Engagement – highlights from Aotearoa’s transformational tumuaki

By Diana Wilkes

In this article you can read some ‘golden nuggets’ of advice with a particular focus on partnerships and perspectives.

We have collated snapshots from school leaders around their community engagement processes and/or top tips for those currently leading change in rebuilds, redevelopments or new builds. 

You can hear more from some of the leaders at the upcoming online event, 15th June 4-5pm. Details here. 


Mel Bland, Tumuaki, Te Uho o Te Nikau Primary School

A key strategy used to onboard our parent community is the ‘whanau korero’ – which is a one hour enrolment interview with each new family and this sets us up for success; giving us the opportunity to share our stories and for questions and answers. We also ‘make’ them log into Hero (our LMS) and have them follow us on Facebook. Our Social media enables us to provide ongoing snapshots of what teaching and learning looks like at our school. We send out an operational ‘eBook’ ahead of the ‘whanau korero’ to frontload parents and caregivers with information about our school / our ways of working. We follow the ‘whanau korero’ with our ‘Nourishing Nikau’ programme (for New Entrants) which brings the community on the journey with us and helps with school ‘readiness’. For new whanau of older learners we hold two parent sessions every term so we can share more deeply information about the NZC and our approach to teaching and learning at Te Nikau.

Mike Anderson, Tumuaki, Waimairi School

We engaged in lots of staff professional learning with our critical friend Dr Julia Atkin to look at some serious visioning about when in 5 years time or 10 years time when we drive down Tillman avenue and approach Waimairi School what are we seeing? What are we hearing? And that became the base for the education brief that would go to the architects. After this, we hosted a number of community ‘visioning for future schooling’ workshops, Julia facilitated some, and we facilitated some, and this helped us to communicate our vision for learning (our pedagogical approaches and the soft systems) with our parent groups. 

“It is the architect’s profession or talent to let things emerge, and as they read the education brief they start to envision [how to align the design with our pedagogy], that is why they went to university, so we shouldn’t be specifying [the design to them]… the brief should paint a picture to capture the essence of the community and of the pedagogy”.

Ivan Davis, Principal, Western Springs Western Springs College

Our Board Chair had a vision for us to ‘build something extraordinary’ and this was our launchpad for our rebuild. Engagement with our community was easy. There were two key reasons for this 1) most of our feeder schools were already operating as ‘Open Learning Environments’ and 2) Many of our parents were working in collaborative ‘open plan’ office environments. Our challenge was to alleviate concerns around the failed open plan experiment of the 1970s and to do this we hosted regular public meetings with the Ministry, our board, whanau and staff during the design process and acted on community input from these meetings. This maintained our profile and visibility.

Ben Witheford, Tumuaki, Shotover Primary School

Before we opened for for each property stage we have help a ‘Community Open Day’ to help satiate curiosity, help prospective parents visualise the learning spaces and to communicate our vision for learning. We also:

  • Re-communicate our vision for learning continuously

  • Utilise parent meetings and social media e.g we roster our team so we have at least 3 Facebook posts a week so we can communicate the narrative

  • Host ‘Nature of Learning’ workshops regularly for parents to help them learn more about themselves as learners, our schools approach to teaching and learning as it is aligned to research and what this looks like for their children

Pam King | Tumuaki | Scott Point Primary School

“Face to face community consultation influenced how the school would operate and meet the needs of this newly developed community. Our families loved the flexible learning space environment, however, were wanting a structured approach to teaching and learning that facilitated self-regulated learners, in a scaffolded way. Progressions of learning were developed as well as progressions of our learner profile, using our moral compass framework. During community consultation, anything that we had developed was shared with the families and feedback then informed our future direction. Every school starts with a story and once you find that story it seems to happen from there and the journey becomes exciting. It is important to provide a framework for others who join the team at a later date to build on what is already in place rather than starting from scratch or repeating the process over and over. Once you decide on the culture of collaboration you want to develop for the school then it has to be lived everyday.”

Lisa Cavanagh | Foundation principal | Ngākōroa School

“The partnership we are nurturing with Ngāti Tamaoho, as mana whenua, has been the starting point for developing a shared vision and cultural narrative that accompanies our school name. The school name and cultural narrative sparked the idea of “bringing learning to life”. The awa we are named after, was once colloquially known as ‘the life-giver’. The Board subcommittee reviewed and refined the ideas of the school vision, while continuing to engage with Ngāti Tamaoho, to ensure their intent was reflected in our interpretations.While this work was happening we also visited early childhood education sites and the local high schools to gather the voice of tamariki and rangatahi, to inform our mahi. We did regular drop-ins at the local cafe and hosted events for the benefit of the community. Once we had a draft vision and values document, we shared and invited feedback from the wider community via a survey and conversations at local community events….With the intermittent lockdowns and ongoing Covid restrictions during this time … Early connections were forged via zoom, or through outdoor events with restricted numbers. A number of family fun events, such as games’ afternoons, an amazing race and wheels’ days were all held before our school opened. This helped teachers to meet and interact with tamariki and their whānau in casual, yet meaningful ways.”

Sean Bailey | Foundation Principal | Lemonwood Grove School

“As part of our consultation with the community phase, we held a series of information evenings where we shared our vision, values and beliefs around learning and then gathered the communities thoughts, ideas and aspirations around what they felt was important in terms of a localised curriculum. As part of these workshops, we discussed the future of education and work and used current research and thinking including The 7 Principles of Learning from the OECD report The Nature of Learning to strengthen our vision and values. We felt it was important that our community moved their thinking about learning from the past to not only the present but also the future.”

Tony Grey | Tumuaki | Te Ao Mārama School

“Our Board of Trustees have maintained a co-opted Ngāti Wairere representative and this provides ongoing, consistent, valued input. It is also integral in sustaining the relationship with mana whenua, rather than perhaps just the initial involvement, blessing of the school, etc. It is really important to us that we embed and sustain the relationship, and are proud that we have done so (e.g our 2022 staff only day was held at our local marae)….Feedback and support is always sought from our whānau, with regular hui specifically to engage our Māori families and a number of opportunities to engage face to face and virtually. Our most recent schoolwide feedback/survey was end of 2021.” (Captured here). 

And from two of our new school principals:

Steve Mouldey | Foundation Principal | Nukumea Primary School – 2023 (Orewa North West Primary School)

“I am very lucky to have a fantastic Establishment Board who had created various workstreams in their first 6 months together. The visioning workstream had spent time together creating experiences to push the thinking of the Board and to start gathering their thoughts on where the vision of the school is heading. These activities had included research readings, videos of new schools and a range of collaborative activities unpacking these documents and their reflections. As soon as I was appointed, I was invited to join this workstream and to help lead the Board workshops. I was then able to work with Tārai Kura to gather the voices of our community. This was not easy in the double whammy of a new, developing community and Covid restrictions ruining any chance of meeting kanohi ki te kanohi. Thankfully, our wider community has a very active Facebook community group and this provided a valuable platform for gathering views through the use of online forms.”

Wendy Sandifer, Foundation Principal, Milldale School -2023

“We distributed a survey throughout the local community and invited people to contribute ideas for the new school. Interestingly, feedback from our initial survey has indicated that our community is very keen for our learners to show guardianship and care of our local environment, together with linking with the wider community through connection and acts of service. Additionally, we plan to hold a series of public meetings throughout the year, hosted at the local ECE. The aim of the meetings will be to meet our community and begin collaborative partnership planning.”