Student leaders explore Treaty of Waitangi principles at Matamata College

Issue: Volume 97, Number 10

Posted: 11 June 2018
Reference #: 1H9j86

Matamata College aims to address equity issues in education by encouraging student leaders to reflect on their understanding of the Treaty of Waitangi.

Through an inquiry project, student leaders at Matamata College will have the opportunity to explore their obligations under the Treaty of Waitangi and what this looks like in practice at their school.

Head students and Te Wairere leaders in the student support leadership programme have each been asked to write an article showing how they bring the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi (partnership, protection and participation) into their everyday schooling.

The leaders aspire to share the results of their inquiry in an assembly to inspire other students at the school to review their own beliefs and behaviours.

Joy Maehe and Shannon Johnson, who run the student support leadership programme, say the project aims to develop the students’ growth as leaders and support new students into the school.

Imbuing principles into school practice

The Education Council’s teacher code and standards released last year highlighted the need for the education sector to honour the Treaty of Waitangi, Joy says. After working to understand what partnership, protection and participation might look like, sound and feel like in their practice, teachers at Matamata College sought the voices of their student support leaders to help unpack the concept.

“I wanted to help leaders look at how, in their work with younger students and in their work as leaders, they developed their understanding of Treaty of Waitangi practice in terms of equity and what that looks like in a classroom, what that looks like with their younger students, and what that looks like in their own thinking and their own development.”

Joy and Shannon believe it is important for student voices and experiences to direct how the Treaty of Waitangi is imbued in school practice.

“I think that they are showing the way; they are modelling partnership; they are modelling how to bring two worlds together; they are modelling what equity looks like,” she says.

“So I’m expecting the learning outcome is for the student leaders to articulate and be able to say what it is that partnership, participation and protection means in a classroom or means with other people and what it means as a leader.

“That’s what it is that’s important with these young people, they’re learning what a leader looks like and this is a really essential part of their leadership development.”

She hopes students will take their learning and reflective practice into their lives outside of school to contribute to the wider community. 

Te Ara Puumanawa

This project is an extension of a wider school focus that has been in place for a few years.

“We’ve got a bigger initiative in the school called Te Ara Puumanawa, which is the whole school working to raise Māori achievement in our school and looking at equity – what’s missing and what’s working in our school,” Joy says.

Te Ara Puumanawa is a kaupapa Māori initiative to support Māori educational success. This approach integrates senior academic mentoring, junior mentoring, whānau and iwi engagement, and culturally responsive and relational pedagogy. Underpinning each is the importance of te reo me ona tikanga (language and culture).

“What we understand is that it’s a human rights issue and we understand that there are equity issues or imbalances that need to be addressed in the school. It is hoped this will open the process of self-reflection where staff hold a mirror up to their own personal values and beliefs around Te Tiriti o Waitangi and how this plays out in their own practice.”

The student support team were recently invited to participate in the pōwhiri at the school’s centenary celebration. Student leader Brooke Dunbar described the experience as a real change for her.

“For the first time as a Pākehā I felt really connected and involved and developed my own sense of belonging and identity, and I want that for other people.”

Shannon and Joy have been humbled by the students’ willingness to explore and challenge the taken-for-granted practices prevalent in all organisations, including schools, and have great faith in the next generation of leaders.

“I’m hoping the younger students will see that that’s not the Māori block over there, this is our block. The pōwhiri is not just for Māori, it’s for all of us. It might come under a Māori umbrella and we need to learn from Māori, but if the student support leadership team are diverse and are willing to open up, it’s easier.

“I think that these young leaders need to articulate what their journey has been around it, what they learnt and what they think should happen going into the future.”

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero,

Posted: 9:00 am, 11 June 2018

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