Newton Central School – “You’re not enrolling into a school, you are enrolling into a community”.

By Diana Wilkes

Riki Teteina, Tumuaki of Newton Central School in central Auckland, shares how one school actively sought all perspectives from within the school’s diverse community, to support transformational change

Riki Teteina, has been Tumuaki of Newton Central School for six years, returning to Aotearoa New Zealand after working in the international scene for 20 years. Riki returned keen to contribute to the educational landscape here, committed to promoting a Te Tiriti based curriculum and culture in his leadership work.

Newton Central School 2019 Newton Central School

Riki describes Newton Central School as a “beautiful oasis in the heart of the city; one of Auckland City’s best kept secrets. Our inner city location, diverse and active community and stimulating environment is what makes us unique”.

Newton Central School is passionate in upholding the articles contained in Te Tiriti o Waitangi.

We acknowledge Māori as the original people of Aotearoa New Zealand as tangāta whenua. We were the first school in New Zealand to develop a co-governance structure, ensuring Māori representation on the Board of Trustees. Such a commitment means tamariki are actively involved in developing an understanding of tikanga Māori (customs), te reo Māori, waiata (songs) and and karakia (prayer). Every child will get to experience being on a mārae by the time they leave our school.

The school provides three pathways for learning: Auraki/English medium – utilising the New Zealand Curriculum; Te Uru Karaka – total immersion in te reo Māori; and Whānau Awahou – bilingual in te reo Māori and English, incorporating a simultaneous approach to language acquisition.

PART 1: Articulating a shared vision for the future by engaging in dialogue with all voices

As experienced in many schools, the arrival of a new principal often triggers the review of the school’s vision and the future direction of the school. Newton Central had a strong vision that had held the school in good stead for over 20 years. But, was it still fit for purpose and did the current community hold shared aspirations for moving forward?

In 2018-19 the senior leadership team and Board of Trustees ran a series of workshops and surveys to undertake a SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) to ascertain what was special about Newton Central and what were the aspirations of the community for its continued development?

This data gathering exercise “necessitated a need for us to look at the vision and to see if it would meet the identified needs moving forward. We wanted the community to feel that they were integral to the revisioning process, so a private consultant was engaged to avoid bias and allow all community members’ voices to have equal weight”.

Through this process a new vision for the school emerged-

Aroha mai. Aroha atu. Mana mai. Mana atu.”

This new vision of the school triggered further review. Were our key pou (our values) still fit for purpose? Each of the three language learning pathways had their own graduate profile, sometimes making it difficult to work cohesively as one community. Could our learning communities work together to align our central pou?

Throughout this process of engagement with the community, Riki stresses the importance of seeking wānanga. The aspirations of our community are integral.

The data collection process highlighted four new pou that could potentially align all aspirations:

whanaungatanga, kaitiakitanga, manaakitanga, rangatiratanga

These were first discussed at whānau level over many wānanga, where ideas were debated, revisited and debated again. This progress of dialogue allowed for ideas to be clarified, discarded and synthesized.

The ideas were then taken to the Board where a draft was approved. These core pou are now being socialised and tested through live surveys at parent conferences, where parents are asked What would you like to see in a learning profile?

Student voice is also being sought to help unpack a shared understanding of the vision and pou.

Whilst the consultation process is slow and revisited at every step, a shared understanding is gaining consensus.

We had to go slow to go fast. This journey has taken us three years to date, and it might still take a further three years to enhance the cultural capabilities of our programmes, e.g by engaging in a project whereby key kaiako inquire, with tamariki, into learning styles, effective teaching methodologies and aligning these with the interests and passions of our ākonga.

This collaboration is mirrored in other key relationships the school values. The school acknowledges the importance of their active involvement in the local Kāhui Ako O Waitematā. This collaborative has facilitated, through shared foci areas, a raft of strategies to support learners as they journey across the inner city educational pathway.

Developing a shared language of learning and sharing strategies for wellbeing across Kāhui Ako challenges, has helped set our schools up for developing a local curriculum in ways that is SMART and draws on the expertise of a strong group of educationalists.

To date, the Kāhui Ako has started unpacking the NZ Histories curriculum, with teacher only days looking at Past, Present and Future- sharing local histories, welcoming the Polynesian Panthers and mana whenua, Ngāti Whātua, as guest speakers.

PART 2: Ensuring pedagogy drives the use and design of space

Newton Central School provides three pathways for learning:

1. Auraki/English Medium

In Auraki, (English medium programme), ākonga follow the New Zealand Curriculum. Tamariki are exposed to a broad range of learning opportunities in which they develop key competencies in thinking; relating to others; using language, symbols and texts; managing self; and participating and contributing.

2. Te Uru Karaka/Total Immersion – Te Reo Māori

Te Uru Karaka is a special programme in which ākonga are fully immersed in te reo Māori for the full day. As a prerequisite for entering the unit at least one parent must be a fluent te reo Māori speaker, and it is expected that ākonga will already have had extensive exposure to te reo Māori prior to enrolling at the school.

3. Whānau Awahou/Bi-lingual – Te Reo Māori

Whānau Awahou is a special programme available if ākonga and their whānau, with no previous experience, wish to begin making a strong commitment to learning te reo Māori throughout their time at Newton Central School. By the end of six years, with hard work and determination, the school believes that both the whānau and ākonga can become bi-literate, bi-lingual and bi-cultural – able to walk confidently in both the Māori and English worlds.

For many years these different units have operated as completely isolated and distinctive pathways, with separate graduate profiles and aspirations for their tamariki. In the Māori medium pathways there were two different philosophical approaches to teaching te reo Māori. However, the pressure of inner city growth and the limited space for additional buildings was a considerable challenge facing the future of these pathways.

At the beginning of 2018 the units had the opportunity to create a new pedagogy that honours and reflects Te Tiriti o Waitangi, Mana Whenua, Ngā Mātāwaka, and the diverse community of Newton Central. This opportunity stemmed from the provision of a new māori medium building to accommodate both Te Awahou and Te Urukaraka units.

The journey was a complex one. The desire to retain both pathways was strong from whānau and so the decision was made to find a way to accommodate both pathways within the same building. Time was spent articulating the kaupapa of the two programmes. Kaiako worked closely together to explore how learning could happen in these two spaces and to define what a Maōri environment would look like, rather than a euro-centric Innovative Learning Environment (ILE).

“…..feeling like a marae, with tuakana-teina approach, whānau based, welcoming to parents and whānau, and defining what team teaching could look like in this kaupapa.”

We undertook professional development, recognising that we were single cell teachers at heart; it wasn’t until we were occupying the space that the real learning began.

Initial concerns regarding the potential loss of te reo Māori immersion was countered with the development of strict kawa that was played out in protocols and highlighted through visual prompts, e.g in the carpet designs, designating where English speaking stopped and te reo Māori was maintained within a space.

Over time, concerns of the community have been alleviated and kaiako and ākonga have demonstrated that the two pathways can work successfully together, with the levels of te reo Māori used being uplifted across the board.

The success of this arrangement hallmarks the commitment of kaiako, the importance of ensuring everyone is familiar with the Why of each pathway’s tikanga, and the community commitment to making it work.

Read more about Newton Central School here: