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Te Tupu – digging deep to provide the right support

Issue: Volume 99, Number 15

Posted: 18 September 2020
Reference #: 1HABGv

Educators have joined with agencies, providers and local Iwi to roll out a bold new initiative in Hawke’s Bay that supports learners who are disengaged from education.

Te TupuTe Tupu – Managed Moves was born from a desire to understand why there were cohorts of children struggling to engage in learning, exhibiting transience and displaying a raft of other social and emotional issues. 

Initially, the project started as a collective between schools in the Napier community. School leaders recognised that there was a significant group of ākonga who required additional support. 

Tamatea Intermediate principal Jo Smith recalls “looking at a problem and trying to find a solution” and identifying that the problem was not just for children in Years 7 and 8, but also children a lot younger. 

Community comes together

Based at Richmond School in Maraenui, Napier, Te Tupu provides a support service for students in Years 3 to 8. However, the educators involved in the initial concept back in 2018 recognised there was a need to extend the support for these tamariki well beyond the classroom walls.

In the early days, the Te Tupu steering group held a hui and were resolute in inviting pivotal members of the local community.

“We invited all contacts we could possibly think of that may have an interest and it was a great hui and generated a lot of enthusiasm,” says Jo. “This is not an education solution, it’s a community solution with the child at the centre.”

With the support of distance education provider Te Aho o Te Kura Pounamu (Te Kura), Roopu-ā-Iwi Trust, Te Kupenga Hauora, New Zealand Police, Te Taiwhenua o Heretaunga, Napier City Council, Dove Hawke’s Bay, and the local District Health Board, the concept began to gather momentum. A special $1 million grant was allocated to cover three years of operations; the pilot currently has funding until the end of 2021.

Getting to the heart of the matter

Tamatea Intermediate principal Jo Smith and Te Tupu co-ordinator Damien Izzard.

Tamatea Intermediate principal Jo Smith and Te Tupu co-ordinator Damien Izzard.

Damien Izzard, Te Tupu’s current coordinator, sees first-hand the needs of these tamariki and agrees those involved must dig deeper to support them.

“All of our students have come with some level of trauma in their background. We have students who are just sort of disengaged from school for a variety of reasons – they might be struggling with grief – we have lots going on. I’ve had lots of students who are in social or emergency housing; living in motels, shifting around frequently which causes a huge level of unsettlement. This can present itself in a range of different ways,” says Damien.

Te Tupu has been heavily supported by the Roopu-ā-Iwi Trust, and chief executive Maureen Mua acknowledged the need for such a service was evident.

“As the Iwi social service provider for Ahuriri, we used to see these children. They were out playing and they just weren’t enrolled anywhere. Because of circumstances with whānau they were falling through the gaps, or because of behavioural problems they weren’t enrolled anywhere,” she says.

Maureen emphasises the importance of acknowledging the deeper issues. Providing a cohesive support network for both tamariki and whānau was an important element contributing to the success of this programme. 

“We have a buy-in from all the agencies – that’s absolutely paramount. They’re quite vulnerable too, at that age. If it’s behavioural concern then let’s have a look at what’s happening at home.  What is really important is that we are all in this for you and your whānau – we can make this work.”

The staff have been supported by services such as public health nurses, dental nurses, resource teachers for learning and behaviour, psychologists, social workers, Sport Hawke’s Bay through the DHB, and special education advisors. They have undertaken professional development in trauma-informed practice and are regularly in contact with support agencies. 

The programme has had 26 students go through so far, with most having transitioned back to school or still attending Te Tupu. It is also experiencing success in tackling the issues that led to the initial disengagement, thanks to the wrap-around services provided to these tamariki.

No two days the same

Every day is different at Te Tupu. Every student works around an individual programme, with curriculum resources provided by Te Kura.

“The school day starts at 8.45 am, but we acknowledge that some of our students don’t come into school in a space that is ‘ready to learn’ so we are lucky enough to have an environment with a more formal space – those students come in, say karakia, have a kōrero about their day, what they’re feeling and then they’re ready to get into some work. 

“We have a nurturing environment on one side of the class, where those students who may need a little bit of time just to regulate in the morning are given that,” says Damien.

Strengthening social skills and self-esteem is also crucial in the Te Tupu environment, he says.

“We do mana enhancement as a constant bit of work and a constant challenge for them. They understand how they’re feeling and can associate that with atua. We have different plans in terms of the support around them. We’re very focused on building those relationships, that safe environment where they can share with us and speak with us.

“For many of our students, it’s an opportunity just to take a breath. Come in, refocus, regulate and then be able to really make changes to the barriers that prevent them from going back to school,” he adds.

Supporting children’s return to school

Anil Singh, Te Kura regional manager for the Central North Island, describes the initiative as “ground-breaking” for the fact that it allows at-risk tamariki to remain at school, in an environment supported by kaiako. 

Te Kura provides the curriculum for each student at Te Tupu and follows them in their educational journey, while supporting the staff at Te Tupu.

“The students are enrolled in Te Kura so while they still have a kaiako with them, the kaiako just use the resource that is already there which makes it easy. They know that we are there with open arms, ready to help,” says Anil.

The end goal is simple: the tamariki are supported to get back into mainstream schooling. All involved parties work together for this common cause.

“The main objective here is that they go home – they go back to the school where they’re from, in the place that they belong,” says Jo.

Recalling that she has had several students now transition back to Tamatea Intermediate from Te Tupu, Jo says she has been pleased with their self-awareness and their understanding of their own personal needs.

“It’s about giving them the tools they need and the space they need to do that, with any support they have at Te Tupu following them back to the school environment.” 

Collaboration the key

Everyone involved in Te Tupu agrees that the power and success of such a programme lies in collaboration.

Te Tupu

“The community involvement epitomises what we should be doing – working together for a family. We all work together in our own little silos, but this was an opportunity to trial working together. It just shows how wonderful it is if we all work together – how successful we can be,” says Anil.

When describing Te Tupu, Damien adds, “It’s a place that we continue to learn and we continue to seek support from other agencies in order to best support our tamariki and their whānau. That’s the overriding factor. No one has a different motive – we support these students and empower them to go back into their school environment.”

The name Te Tupu itself epitomises the journey they are on. Te Tupu had its name gifted by Kaumatua Tīwana Aranui representing Pukemokimoki Marae.

“A lot of thought was given to the vision and the aspiration of why that name was given,” says Maureen. “It’s all about growth.”

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

Posted: 9:02 am, 18 September 2020

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