Drawing parallels between Leading to the North-east and Te Whao

By Diana Wilkes

Reading the book, a number of strong alignments emerge between the nine aspects of our Tārai Kura ‘Te Whao’ | Monitoring and evaluation framework and Russel Bishop’s book: Leading to the Northeast: ensuring the fidelity of relationship-based learning. In this article, we will outline three of these: Vision, Cultural sustainability and Leadership of Change.

Image by: screenshot

By now, most educators will have heard about Teaching to the North-East: relationship-based learning in practice by Russell Bishop, a seminal work that delves into the principles and practices of culturally responsive education, particularly within the context of New Zealand’s indigenous Māori communities. In this book, Bishop emphasises the importance of building strong relationships between educators, students, families, and communities to support Māori students’ academic success. He advocates for a pedagogical approach that honours Māori culture, language, and identity, while also setting high expectations for student achievement. Through case studies and practical examples, Bishop demonstrates how educators can create inclusive learning environments that empower Māori students to thrive academically, socially, and culturally. The book serves as a valuable resource for teachers, school leaders, and policymakers seeking to promote educational equity and excellence for Māori learners.

Image by: screenshot

In his more recent book Leading to the North-East: ensuring the fidelity of relationship-based learning Bishop narrows in on school leaders as the target audience, and highlights information and ideas that can be applied so that they can effectively lead and support the implementation of relationship-based learning at a systemic level within their school. He focuses on broader strategies for school leaders to facilitate the adoption and sustainability of relationship-based learning across an entire school or educational system. This includes creating a shared vision, establishing collaborative processes, and fostering continuous improvement, shifting the focus towards leadership principles, organisational change, and systemic implementation of relationship-based learning. He addresses issues such as strategic development, professional development for staff, and creating a supportive school culture, and he provides three case studies of ‘North-east’ schools who have ‘North-east’ leaders who have led successful whole-school initiatives and/or approaches to relationship-based learning that resulted in the desired transformative and sustainable change.

Te Whao | Monitoring and Evaluation Framework — Image by: Courtesy of Tārai Kura

Leading to the North-East has some strong alignments to the nine aspects of our Tārai Kura ‘Te Whao’ | Monitoring and evaluation framework. We will focus on three here:

1. Vision

In North-East schools, North-East teachers are supported by North-East leaders to foster success for all students. 

Image by: From: R. Bishop Leading to the NE book

These schools define success by ensuring every student thrives. Achieving this involves strategic prioritising so that students who have historically faced marginalisation due to outdated teaching methods, are empowered to actively engage and succeed in their school. In a North-East school, how students progress is considered integral to measuring success and should be strongly connected to the vision. To do this our educators must be in the ‘North-East’ quadrant:

  • investing deeply in every learner with high levels of observable caring and learning relationships (high relationships), and

  • developing and implementing high levels of effective pedagogical practices (high interactions)

Image by: Cognition Education Ltd. (screenshot from blog post)

From: https://www.cognitioneducation.co.nz/supporting-critical-change-2021/

This emphasis will help schools to guide ongoing transformation of education for their students.

2. Cultural sustainability (also Perspectives and partnerships)

In the book, Russell Bishop promotes culturally sustainable education by advocating for practices that honour Māori culture, engage whānau, and prioritize equity and social justice. By empowering school leaders to champion culturally responsive pedagogies, the book contributes to creating educational environments that support the success and well-being of Māori students and their communities. He promotes culturally sustainable practices and fosters culturally responsive pedagogies in several ways:

  • Cultural Contextualisation: The book recognizes the importance of cultural context in education, particularly for Māori. embedding Māori culture, language, and values into the educational framework, makes the teaching and learning relevant and meaningful for Māori students.

  • Whānau Engagement: Bishop emphasises the significance of whānau (family) involvement in education and promotes partnerships between schools and whānau. The book encourages culturally sustainable practices that honour Māori traditions and involve the community in decision-making processes.

  • Culturally Responsive Leadership: Bishop offers insights into culturally responsive leadership practices that prioritize the needs and perspectives of Māori students and their communities. This includes creating inclusive school environments, addressing systemic barriers, and advocating for policies that support cultural sustainability in education.

  • Equity and Social Justice: The book underscores the importance of equity and social justice in education, particularly for marginalised groups, such as Māori students. It encourages school leaders to challenge inequitable practices and promote culturally responsive pedagogies that empower all students to succeed.

  • Professional Development: Bishop emphasizes the need for ongoing professional development for educators to enhance their cultural competence and effectiveness in working with Māori students. The book provides strategies for school leaders to support staff in developing culturally responsive teaching practices and fostering inclusive learning environments.

3. Leadership of change

Bishop outlines four problems that leaders face around the lack of implementation fidelity (he denotes this as ‘tikanga’ in his book):

  • i) the tendency of teachers to blame students for limited performance rather than scrutinise their own practice
  • ii) the monocultural and socio-economic status bias of current pedagogy
  • iii) the limited use of those interactions we know that make a difference for students’ learning
  • iv) the problem of resourcing the intervention in the long term

To lead change effectively, and to avoid these problems with tikanga | implementation fidelity, Bishop provides a model for reform. It is called the GPILSEO framework and comes from his Te Kotahitanga mahi:

Image by: GPILSEO


You may notice that taking ownership is central to each dimension of the model. When following this model school leaders must take the ownership and responsibility for:

  • Leading the collaborative development of goals

  • The strategic planning necessary for the realisation of the goals

  • Focusing the school and removing ‘clutter’

  • Providing staff with effective PLD related to relation-based pedagogy

  • Providing a supportive infrastructure to ensure implementation fidelity

  • Upskilling leaders

  • Including parents and community leaders

  • Provision, updating and use of data management systems

  • Taking ultimate ownership of the problems and solutions for realising the schools goals

In the book on pp.57-60 there are a series of questions that will be helpful for the quality assurance when using the GPILSEO model.

If you are not sure if or how you are ensuring the fidelity of relationship-based learning in your school, this book will certainly provide guidance to find out.

Bishop, R. (2023). Leading to the North-East: Ensuring the Fidelity of Relationship-Based Learning. NZCER Press.