Creating a more inclusive school culture

The staff of Kaikohe Intermediate knew they needed to change their ways of teaching and learning and create a more inclusive school culture. 

Kaikohe Intermediate School is situated in the heart of Ngāpuhi. Almost all of its 124 students are Māori, as are the majority of its teachers. Most are Ngāpuhi or have strong connections to Ngāpuhi.

Making a change

This was the beginning of a new learning journey for our kura. It was a time to be brave and try something new with the teaching and learning programme we were offering and the way we delivered it. A time of reaching out and strengthening our relationships and connections to our students, whānau, and communities. 

The principal, Freda Mokaraka, and her colleagues wanted the school to become a place in which students and staff felt valued, learning was pre-eminent, and high expectations were normal. 

They identified three phases for getting there. 

  1. Creating a safe environment and setting the foundations for learning
  2. Establishing consistent, effective practice and raising student engagement
  3. All students engaged and being taught in an authentic, purposeful way that sets them up for the next step in life.

As part of that plan, they have been skilfully and deliberately weaving the strands of:

  • what was there – the strengths of people and place, whanaungatanga and whakapapa, stories and aroha
  • what was needed – kōrero, trust, mutual respect, safety
  • what was wanted – the community’s aspirations for its young people to walk confidently in the global world, proud in their identity as Ngāpuhi and as descendants of Rāhiri.

The school is now moving into the third phase. It exudes a sense of excitement, purpose, unity, and strength. This is their story to date.

Reconnecting with their community

To rediscover itself, the school needed to reconnect to its own stories, its whakapapa, and its people. 

The process of change started just around the time of the 40-year anniversary of the marae-ā-kura; one of the first marae-ā-kura in New Zealand. The anniversary celebrations drew people from across the rohe, including kaumātua and kuia who had been there when the marae first opened and could tell its stories. It was a joyous time of sharing and connection.

The school followed this celebration with a series of hui and wānanga with kaumatua and kuia, teachers, whānau, and students. They met and listened to the voices of all the school’s stakeholders, creating safe cultural spaces for open dialogue across the community.  

They asked everybody the same question:
What do you see as the needs and aspirations for your tamariki?” 

  • The students’ said they wanted to be connected to the global world. They didn't want to be limited to Kaikohe. But they also wanted their culture. They wanted to be acknowledged for who they were. Some didn’t know their pepeha and wanted to find that out. They also wanted the learning to be taken out of the classroom.  
  • The parents and whānau said they wanted their tamariki to learn about their ancestors – to go to their places of significance and know that their culture counts. They also wanted their tamariki to get out there and have access to the world beyond. 

The hui and wānanga generated rich, authentic korero, which was shared when everybody came together at a final hākari.

It's all about our students and community having dreams and aspirations. There are many negative stories about Kaikohe, but we have awesome people here – so many whānau who have been here a long time or come back to live. We want tamariki to understand this, and to taste the world and explore it so they appreciate what they have.

Creating a curriculum that is about who we are

Rāhiri is our tūpuna who has many stories of significance, so let’s find out about that. That became our moral, ethical, spiritual, and cultural compass.

Freda and her staff reflected deeply on what was shared through the wānanga and revisited the school’s vision, values, and marau mātauranga.

The teachers and school leaders conducted a school-wide internal review into the teaching and learning programme. The review provided the information they needed to start redesigning their programme to make it more relevant, authentic, and culturally responsive to their students, whānau, hapū, and iwi. 

This was the inception of Te Herenga o te Aroha – Te Marau a Kura, the school’s new curriculum, named for the marae-ā-kura. The school regards its marae, Te Herenga o Te Aroha, as a “living force that is at our very heart”. “Everything that is done in the kura connects us back to Te Herenga o te Aroha.”

The school’s marau is oriented around and eight taha. Each of these taha represents a dimension of learning that is integral to the learner. It is an approach the school uses to connect their ākonga to an authentic and cultural kaupapa Māori learning approach.

Te Herenga o te Aroha: Te Marau ā Kura

Taha Wairua

Intrapersonal Intelligence (self-awareness) involves an understanding of one’s own range of feelings and an ability to discriminate among them, label them and draw upon them as a means of comprehending and guiding behaviour. Within our world view, it is encapsulated in our ideals of manaakitanga, kaitiakitanga, kotahitanga and wairuatanga.

Taha Hinengaro

Taha Hinengaro is focussed in all the domains. It is focussed on building mindset. Mindset that is pono, aroha ki te tangata ki te kaupapa hoki. Ngāpuhi-oriented, fair, resilient, open, honest, free of racism, sexism, bias and is collective based firstly.

Taha Whenua

This domain is focussed on building our identity and who we are as tangata whenua. It is our unique view and gives us the ability to discriminate among living things and features of our natural world.

