Ākonga find belonging and connection with Pāpāmoa Pou

Issue: Volume 102, Number 5

Posted: 20 April 2023
Reference #: 1HA_T_

A new school house system with te ao Māori at its heart is transforming a Bay of Plenty primary school.

Year 5 student Lilah of Pou Uta, Year 6 student Benjamin of Pou Nui, and Year 5 students Maia of Pou Roa and Louie of Pou Tai.

Year 5 student Lilah of Pou Uta, Year 6 student Benjamin of Pou Nui, and Year 5 students Maia of Pou Roa and Louie of Pou Tai.

Pāpāmoa Primary now has four Pou, explains pincipal Matt Simeon, known to the students as ‘Mr S’.

“Pou in Māori has a number of meanings. From a pole/post in the ground through to a mentor or expert. For Pāpāmoa Primary School, Pou means a group, a tribe, a gathering of people who strongly support a cause. Simply put, we say – my Pou is my tribe.”

Each Pou has its own unique story, values and colour gifted from local iwi Ngā Potiki. Pou Uta Guardian of the Land; Pou Roa Kaitiaki of the Pāpāmoa Hills, Pou Nui the cloak that wraps around everyone and Pou Tai the waka who brought everyone here.

All kaiarahi and tamariki were sorted into their Pou at a memorable assembly in the first few days of term 1 this year. Everyone that is, except for Mr S.

“I stand outside of the system to prevent the perception that the Pou points can be rigged. If this was Harry Potter, the Pou are like Ravenclaw and Gryffindor, and I’m a bit like Dumbledore.”

A sense of belonging

The Pou have become, as planned, a central part of the school community providing tamariki with a supportive network of peers and teachers.

“It’s about promoting teamwork, friendly competition, and a sense of community among tamariki and kaiako. The new Pou are a real source of pride and identity, they have enhanced the excitement and energy around the school and are fostering an even more positive and inclusive school culture,” says Matt.

 Having been appointed to his new role at the beginning of 2022, Matt asked his staff for three great points about the school they’d never like to see lost, and three points they thought could be enhanced or changed.

“Nearly every teacher mentioned the house system as a thing they would like to see become a central part of the school.”

So, Matt met with local iwi and Kaumātua from Ngā Potiki.

“All the designs are quite specific to iwi. The first iteration was a Pa – Pa Uta etc but I sat with the Kaumātua, and he decided we needed four Pou to hold up a whare. There were a number of metaphors the Kaumātua used to highlight the Pou.

“The whole thing and our thinking evolved further following this kōrero. It’s been a great journey; a journey which has only just begun for the students and staff.”

 Ākonga have a sense of pride in their tribes.

Ākonga have a sense of pride in their tribes.

School is a-buzz

The excitement around the Pou is palpable when talking to students, from loving their new T-shirts to be worn every Pou Friday or for any school sporting event such as cross country, or proudly understanding the meanings of their respective Pou and their responsibilities.

“Are we any good without the other?” asks Mr S.

“You have to have all four [Pou] to work. Without one of them we wouldn’t be here today, to have a competition, you have to have the others,” says Pou Uta’s Lilah of Year 5.

“And we’re singing better because we’ re trying to get Pou points,” says Pou Roa’s Maia, also Year 5.

“We were just colours before. Now we’ve been given new shirts which are better than Kmart ones, which we wear on Pou Friday, and we wear them at sports events,” says Pou Nui’s Benjamin, Year 6, who is also one of the school’s kaiarataki (leaders).

The students agree it’s given the school a real sense of unity, a sense of whanaungatanga.

“Now we’re part of our Pou and when we come together, we feel connected. We played games like what colour are your eyes so we can start to learn about one another when we’re together, and now we all sit together for assemblies and do our Pou chants. And we have to look after the nohi nohi (little ones) in our Pou,” says Louie from Pou Tai, and in Year 5.

The move to Pou and the reset to operating the school via te ao Māori lens is absolutely curriculum driven, says Matt.

“Not only do teachers now get to use Pou points as a learning incentive, but teachers are also using the Pou to direct school learning in the classroom. Every school year will now begin with a unit on the Pou, their connection to Ngā Potiki, and what they mean.

“And the banter in the staff room between Pou has been great to see and hear.”

And by a stroke of synchronicity, neighbouring Pāpāmoa College’s new principal Iva Ropati has introduced a very similar house system creating a pathway for children who will leave Pāpāmoa Primary to go to Year 7 at their local college.

Community involvement

A local Ngā Potiki artist and co-designer collaborated with Tukara Matthews in designing and creating the artwork/graphics that go with each of the Pou. This was done alongside a team of teachers who also had input into the process.

The four local businesses who sponsored the Pou were celebrated at the sorting assembly.

“The businesses were so keen and happy to be involved. It’s bringing the community back into the kura.”

News of the power of the Pou has spread beyond Ngā Potiki. Matt and the kura, are soon to host a group of principals from Tāmaki Makaurau who are travelling to Pāpāmoa to see the Pou in action. 

A Pou launch assembly was held on 1 February, with students proudly wearing their new shirts.

A Pou launch assembly was held on 1 February, with students proudly wearing their new shirts.

The Pāpāmoa Primary Pou

Pou Nui is yellow and represented by the image of a feather alluding to the korowai of Ngā Potiki. The korowai gives protection, and each strand is woven into the very fabric of the whenua, tangata and whakapapa.

Pou Roa is purple and represents the purple skies seen locally with an image referencing the mountain range that sits with the lands of Ngā Potiki: the maunga are kaitiaki which offer protection to all who live there.

Pou Tai is ocean blue and is represented by an image of the tauihi/prow of a waka, making room for all who are on a journey of learning. The tauihi cuts through the water and ensures the journey is a smooth and fruitful one.

Pou Uta is green and features an image representing the landscape that is Ngā Potiki and the neighbouring whakapapa links to surrounding hapū-iwi. Its Poutama design represents the steps taken on a journey to learning.

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero, reporter@edgazette.govt.nz

Posted: 9:31 am, 20 April 2023

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