School and Western Springs College provide two vignettes from Rangiātea case studies and exemplars.

The Rangiātea project consists of major case studies and exemplars from five secondary schools, each of them on a journey towards realising Māori student potential.

The case studies look at the strategies used by the school leadership team and report on the key factors that contributed to lifting Māori student achievement.

The final two examples in this section are video clips in which students, whānau, and kaumātua discuss partnerships with their schools.

Aorangi School

Aorangi School is a decile 2, year 0–6 school in a provincial city. It has 140 students, 88 percent of whom are Māori. The principal, deputy principal, and a parent were interviewed for Ruia.

The interviewees said that their school community values academic and social success equally. The community wants its students to believe in themselves as learners and to focus on success in numeracy, literacy, and all academic pursuits while also being confident in social settings.

Teachers at the school have high academic expectations for their students and ensure that these expectations are supported by specific targeted instruction. The school’s self-review processes backs this and which includes the careful tracking of student data by gender and ethnicity.

For example, when the school identified that year 5 girls were not achieving the school’s targets for mathematics, it employed an extra teacher to deliver a targeted mathematics programme with specific objectives that would step them towards their learning goals.

The following ‘cornerstone values’ underpin the success of students at the school:

  • respect
  • kindness
  • responsibility
  • honesty
  • obedience
  • truthfulness
  • duty
  • consideration
  • compassion.

People in the community praise the students’ adherence to these values, which the teachers are encouraged to model in their practice.

Letters from visitors to the school and comments from members of the public acknowledge this appreciation. For example, the hosts of a popular school holiday camp said that the respect that the children had for the teachers and other adults was “noticeable and admirable” and reflected positively on the adults who were with them.

It has not always been this way. In 2003–2004, the teachers and school leaders noticed many students were being removed from class for a wide variety of interventions (for example, oral language and reading programmes).

However, when they looked at their data, the interventions were not making much difference to student achievement. The teachers and leaders were also concerned about the low turnout to parent–teacher interviews.

Read the full Aorangi School Ruia case study. 

Ōpōtiki College

Ōpōtiki College is a state secondary school in the Bay of Plenty. Over 80 percent of the students are Māori. The school is a participant in the Te Kotahitanga project. The principal, a teacher who is the school’s Te Kotahitanga facilitator, and a parent were interviewed for the Ruia project.

The three interviewees agreed that educational success for Māori students is about standing tall and moving confidently in both te ao Pākehā and te ao Māori. They said that Māori students should feel proud to be Māori while getting the best qualifications they can.

To achieve this, education for Māori students should be values-driven and built on firm relationships characterised by a strong sense of whanaungatanga. It is also important to celebrate success and to support students to build on their strengths.

The school has a goal that no student will leave without a qualification.

The interviewees agreed closer and more regular contact with whānau is important for enabling school and whānau to work collectively to support the students. The need for this was highlighted by one particular event when the principal made an important decision that was criticised by some whānau.

Read the full Ōpōtiki College Ruia case study.

Randwick School

Randwick School is a decile 3, year 0–8 suburban school with 207 students, of whom nearly half are Māori. Ruia’s interviewer describes the school as feeling very welcoming with a ‘real whānau atmosphere’. The school’s principal, a teacher, and a parent/BOT member asked to be interviewed together, reflecting the way they usually work.

The interviewees at Randwick School expressed the following shared beliefs.

  • The school’s goal for Māori students is that they achieve the same academic success as students in all New Zealand schools.
  • Teachers, students, and parents should all be aware of the benchmarks for success.
  • Students and whānau should feel confident, safe, and happy at school every day.

The principal, teacher, and parent agreed that manaakitanga is the philosophy underpinning everything that goes on in the school.

This means treating people with respect, being caring and making people feel comfortable, not being too ‘high and mighty’, making people more important than paperwork, valuing students and getting to know them, having a whānau atmosphere, and being easy to talk to.

Manaakitanga is manifest in a variety of ways at Randwick School, for example:

  • having high expectations for all students
  • having food available in the staffroom and at school events
  • teachers attending students’ weekend sport events
  • building a relationship with the local marae
  • teachers dressing in a way that is not intimidating to parents
  • holding hāngi.

The process of establishing specific priorities for both student and teacher learning begins at the start of each year, with staff collating school-wide student data.