Taha Tinana

This domain is focussed on building our understanding of our physical world, for example, the things that one does to achieve tasks in the world. It can include areas such as sports, drama, dance. In essence, it comprises the ability to use one’s body in highly skilled ways for expressive and goal- directed purposes. It includes the capacity to work well with objects, whether they involve fine motor skills or whole-body movements

Taha Whānau

This domain is focussed on relationships, with each other, our whānau, hapū, iwi and wider world. Includes social and leadership skills and includes the ability to notice and make distinctions among other individuals, to read the intentions and desires of others, and to act on this social knowledge. 

Te Reo Matatini

Te Reo Matatini refers to expressing and communicating ideas. This intelligence involves semantics – understanding the meaning of words; phonology – the sounds and their interaction with each other; and syntax – the rules governing the order of words and the pragmatic functions of different communications.

Taha Reo Pāngarau

Is the capacity to move from the concrete to the abstract, to discern and make sense of patterns, symbols and codes. This intelligence is the basis of the scientific, mathematical and computer-oriented thinker.

Taha Tāngata

The ability to understand society, its systems, its processes, the people who belong to it, so that a level of understanding can be reached. 

Taha Ao Atu

Looking beyond the walls of te whare tapu o Ngāpuhi, and building an understanding beyond that which we live. In particular social consciousness raising, as in globalisation.

It’s critical to build learning and thinking intelligences and capabilities around our learners. So, in terms of taha whenua – what do they need to have learned by the time they leave here in two years? What can we as kaiako progressively achieve and develop in the two years we have them? 

Authentic, purposeful learning 

Students and the community had expressed their aspirations that all learners would experience learning opportunities that “would be engaging and empowering and set them up for the next step in life.”

How are we going to give people the skills to walk as Māori through a globalised society? We want them to be cultural citizens who can walk confidently in two worlds. How do we teach this in a way that they will take this learning forward from here and apply it to all situations? It's around the learner – asking questions.

Rich opportunities for learning 

Engaging in rich opportunities to learn from and with their community supports ākonga to:

  • understand their community as a system with social, cultural, political, and economic dimensions
  • apply their learning in authentic contexts
  • experience belonging to the wider community
  • learn from and with role models that they can look up to and respect and who believe in them
  • be recognised for their contributions as community members.

Learning is not only about what happens within early childhood, school or kura settings to prepare ākonga for the future; it is also about ākonga being actively involved in the community they live in right now. 

(Ministry of Education)

Our people, our place

We don’t talk about "Māori achievement" here. It's ingrained in everything we do. It's about acknowledging who they are, what they bring with them, and how best can we develop and grow their love for learning.

Students are learning their stories from the day they join the school community – the stories that were told and debated during the anniversary celebrations and the consultation process … stories about the distant past, and stories about the more recent past and how the marae was built. 

On the first day of school, we hold a pōwhiri and all the classes have whanaungatanga activities. On the second day, we go off on our annual haerenga. This year, the whole school visited a staff member’s marae in Dargaville. We visited all the places along the way – Arai-Te-Uru, Waipoua Forest, Poutū-te-Rangi Pa, Kai Iwi Lakes, Te Houhanga-a-Rongo Marae …  They began as individuals and finished all connected. 

The kura’s kaumātua and kuia group remains a constant and generous presence, engaging in the teaching and learning programme and offering advice and support. The relationship is reciprocal. When the local marae is closed, the community members use the school’s classrooms and marae for wānanga.

The school’s values provide a strong foundation for the affirming culture that has been created within the school. Students and staff are expected, for example, to exhibit kaitiakitanga, manaakitanga, tikanga, and arohatia te reo in all aspects of kura life and in their homes and communities.

Living our stories

When an opportunity arose to refurbish a four-classroom block to create a modern learning environment, a group of students were invited to contribute to the design. Working in the marae with a local design and architecture company, the students suggested recreating the poutama pattern on one of the marae’s tukutuku panels in the carpet of the new building. They explained that this pattern represents the way in which they are climbing towards their own learning aspirations. It was an important moment. The students showed that they had heard and understood the stories behind the poutama pattern and had connected them with their own stories. 

The green represents Papatūānuku, and our maunga and life. The blue means Ranginui. The grey is all about the people. Each tile represents each person that has been there before and also those who will come after us. The poutama pattern represents the stairway to heaven and learning. Each step means you’re getting better and better each day and moving up. (Year 8 student)

(Akau website)

Project-based learning

We had to empower teachers to give agency to the kids and challenge them about their discourse regarding cultural responsiveness. “What does it mean?” “What do you think it means?” “How do you demonstrate this as a kaiako?”

It’s not just about what the students learn but how they learn. 

Project-based learning provides teachers with a collaborative process for designing rich opportunities for learning constructed around the eight taha of the marau. 

Staff have worked with an education consultant to design a process for creating projects that are authentic, fun, purposeful and work for their taitamariki in Kaikohe.

Tags: Culturally responsive leadership

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