Ka Hikitia in action at Blomfield Special School

Issue: Volume 99, Number 16

Posted: 8 October 2020
Reference #: 1HACPK

Ka Hikitia, the Māori Education Strategy, is an integral part of life at Blomfield Special School and Resource Centre in Tai Tokerau – and it’s benefitting staff, students and whānau.

Located in Whangārei, with satellite hubs at schools across Tai Tokerau, Blomfield Special School supports over 100 students aged between five and 21 with learning support needs that include autism, Down’s syndrome, chromosomal deletion, global developmental delay and cerebral palsy.

With 60 per cent of its students identifying as Māori, the school has had a strong focus on its Māori learners for many years, and has found that the principles of Ka Hikitia benefit all of its students.


David Robinson, outreach team lead at Blomfield, says actively listening and working with whānau is helping bring to life the domains of Ka Hikitia: te whānau, te tangata, te kanorautanga, te tuakiritanga, and te rangatiratanga.

“If we go back seven or eight years, we knew what principles like whanaungatanga were, but it was the unpacking of what they actually meant. So now when we have our IEPs (individual education plans), we have designated time to listen to whānau and hear what they want for their students.

“For example, they might say: ‘I’d really like my child to learn how to cook, or to be able to go to the shop, or budget’. By listening to their voice and those goals, we structure some of our curriculum time to actually doing that,” says David.

“We think that because whānau are feeling more heard, there is generally a growing support for the children to be in school, to be learning. We’re trying to do it more and more and we are finding that it’s working!”

The teachers at Blomfield School are focused on modifying the delivery of the curriculum so that all children can have meaningful learning.

“A student might be in a world where it’s difficult to have expressive communication, but might have significant understanding. To support students with delivery of the curriculum, we have our own specialists on hand: two speech language therapists, a physiotherapist and an occupational therapist,” explains David.

Connecting with te whānau

It has been a learning curve for the mainly Pākehā staff and David recalls when the school began its journey to better connect with whānau.

“About six years ago when we began this journey, we had a hui where we tried to get the families in and we had written an agenda that included things like calling them onto the school at 6.15pm, waiata at 6.30pm, and then it finished at 9pm. We didn’t actually achieve any of the things on the agenda because what happened was the families came in and said, ‘We’ve not been in this school yet, I just want to sing you a waiata’.

“The sense of connection was incredible! After a while, the principal said: ‘The agenda’s off’. I see that meeting as one of our watershed moments,” he says.

Several years ago, the school wondered why many Māori whānau weren’t attending hui or IEP meetings, so they tried something different.

“A number of our students come from the Moerewa region – in the middle of Northland. The attendance to IEPs wasn’t high, so we found a school in the area to partner with and the parental inclusion in the IEPs went through the roof. They said: ‘This is fantastic, it’s in our space, our whenua –we’re happy to come’.

“And just that one action brought a lot better partnership and a willingness to say what they would like their child to be learning at school.”

Small steps to success

Twice a year, the school’s management team meets to look at the IEP data and review where students are at with their goals. The IEP goals are honed to meet where the learner is, so that he or she begins with success.

“We look very carefully at what is achievable and what’s realistic with the learner and then we tailor their education to them so that as they go through the school, these children can achieve more and more success.

“We are constantly thinking about the small steps to success, rather than the giant leaps to falling off and not getting anywhere. Small goals regularly achieved produce greater outcomes long-term rather than one big long-term goal, where it gets muddled and blurred.

“We prefer our teams and our learners to be reflecting and thinking: how do we specifically get this child into a swimming pool, or to be able to change themselves by themselves, or to put a hat on when it’s sunny. And we focus on success bringing success rather than making things too big.”

Mauri ora

Blomfield School has created a paid responsibility unit for a designated team leader Māori. In doing this, the school demonstrates a commitment to actively valuing and nurturing te ao Māori and David says it has made a big difference.

“Whaea Brooke helps us understand the different aspects of kaupapa Māori. For example, our staff meetings always start with a karakia and a waiata. On a deeper level, Whaea Brooke gives presentations on subjects such as how te reo is linked to culture, and that has enabled deeper understanding.

“It’s not rocket science, but once the relationships have been built, it just seems as though other things become easier. At one time, whānau wouldn’t ring if their child didn’t want to come to school, but we have got to the stage where they will happily ring us up and talk about what is happening and we can construct some kind of solution.

“Because it’s constructed with the family and they feel they can be open and honest enough to say this, solutions seem to be happening,” he says.

Māori tikanga works for all

Understanding concepts such as whanaungatanga and manaakitanga has helped all of Blomfield School’s learners, as well as staff.

“We have found that things that work well for our Māori students, work well for all of our students,” says David.

“Whaea Brooke says that this is because the Māori way is holistic, student-centred and a more natural and down-to-earth approach. When you respect and strive to nurture the whole being of a person, you will see positive changes and growth.”

David says that the wellbeing of educators is improved when they understand how to best educate the children in their care.

“In doing this we see the interconnectedness of ako; we learn from our ākonga how to support them, they show us their needs and we respond. We also recognise that we need to take care of our own wellbeing and learning so that we can best support them; in this way ako is reciprocal,” he says.

“For us, Māori inclusion and raising awareness has just made us aware of so many new, different things. That understanding that culture can be accepted and celebrated is a very powerful life lesson in this multicultural world we live in. We need that lesson to come through with tolerance, acceptance and understanding.”

Ka Hikitia domains at a glance

  • Te whānau: Supporting learners within the context of their whānau. The school seeks significant input from whānau into goals for their ākonga.
  • Te tangata: Ensuring that Māori learners are free from racism, discrimination and stigma in education. The school has placed emphasis on relationships, raising awareness and building an inclusive culture.
  • Te kanorautanga: Recognising that Māori learners are diverse. The school tailors the learning experiences for its students based on their specific needs and goals.
  • Te tuakiritanga: Supporting the identity, language and culture of Māori learners. Blomfield’s Māori Lead, Whaea Brooke, helps staff to gain a stronger understanding of Māori culture and world views.
  • Te rangatiratanga: Allowing Māori to exercise their authority and agency in education. Students and their whānau have a voice at Blomfield. Māori enjoy educational success as Māori and that success is celebrated.

Ka Hikitia is the Māori Education Strategy that has been refreshed in 2020.

For more information, visit education.govt.nz(external link).

In conversation with Whaea Brooke Atlantis

It is the wairua of the land and the people that lead. I believe in ako, the Māori worldview, a perspective that goes beyond time and space. The more I learn, the more I realise there is to know. The depth of te ao Māori astounds me, I am in awe of the knowledge hidden within nga kupu.

I want us to all learn more so that we can support our ākonga to develop themselves and each other: mana tangata, wairua, manawa, hinengaro and hauora tinana.

Regarding tino rangatiratanga (Māori self-determination), one meaning for the kupu ranga is to raise up and to set in motion. I see my role as being underneath, supporting and raising up instead of on top in comparison with the western perspective of leadership.

This involves striving to raise up our kura kaupapa me ona tikanga, set new initiatives in motion, plant seeds, nurture and stir up some inspiration and motivation among staff.

We are a community of learners who have established relationships with our wider school community including whānau and elders who we value and consult with.


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

Posted: 10:52 am, 8 October 2020

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