Engagement with our communities: Highlights from Tumuaki around Aotearoa

By Carolyn Marino

A highlight of our Tārai Kura pānui are the authentic stories told by Tumuaki and their staff. In this article we have captured some of the golden nuggets of advice from Tumuaki interviews, with a particular focus on their learnings about building partnerships and perspectives. These school leaders share some of their most effective processes and top tips for those currently leading change in rebuilds, redevelopments or new builds.

Pam King | Tumuaki | Scott Point Primary School

Face to face community consultation influenced how our school would operate and meet the needs of this newly developed community. Our families loved the flexible learning space environment, however, they 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 their feedback then informed our future direction. 

Once you decide on operating within a culture of collaboration it has to be lived everyday, and systems and structures are vital to ensure this embeds best practice. 

Image by: Courtesy of Scott Point Primary School

Wendy Sandifer, Foundation Principal, Ahutoetoe School

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 to be hosted at the local ECE. The aim of these meetings will be to meet our community and begin planning for collaborative partnerships.

Team building at Te Herenga Waka o Orewa — Image by: Ahutoetoe School

Steve Mouldey | Foundation Principal | Nukumea Primary School

I am very lucky to have a fantastic Establishment Board who created various workstreams in their first six months together. The visioning workstream have 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 included research, readings, videos of new schools, and a range of collaborative activities unpacking these documents and their reflections. 

On appointment 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 amongst 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.

Establishment Board mahi around visioning for design and learning — Image by: Courtesy of Diana Wilkes

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 we 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.

Whānau Support Group  — Image by: Courtesy of TAM

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

A key strategy used to onboard our parent community is the ‘whānau kōrero’, which is a one hour enrolment interview with each new family.  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 ‘whānau kōrero’ to frontload parents and caregivers with information about our school and our ways of working. We follow the ‘whānau kōrero’ with our ‘Nourishing Nikau’ programme (for New Entrants), which brings the community on the journey with us and helps with school readiness. For new whānau of older learners we hold two parent sessions every term, so we can more deeply share information about The New Zealand Curriculum and our approach to teaching and learning at Te Nikau.

Te Uho o te Nikau staff — Image by: Courtesy of Te Uho o te Nikau

Ivan Davis | Tumuaki | 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 Flexible 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 meeting with the Ministry, our Board, whānau and staff during the design process, and acted on community input from these meetings.

Image by: Courtesy of Western Springs College

Ben Witheford |Tumuaki | Shotover Primary School

Before we opened each new property stage we held 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; and 

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

Shotover Primary School – aerial view — Image by: Courtesy of Shotover Primary School

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.

Ngākōroa School – seeking feedback from our future learners at local ECEs — Image by: Courtesy of Ngākōroa School

Sean Bailey | Foundation Principal | Lemonwood Grove School

As part of our consultation with the community phase we held a series of information evenings. At these 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 to the future.

Connecting with ākonga — Image by: Courtesy of Sean Bailey

Thank you to the amazing Tumuaki featured here for sharing your stories with us.