Pacific principals delivering Talanoa Ako

Issue: Volume 100, Number 16

Posted: 8 December 2021
Reference #: 1HARtm

Talanoa Ako is a 10-week programme, delivered as and by Pacific, which gives Pacific parents, families, and communities the knowledge and tools to champion their children’s education.

 Leaders from Aorere College supported students and families for the transition from Kedgley Intermediate School.

Leaders from Aorere College supported students and families for the transition from Kedgley Intermediate School.

The home-school partnership is key to learner success and it looks different for every community. For the Pacific community, it looks like Talanoa Ako. 

Talanoa Ako and its predecessor, PowerUP, is delivered by community partners such as health and education trusts, teachers and BOT collectives, Pacific churches, and schools at 74 locations from Auckland to Invercargill. 

It includes core sessions such as understanding NCEA, learner pathways, literacy, and numeracy alongside sessions specifically requested by parents. Families are also given strategies to use when working with the school; for example, how to decode a school report and what to ask at parent-teacher conferences. 

Talanoa Ako builds knowledge of the education system and learning for parents, families and communities so they are better able to support their children’s learning journeys and form equitable partnerships with their schools and teachers.

Strengthening partnerships

“Learning partnerships is one of the key drivers across our kāhui ako,” says Banapa Avatea, principal of Flat Bush School in South Auckland and previous lead principal of Te Puke ō Taramainuku Kāhui Ako.

“Talanoa Ako is another opportunity to strengthen learner pathways from early learning until the end of secondary school. Most schools will say that they have an open-door policy, and that policy has to be true and authentic, not just when you want them to come in. Parents need to feel it is their school,” adds Banapa.

At Flat Bush, 80 percent of ākonga are of Pacific heritage. Some came to New Zealand as small children, while others were born here, as was Banapa. His father was from the Cook Islands and his mother is European.

Apart from three years as principal at Huntly West Primary School, Banapa has spent his entire career working in South Auckland schools and says Talanoa Ako has been a career highlight. 

Flat Bush School hosted Talanoa Ako earlier this year with the support of teachers from Rongomai Primary, Ferguson Intermediate and Tangaroa College. 

“During the first session we spent time connecting and everyone had the opportunity to introduce themselves,” says Banapa.

“I was blown away by how deep some of that sharing was and it set the scene for what was to follow, strong connections with deep trust. It was truly talanoa with no beginning or end. There is such power in getting to know each other and by the end we knew each other very much better.”

Talanoa is a traditional word used across the Pacific to reflect a process of inclusive, participatory, and transparent dialogue. The purpose of talanoa is to share stories, build empathy and to make wise decisions for the collective good.

School leaders and whānau met weekly at Kedgley Intermediate School.

School leaders and whānau met weekly at Kedgley Intermediate School.

Play-based learning

Lisa Boyd-Crofskey, lead teacher for learning through discovery at Flat Bush School, led a session on play-based learning with parents encouraged to take on the role of learner, a workshop that drew much feedback.

“Guilty! I was not keen on the idea but after the hands-on experience, (I realise that) playing simple games with your child is huge for their learning, no matter what age,” wrote one parent.

“I have learnt that through play our children can explore, experiment, discover and solve problems in imaginative ways,” said another.

In subsequent sessions, parents learned ways to support their primary children with literacy and numeracy tasks, how to use their school’s online tools, and they were coached in opening “courageous conversations”.

Supporting transitions

Transitioning between schools was a big focus for discussion, starting with the transition from early learning into primary school. Whānau were led through the educational journey their children would take from early childhood right through to end of high school.

Leaders from the neighbouring intermediate and secondary schools explained ways that parents could support their child’s transitions, subject choices and academic or vocational pathways. 

“Our parents now have key contacts across the schools,” says Banapa. 

 “Undoubtedly, they want to be part of the learning journey but previously they have worried they will harm the learning. After Talanoa Ako, they feel so much more in control.”

The graduation ceremony was testimony to the authenticity of connections made during the two Saturdays, adapted from weekly sessions because of pandemic restrictions.

“When it was time to say goodbye, people were crying. There was always warmth and caring but now there is a level of connection that means it’s forever. I’ve worked in schools for 23 years and only certain moments stay with you so vividly, as that will.” 

Across in Papatoetoe, Kedgley Intermediate School has also hosted Talanoa Ako with the focus on supporting learners in Years 7 and 8, specifically in preparation for high school.

Principal Pelu Leaupepetele says Talanoa Ako was an opportunity for Kedgley to bring in its neighbouring local high school, Aorere College, and put families at ease about what a transition from intermediate school would involve. 

It also provided leadership opportunities for two staff members, Eleanor Baledrokadroka and Sima Langi. 

“They lead our families, our community – not staff – and it was wonderful to watch them grow, and problem solve, a big ask coming out of a lockdown.”

All parents involved have asked if they can sign up for the next Talanoa Ako and are requesting kōrero around cyber bullying and transitions from Year 6
into 7.

Nana Graecina introduces herself alongside her daughter Priscilla and granddaughter Danika-Grace, who attends Kedgley Intermediate School.

Nana Graecina introduces herself alongside her daughter Priscilla and granddaughter Danika-Grace, who attends Kedgley Intermediate School.

Safe spaces

Pelu considers this a natural fit with the school’s focus on emotional resilience, which is taught as a key learning area along with the likes of physical education, social studies, and languages. 

Ākonga are further supported through the school’s Lalaga initiative, which involves children meeting in groups with their trusted adult for half an hour, three mornings a week. It means every child has a safe space to talk – or not talk. 

As with Flat Bush School, parent feedback reveals that Talanoa Ako is resonating with families. 

Close bonds were formed during Talanoa Ako at Flat Bush Primary School.

Close bonds were formed during Talanoa Ako at Flat Bush Primary School.

“Resilience is super important because it allows our kids to push themselves when they think something is too overwhelming,” wrote one parent. “Making mistakes means you are trying.”

Like Banapa, Pelu is leading a school in the neighbourhood where he grew up and one with a predominantly Pacific roll – 55 percent.

“I’m invested as a community person as well as a principal. I like to know what’s going on, not just with Kedgley but with all the schools. I love to hear all the success stories,” says Pelu.

“All the schools in this area were doing a great job well before I came here as principal [five years ago]; the challenge and attraction is how to make great  greater and what that looks like for this community.

“We always we ask ourselves how we can be better than last term and what that will look like, and Talanoa Ako is an extension of that. The point of it is to further strengthen our relationships, to learn alongside our parents for the benefit of our children.”

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

Posted: 12:48 PM, 8 December 2021

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