Domino effect from Kāhui Ako collaboration

Issue: Volume 98, Number 12

Posted: 19 July 2019
Reference #: 1H9w56

As Kāhui Ako around the country explore new ways of working together, a group of schools on Auckland’s North Shore is finding that improving parental engagement can get unexpected results.

The seven schools in the Oneroa Kāhui Ako include five primaries, an intermediate and a secondary school. One of their main goals is improving engagement and connection with Māori students, their families and whānau, to try to raise achievement levels, but they are finding much wider gains are being made.

The Kāhui Ako is made up of Northcross Intermediate, Sherwood Primary School, Torbay School, Long Bay Primary School, Oteha Valley School, Glamorgan School and Long Bay College.

 “We wanted to pull in all parts of the community so that everyone is participating, and that is now happening,” says co-lead principal Rose Neal. “We are connecting with families of our Korean and Chinese students as well as strengthening links between the seven schools that did not exist before.”

Matariki highlights connections

A recent Matariki event showed how far they have come, with the schools joining together as a community to celebrate with kapa haka. 

In the past, all the schools found it challenging to connect consistently with Māori whānau, Rose says, but that is changing. 

“We have removed barriers to two-way communication and altered our approach to use diverse forms of connecting, which was primarily by email before.

“We interact face-to-face more, and kai is provided during parent-teacher meetings because that is culturally appropriate. Also, we do more asking, not telling, in our interactions.”

Regular hui are beginning to be held, with support from kaumātua and the Ministry. A whānau engagement committee allows for constant dialogue and parents can take part in cultural activities at the schools. The Kāhui Ako has a relationship with the local iwi, Ngāti Whātua, Te Kawerau-ā-Maki, and Te Waiohua, to help with the new direction.

“There’s been a domino effect – it’s so positive that parents are beginning to be more engaged and are happier to have a stronger relationship with their children’s school,” says co-lead principal Janet Pinchen.

Students at the five primary schools often go on to Northcross Intermediate and then to high school at Long Bay College. “Creating more links between our schools is also going to create smoother pathways to transition from one school to the next,” says Janet.

Building teacher links

The Kāhui Ako is also looking at ways of bringing teachers as well as students together. Relationships between SENCOs, associate principals and deputy principals at the seven schools are being expanded, and the Kāhui Ako student council has representatives from all seven schools, with their ideas and views feeding into what happens across the group. 

This year they organised ‘Pink-shirt day’ and suggested the schools bring their digital teachers together for a hui. The student council is looking at a range of ideas to further create links and pathways between the schools and parent community. These events include a national charity day in term three. 

“The council is a good forum for starting conversations and providing student voice on decisions, and the students are all widening their perspective in many areas,” says Janet.

“We are also tapping into their skills and knowledge to find ways of doing cool things, such as getting seniors from Long Bay College to help primary students with their digital technology, through tuakana / teina, at schools with digital technology and kapa haka.”

Impacting on other communities

The changes are also impacting on the families of Chinese and Korean students. The North Shore has large Chinese and Korean communities, where English is not the first language for most parents. 

Recently, ex-students of Long Bay College helped translate for Korean parents at a parent-teacher meeting, and bilingual students are translating the Kāhui Ako’s newsletter into different languages.

Rousing Matariki event celebrates schools partnership

A Kāhui Ako-organised Matariki event celebrated the arrival of the Māori New Year 2019. The Oneroa Matariki festival held at Sherwood School was a half-day event, where the schools performed kapa haka and students from Northcross Intermediate performed a drama presentation written especially for Matariki.

Organiser Dennie Davidson says, “This festival embraces the unique place Māori have as being tangata whenua in our area, especially as they are a minority on the Shore. Other cultures experience what it means to Māori to celebrate Matariki and it brings all other cultures together with Māori.”

“It’s important to celebrate the ‘cross-pollination’ that is happening,” says co-lead principal Rose Neal. 

“In the past, primaries would collaborate with other primaries, and high schools with other high schools, but now we’re building connections between all of them.”

What students think 

The Matariki event was not a competition, but there was as much passion and excitement in the performances as there is at Polyfest. Here are the views of some participants:

“It’s great because we get all the separate schools together in one place and on one stage, so it’s special. We look forward to it all year, and the primary kids look up to us at Long Bay College, and they learn from the kapa haka skills that we pass on.” Isaiah Manley-Pearson, Year 11, Long Bay College

“It’s not just Māori New Year, it’s our New Year. I love kapa haka and te reo Māori, and they go together so well. You can see all the performers have mana and have pride in what they do. Te reo Māori is my favourite subject at school. This is my final year, but I might go back next year as a kapa haka tutor.” Cheyenne Pule, Year 13, Long Bay College

“I really love it, especially sharing the songs. It gives us a really good feeling. It’s really good to come to this school (Sherwood) and see our old primary school perform. Morgan Gouveia Year 8, Northcross Intermediate

I really enjoy the kapa haka because the words are translated for us, so we understand the meaning. That lets us get more into the feeling of the actions in the songs. Plus, it’s really exciting to perform on stage.” Maia Hunter, Year 8, Northcross Intermediate

Iwi input reveals rich place-based learning

The schools in the Kāhui Ako are discovering a rich history from earlier centuries of Māori presence on the North Shore through building a relationship with local iwi over the past three years.

Rawiri Wharemate is the local kaumatua and he’s been sharing the whakapapa (history) of the area, which goes back many centuries. 

He says one critical battle over 400 years ago shaped the subsequent history of Māori communities living on the Shore. 

“For all my life, I kept the whakapapa in my heart, but my grandchildren asked me to reveal it, and so I have, and the schools are building that hapū and iwi history into their local curriculum.”

A haka is being developed to represent key events in the whakapapa, with different versions adapted for primary, intermediate and secondary schools. 

Rawiri says the whakapapa values support collective action, and that spirit of intertwining is reflected in what the Kāhui Ako is doing. 

“When whānau are valued for their contribution, they reciprocate by supporting their children’s academic achievement.”

He is delighted at the passion in the students’ kapa haka performances. 

“Young people understand that the tangata whenua is where it’s at today, and that enriches their learning.”

Tips for teachers

  • Build relationships through a holistic approach to whānau engagement.
  • Remember that whānau and tamariki are one when it comes to school.
  • Show support personally for Māori culture and language.


BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero,

Posted: 10:30 am, 19 July 2019

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