The management team conducts the initial analysis, looking for overall trends and areas that need strengthening.

After that, this team presents the school-wide data at a staff meeting where teachers discuss the school-wide strengths and needs and the implications for allocating resources such as teacher aides.

The data and the notes from this meeting are kept in draft form for a lengthy period to allow for additions and amendments. Ultimately, this information is used to identify the school’s targets and annual goals and to monitor progress towards their achievement.

The principal presents the data for Māori students at meetings for their parents and whānau and discusses with them what they can do to help. The purpose is to:

  • explain to them the rationale for the school’s current teacher professional learning focus
  • share data with them so that they are well-informed about where Māori students are at Randwick School and where their own child is achieving
  • give them content knowledge about expected achievement levels so they can participate more actively in the parent–teacher interviews.

Read the full Randwick School Ruia case study.

Sylvia Park School

Sylvia Park School is a decile 2 suburban school with a diverse student population of 320. Around a quarter of the students are Māori, and over half are Pasifika. Ruia’s interviewer met with the principal, two teachers (the teacher in the bilingual unit and the teacher who is the project manager of the parents’ centre), and a parent.

The interviewees expressed a passionate commitment to student success. They stated that this requires having “a strong evidence base, effective pedagogy, and home–school partnerships”.

Through the school’s participation in deep, genuine and ongoing professional learning over several years and through its work to build genuine, collaborative relationships with parents, students have experienced accelerated progress, with many achieving above national expectations for literacy and numeracy.

This is especially significant for the school’s Māori and Pasifika students, who make double the rate of progress in comparison to national average mean scores in reading, and more than triple this rate for writing (ERO, June 2010).

While the school has a strong focus on ensuring that its students can meet curriculum outcomes and national standards, the interviewees added that educational success is also about cultural outcomes and students knowing who they are beyond their ethnicity.

The school’s mission statement is about fostering lifelong learners.

This requires students to understand what learning looks like and to be clear about where they are heading. The ‘Sylvia Park way’ is about students having a sense of belonging and experiencing a rich curriculum. The expectation is that students’ strong sense of identity and ability to express who they are will enable them to apply their knowledge beyond school life.

The school’s curriculum plan is a key document that is displayed throughout the school; parents and teachers all have their own copies.

This plan was created in an inclusive way and was based on community wants, needs, and values.

To achieve this, a series of hui was held and surveys were distribute over eighteen months.

Parents, the board of trustees, staff, and students, as well as external educational expertise participated in the process.

Having identified what people wanted in a general sense, the school then held a series of workshops and teacher-only days to identify education priorities and ‘problems to be solved’ as a wider education community. The plan emerged from this extensive consultation.

Two follow-up surveys indicate that whānau feel the plan is still relevant in its original form.

Read the full Sylvia Park School Ruia case study.

Te Ara Whānui Kura Kaupapa Māori o Ngā Kōhanga Reo o Te Awa Kairangi

Te Ara Whānui is a decile 3 kura in Lower Hutt, with students in years 1–10. The kura was inaugurated in response to strong demand from parents of children in the kōhanga reo of Te Awa Kairangi and continues to develop in close collaboration with whānau. Four people were interviewed for Ruia: the tumuaki, the deputy principal, a senior teacher, and a parent.

The people interviewed for this case study expressed high expectations for student achievement. 

When students step out of Te Ara Whānui Kura Kaupapa Māori o Ngā Kōhanga Reo o Te Awa Kairangi, their kura whānau expect that they will be confident, knowledgeable citizens who will make informed decisions and choices.

The school’s core principles are based on a blending of Te Aho Matua, Te Whāriki, and Te Marautanga o Aotearoa, for example:

  • Whakamana i te Tamaiti – Tū tangata i te Tamaiti i te ao hurihuri – Strengthening our children is dependent on the survivability, sustainability, and retention of te reo Māori me ōna nei tikanga and the inter-generational transmission of information, knowledge, and skills.

All those interviewed agreed that students’ educational success as Māori is about students feeling strong, confident, and proud and being competent speakers of te reo Māori and English.

The interviewees believe that knowing who they are and where they are from will stand students in good stead as they make their way in the world.

Te Ara Whānui expects its students to achieve in whichever area they choose and that they will maintain a connection to the kura.

