Reprioritising whānau as drivers of ākonga success

Issue: Volume 101, Number 12

Posted: 21 September 2022
Reference #: 1HAWTf

Te Puna Mātauranga, an iwi-led education hub, has been supporting Māori education achievement through a unique model of collaboration since 2015. Now, Te Puna Mātauranga exists within Porirua’s Mana College in the form of a classroom space, supported by iwi kaimahi working under a mauri ora model, designed and implemented by Ngāti Toa.

Mana College staff Ngahuia Madden, Nirvana Wi-Neera, Bianca Elkington, Molly Katene and John Murdoch.

Mana College staff Ngahuia Madden, Nirvana Wi-Neera, Bianca Elkington, Molly Katene and John Murdoch.

Mana College in Porirua has always had a strong relationship with local iwi Ngāti Toa, ever since iwi gifted the land in 1957 for the school to be built.

Kaiako are now working on strengthening that relationship to integrate better support in the school for ākonga Māori, through Ngāti Toa education hub Te Puna Mātauranga.

Te Puna Mātauranga had been in operation outside of Mana College for about six years when Ngāti Toa began to look at ways they could create meaningful support for rangatahi and tamariki in and outside of the school system.

In 2015 Te Puna began working with local schools, offering cultural and educational support for Māori students who had whakapapa links to the iwi.

Ngāti Toa general manager education and employment Bianca Elkington says it has taken time to develop the model and every year elements have been added or removed according to the needs of whānau.

She says strengthening the programme in their environment was important before they could think about where to go next.

“Offering the service inside of a local secondary school is new and continues to be a work in progress, but we have dedicated kaiako and senior leadership we work with and that’s important as we test.

“One of the benefits of setting up inside of a school is the ability to further our reach. Although we are a team who live and work in our own community, we didn’t have sight of all our tauira who were being schooled locally.

“The reality is that for some of our own people – and this is true for many Māori – the confidence in who they are as Māori and who they are as Ngāti Toa varies. We have whānau who know where they come from but haven’t had the confidence to engage fully with their iwi. This has been a wonderful way of reconnecting for our tamariki. Reconnecting to their whakapapa and the benefits of that are numerous.”

Bianca says one of the goals with establishing Te Puna Mātauranga was to support success through a strong connection to who their young people were and the rich heritage that is theirs.

“We worked across five different schools, providing support in and outside the classroom. The programme includes tutoring, cultural wānanga, workshops after school for tamariki and rangatahi, and regular hui with whānau. When our tamariki felt that connection and they were able to participate in activities that connected to their cultural identify, they flew. Their confidence just skyrocketed, and that was also present in the classroom as a learner.”

For a number of years now, iwi have been searching for solutions on how to best support tamariki and rangatahi in schools.

“How do we get successful outcomes for our Māori students?” asks Bianca. “How do we get greater whānau engagement?”

Now, Te Puna exists inside Mana College in the form of a classroom space and tailored mauri ora plans, which outline student goals and are used as tools for whānau communication.

Mana College students Ava Grace, Pirihira, Khyan and Randall.

Mana College students Ava Grace, Pirihira, Khyan and Randall.

Mauri ora

The mauri ora approach is a tailored solution to support aspirations and pathways to success designed by ākonga and whānau. The role of iwi is to facilitate the kōrero and utilise networks to achieve these goals. It is a tool for whānau communication that reprioritises whānau.

“The mauri ora plans enable us to work across our organisation and across community to open up the right door at the right time,” says Bianca.

Te Puna facilitator at Mana College, Molly Katene, works in the classroom with Ngāti Toa students on their mauri ora plans.

“From the mauri ora plan, I can see where the strengths or weaknesses are and take that back to the whānau,” says Molly. “Then we can have those conversations in the home – that works massively.”

Molly says there are more than 60 Ngāti Toa students at Mana College, and Te Puna currently engages with around 30.

Ngāti Toa students Ava Grace, Pirihira and Khyan agree that Te Puna and the mauri ora plans have made learning easier at school, and that the extra support built a better learning environment.

Khyan says trips outside of school, like a visit to Wellington Hospital facilitated through Te Puna, had also helped her to think about career pathways.

“There are more opportunities outside of school, and more one-on-one time which helps me understand what I’m actually good at. I thought about doing nursing after the trip to the hospital.

“It’s helped me realise I work better in an environment where there are not that many people so the teacher can focus on you.”

Year 13 Ngāti Toa student Randall wants to be a personal trainer and says Te Puna helped track a path to get there.

“At Puna, they care about your individual success and your wellbeing more than traditional academic success,” he says.

A conscious partnership

Iwi Kaitoro for Te Hurihanganui, Nirvana Wi-Neera, calls the relationship between iwi and Mana College a “conscious, concerted effort”.

“We know that it works really well. This partnership is very deliberate and allows for iwi to own the space and lead.

“We know mauri ora works in iwi spaces because people understand the language, they understand whanaungatanga and their existing relationships in those spaces. That’s where iwi has the ability to be able to support your understanding – through lived experience.”

Mana College principal John Murdoch calls Te Puna an “evolving, emerging and embryonic process” and says from here, it is about looking at how they could further grow and strengthen its role.

“It’s mental models – both the way we believe and see things and ultimately how we set schools up. That’s been part of the problem.  However, when we check our mental models with whānau, iwi and hapū, this benefits tamariki.”

Looking forward, John says they want to work out how to keep growing Te Puna services to extend more support to iwi and ākonga.

“We’re way off where we want to be, but we do have those similar belief systems at that leadership level.

The New Zealand Curriculum is going to refresh, as well as NCEA changes. Mana Ōrite is right at the centre of that, so it’s a real licence for change.”

Front-footing success

Bianca says the relationship between iwi and Mana College has actually been going on for a long time and is an example of how iwi is “front-footing the success of their own ākonga”.

“One of the benefits of a model like Te Puna Mātauranga is that it enables school, whānau and iwi to work together to identify needs early, co-create solutions and draw on our combined networks for the benefit of our tamariki and rangatahi.”

Focusing on the future, Bianca says she wants to see initiatives like Te Puna pop up all around the community and made a legitimate education option for ākonga.

“One of the questions we get asked all the time is ‘why do we have to go to school when we can get everything that we need from here?’

“The future of education is less about school gates and more about enabling students and whānau to take their role as drivers of their own journey toward success. Understanding what that looks like, and who the people are that can help make that happen, is something we’re very focused on.”

Read more about Te Puna Mātauranga and how it came about in Education Gazette article, Iwi-based kaupapa supports learning(external link).

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero,

Posted: 12:07 pm, 21 September 2022

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