Cultural sustainability: Finding clarity in the Readiness Tool

By Diana Wilkes

The Readiness Tool, with its seven change actions and four implementation phases, is an essential resource for educational leaders as they begin to implement Te Mātaiaho | the refreshed New Zealand curriculum. It provides the added bonus of supporting the development of cultural sustainability in schools.

In the realm of our education system in Aotearoa, cultural sustainability has become an imperative, not just a choice. Schools are actively nurturing cultural narratives, working in partnership with tangata whenua, local iwi, hapū, rūnanga and whānau, to meet the needs of Māori akōnga and to demonstrate their commitment to further developing cultural sustainability within their schools. 

This can be very challenging and at times confusing mahi that takes us out of our zone of comfort. To guide educational leaders on this transformative journey, Te Mātaiaho | the refreshed New Zealand curriculum (March, 2023) has emerged as light, showing a path toward cultural sustainability. 

The whakapapa in Te Mātaiaho is an overarching metaphor that weaves together the ‘why’, ‘what’ and ‘how’ that schools need to know in order to ensure that learning is not left to chance.

Image by: Screenshot from Te Mātaiaho -March 2023 draft

Te Mātaiaho sits on a strong foundation known as Mātainuku, which has three clear principles and each has associated calls to action for school leaders. All of which are important aspects to cultural sustainability in our schools. The three principles are:

  • give effect to Te Tiriti o Waitangi, 
  • hold high expectations for all students, and 
  • hold broad views of student success. 

In addition to the whakapapa in Te Mātaiaho, the Ministry of Education has developed an implementation pack which provides supports and resources that can be used as you plan and design for change. This pack includes a Readiness Tool that you can use to monitor your progress (see p.3). 

Find the resource pack here.

The Readiness Tool has seven change actions, spread across four implementation phases: 

Image by: Copyright: MOE 2023 (Screenshot from Sept 2023 draft)

For those committed to developing and improving cultural sustainability, three of the seven change actions in the tool are particularly useful scaffolds. 

  • Grow authentic, reciprocal local relationships,
  • Collaborate with community, and
  • Strengthen cultural and inclusive capabilities.

Let’s take a closer look.

Grow authentic, reciprocal local relationships:

Image by: Copyright: MOE 2023 (Screenshot from Sept 2023 draft)

This change action encourages educational leaders to cultivate enduring and reciprocal relationships with tangata whenua, whānau, and the broader community. These connections aren’t merely symbolic; they are a fundamental part of the school’s curriculum. By genuinely engaging with mana whenua and Māori communities, schools forge bonds that are mutually beneficial, ensuring that cultural knowledge and cultural narratives are not only acknowledged and celebrated but become foundational to the school curriculum. 

The Readiness Tool can act as a mirror for self-reflection. Schools can use it to reflect on the authenticity and depth of their relationships with these critical partners. It is through these reflections and connections that schools lay the groundwork for cultural sustainability, where mana whenua are actively involved and Māori akōnga are actively supported both during periods of transformation and during times of ‘business as usual’.

Collaborate with community:

Image by: Copyright: MOE 2023 (Screenshot from Sept 2023 draft)

As schools progress from building awareness to growing understanding, collaboration becomes paramount. Partnerships with tangata whenua, ākonga, whānau, school boards, the wider community, and educational clusters like kāhui ako can lead to learning about Māori tikanga, protocols and language while everyone collectively learns about the purpose, intent and implementation process of Te Mātaiaho. This learning can subsequently be interwoven into the fabric of learning, reflective of local and cultural narratives. 

The Readiness Tool can serve as a compass for assessing collaborative efforts. It offers a progression to help you develop productive learning partnerships. By ensuring that Te Mātaiaho is explored and implemented with tangata whenua, whānau, ākonga and the community, our schools will strengthen the pathways of learning, from early education to life beyond school.

Strengthen cultural and inclusive capabilities:

Image by: Copyright: MOE 2023 (Screenshot from Sept 2023 draft)

Schools committed to cultural sustainability will dedicate themselves to ongoing personal and professional learning. This commitment is required to realise Te Mātaiaho, and is supported by the Common Practice Model (CPM). Engaging in collaborative inquiry, problem-solving, and professional learning across schools, clusters, and broader networks is crucial. 

The Readiness Tool signals key foci, such as: addressing bias and inequities, giving effect to Te Tiriti o Waitangi and removing barriers to learning and wellbeing. Educational leaders can use these foci to identify areas of need (individual and group), seek professional learning support (in house, external and/or RA PLD) and develop a coherent school wide professional learning plan. This approach will grow the collective cultural capability in schools.

Image by: Copyright: MOE 2022 (Screenshot from Te Mātaiaho draft)

To conclude, if we want to be confident that the essence of New Zealand’s bi-cultural heritage is integrated into the fabric of our learning environments, together we should collectively commit to realising Te Mātaiaho | the refreshed New Zealand curriculum. As we embark on this transformative journey towards cultural sustainability and ensuring important learning is not left to chance, educational leaders can turn to the Readiness Tool. With the Readiness Tool, schools can work to ensure that mana whenua, akōnga Māori and all learners are not only supported, but empowered, to thrive in a culturally rich, inclusive, learning environments across Aotearoa. 

Suggestion:  you might like to print a copy of the Readiness Tool and discuss with your team or staff, highlight the phase you think you are working at for one or all of the seven change actions and use that to identify some next steps. Waimarie pai | good luck.