These ideals are both realised and communicated when tauira return as mātua, to coach sports, to tautoko their teina when they graduate, when they acknowledge the kura in their achievements, and when they meet with members of the kura community at marae, kōhanga reo, and other community events.

They are encapsulated in the acronym WAKA: Whanaungatanga, Awhi, Kaitiakitanga, Aroha.

The twice yearly goal-setting process is the main driver for determining student learning goals. In this process, the mana rests with the student and the whānau. 

Throughout the year, each whare (syndicate) sends a weekly pānui to whānau, informing them of what’s happening, giving regular updates on student learning, and inviting whānau to discuss their child’s learning if desired.

This provides whānau with a wealth of knowledge and understanding of how their child is progressing. When the goal-setting session takes place, the whānau are able to make well-informed decisions and ask quality questions about their child’s education, and agreement on future goals is easily reached. 

During the goal-setting hui, whānau are asked to tell kaiako about the life of the tamaiti (child) outside the kura, including what their tamaiti does well, so that the kaiako can learn about the whole child.

This ensures that the kura is aware of and can celebrate the successful learning that happens outside kura, in the context of the whānau and hapori (community). Whānau are also asked to consider the next learning step their tamaiti might take at home and to take responsibility for growing and monitoring that learning.

The kura often seeks whānau feedback through questions in the regular kura pānui (for example, “What is manaaki? What does it look like?”).

The close relationship between kura and whānau was clearly evidenced by the relationships in the group that was interviewed.

The parent is the mother of some foundation students of the kura, and her grandchildren now attend the kura.

The tumuaki has led the kura since its inception, and many of her own close relatives provide a solid foundation of support.

As mana tangata and ngā kōhanga reo and marae of the rohe, people are always available to tautoko.

The tumuaki expressed her firm belief that the kura exists as an extension of Te Kōhanga Reo. Whānau are expected to continue their commitment to walking alongside and learning with their tamaiti.

Read the full Te Ara Whānui Kura Kaupapa Māori Ngā Kōhanga Reo o Te Awa Kairangi Ruia case study.

Te Kura Kaupapa o Te Waiū o Ngāti Porou

Te Kura Kaupapa o Te Waiū o Ngāti Porou is a well-respected wharekura on the east coast of the North Island. Its current principal led the breakaway of the kura from the local primary school in the early 1990s. He was interviewed for Ruia, as was a teacher of four years and a parent who has been part of the Te Waiū whānau for 13 years.

All three interviewees agreed that high expectations, consistency, responsibility, and accountability are required for Te Waiū students to achieve educational success as Māori.

This means students realising their aspirations and leading their lives in the context of a world view that is strongly based on the principles of Ngāti Porou and Te Aho Matua. Students should have a cultural perspective on relationships that fosters their awareness of their role as contributors to society.

The interviewees believe students should leave Te Waiū with the skills and knowledge they need to succeed in whatever they want to do. If students do not have the skills they need to reach their potential, then it is the kura that has failed.

The tumuaki says that the responsibilities of the kura include challenging students beyond their paradigm of thinking and ‘opening doors’ to other realities to ensure its students aim high.

Read the full Te Kura Kaupapa o Te Waiū o Ngāti Porou Ruia case study.

Waverley Park School

Waverley Park School is a decile 5, year 0–6 suburban school with 255 pupils, of whom a third are Māori. Four people were interviewed for Ruia: the principal, the teacher who leads the whānau group, and two parents.

The interviewees at Waverley Park School expressed the following aspirations for the Māori students at their school.

  • They should have both academic and cultural success.
  • Their academic and cultural achievement should be equal to or better than all others.
  • They should be engaged in their learning and fully participate in the educational experiences the school offers.
  • They should have ample opportunities to celebrate their successes.
  • They should feel a sense of self-worth through addressing their cultural needs.
  • Their sense of self-worth should have a flow-on effect to their hinengaro, wairua, and whānau.

The school was supported to use its data differently through participation in the Literacy Professional Development Project (LPDP).

The principal and teacher said this particularly impacted on the achievement of Māori students because it highlighted a significant difference in achievement between Māori and Pākehā students at the school. “As soon as we saw that, we knew we had to do something about it.” 

A new innovation was the collection of asTTle writing data, which staff started marking and moderating.

This meant setting up routines for moderating data to ensure consistency across the school, including releasing teachers to work in groups during school time so that they came to it feeling fresh and could compare and discuss their marking.

The staff then looked at patterns of achievement across the school and classrooms and identified focus students who needed targeted teaching. Programmes were put in place in response to the data, and the students’ progress was closely monitored. In time, the process of data collection, collation, and analysis was repeated so that the staff could check to see if their programmes had worked.

These practices have become embedded in the school and are part of the appraisal system.

At the end of the school year, the school gathers the bulk of its achievement data. A full-time literacy leader supports teachers to do the marking, moderating, collation, and analysis. At this time, the school also allocates resourcing and sets targets and goals so that they are ready to go at the beginning of the next school year.

This is all done in a collaborative manner with the whole staff involved in the decision making.

Read the full Waverley Park School Ruia case study.

Hamilton Girls' High School

A Rangiātea project school

In 2001, Hamilton Girls’ High School (HGHS) initiated a targeted response to whānau aspirations for the school to reflect Māori values and customs.

As a result, when the current principal joined the staff in 2004, Māori student achievement at HGHS was higher than national Māori student achievement levels. However, there remained a gap between and Māori and non-Māori achievement that required a response to raise Māori student presence and engagement.

Rangiātea: Hamilton Girls’ High School demonstrate a systematic process of the school’s engagement with whānau and students to understand their aspirations and work in partnership to achieve them.

These include whānau rōpū involvement, regular contact between teaching staff and whānau, whānau and student surveys, and Ka Awatea (the Māori Student Council). The guidance of kaumātua ensures that the Tainuitanga is respected and acknowledged.

The case study cites the following feedback indicating that whānau appreciate the school leaders’ efforts to include them in decision making.

  • [The principal and SLM] have used an inclusive model and are responsive to Māori. [The principal] is a good leader and takes the time to learn what works and why.
  • The principal is not afraid to say she doesn’t have the answers. Instead she has fronted up and talked about her concerns openly and genuinely asks for advice.

The case study and exemplar describe three initiatives that grew out of this consultation: whānau tutor groups, vertical whānau tutor groups, and mentoring.

Western Springs College

A Rangiātea project school

Rangiātea: Western Springs College discusses the school’s ongoing processes for ensuring that its strategic and long-term goals are in line with whānau aspirations.

There is an especially close relationship with the whānau of Rumaki students, but mainstream Māori whānau are also consulted on new developments, particularly through whānau hui that are held once a term and through representation on the board of trustees.

School and community share the expectation that Māori students can and will succeed, both culturally and academically:

The school is attracting teachers who are committed to Māori student achievement. A senior manager is assigned to work with the managers of mainstream Māori student achievement, meeting once a term. These days Māori parents are demanding the best for their children.


There is a strong Māori presence at the school, which is symbolised by the long-established marae at the front entrance.

Student achievement is closely monitored, with specific targets set for Māori students. Those targets are set at both school-wide and department levels. They are clearly stated in the school’s documentation, including the charter and strategic plan, and are subject to ongoing self-review.

Quality-of-service surveys enable senior management to take whānau wishes into account in their planning: 

Every two years we do a quality of service [assessment] where all students, parents, and staff are surveyed, and they rate various things within the school. And then we have a group of staff, the senior managers and some nominated ones, who will come and look at those results. And that helps us make the plan for the next year or two about what we need to do in school. For example, we put extra time for careers because it was coming through from parents that they didn’t think we did enough career advice, and so we’ve just appointed another half-time [position] into careers.

Deputy principal

Te Awamutu - You Have a Message

The video, You Have a Message, is the result of much discussion, planning, filming, and editing by twenty-seven year 6–13 students from the Rosetown Learning Community, some of whom are Māori.

These young people have a clear message for their teachers and community about how they learn and what they want from school.

The case study is accompanied by review questions about the value of consultation with students. However, it could also be used to prompt deep discussion with all members of a school community.

For example, in a session with parents, whānau, and students, the first question could be to students:

  • What do you think about what these students concluded? 
    • To what extent do you agree or disagree? 
    • Why?

Parents and teachers can then ask themselves what the challenges are for them and how they might respond.

Te Kotahitanga Kaumātua Whakaruruhau

In Te Kotahitanga Kaumātua Whakaruruhau reflect on their role in support of the wider Te Kotahitanga whānau to make a difference for Māori students.

Their work began with the gathering of narratives of experience in 2001. They have been working with Te Kotahitanga ever since.

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