Part 3 – Lifting te reo Māori and te ao Māori capability

By Diana Wilkes

At a recent Te Huinga Kākākura Mātauranga | Evaluation Associates hui, Sue Ngārimu guided a discussion with a panel of principal advisors to discuss the ways that school leaders can support their teams to develop te reo and te ao Māori capability. We share some of the insights imparted by the panelists and the facilitator in this article. Note: This is Part 3 of a series of three articles.

We hear a lot about how important it is to ‘give effect’ to Te Tiriti o Waitangi and we know this is both important and our obligation as treaty partners. As leaders we can help our teams and ourselves to lift our te ao Māori capabilities. So, what are the tangible actions we can take as educational leaders to prioritise te ao Māori and te reo Māori in our schools?

At a Te Huinga Kākākura Mātauranga hui, Sue Ngārimu guided a wonderful discussion with a panel of her fellow principal advisors, all past principals themselves, to discuss the various ways schools can amplify their te reo and te ao Māori capabilities. The panelists, who are located in different rohe or regions across Aotearoa, shared examples of practice that they have observed, supported or discussed with the principals who they work with.

Facilitator: Sue Ngārimu, Principal Advisor and Team Leader (Central South)


  • Simon Green, Principal Advisor (Canterbury and Otago regions)

  • Diana Peri, Principal Advisor (Auckland | Tāmaki Makaurau area)

  • David Reardon, Principal Advisor (Manawatu-Whanganui-Taranaki-Ruapehu region)

  • Judith Wootton, Principal Advisor and Team Leader (Waikato & BoP – Waiariki regions)

Sue framed up the session with five questions and provided some clarity around why each question was so important to consider. The learning garnered from this session was powerful and provided those present with invaluable insights. We share some of the ‘golden nuggets’ imparted by the panelists around Sue’s fifth and final question.

Note: This is Part 3 of a series of three articles.

Part 3: Lifting te reo Māori and te ao Māori capability

Sue: There are professional expectations that teachers and schools build internal capability to respond to language, culture and identity – with Māori first, before others.

Te Tiriti o Waitangi partnership standard (screenshot from Our Code, Our Standards) — Image by:

Question 5: “What deliberate acts of leadership have you seen that are directed towards lifting internal capability in te reo Māori, and developing an interest in, and understanding of te ao Māori?”

In a nutshell: 

Lead by example: School leaders have the everyday opportunity to role model being te reo learners themselves by speaking te reo; greetings, karakia, waiata, pepeha, mihi, whakataukī, place names, etc., are all examples of te reo that can be used in daily interactions. The attitude and beliefs of the principal should demonstrate that this is non-negotiable. When leaders model being the learners and being okay in the discomfort of this space, this is powerful. Provision of whole staff PLD in te reo – weekly, is another way to show valuing of te reo Māori. Assemblies begin with waiata and karakia; write their own haka with tangata whenua (watch this first); have compulsory te reo classes across the school; learn and embed culturally relational pedagogy (teaching/leading to the North-East). Ultimately, work to create a culture and a mentality that this is ongoing – not taking a position of ‘we’ve done this’.

Be a lifelong learner: Enrol and commit to the course available at Te Ahu o te Reo Māori is the Ministry of Education’s nationwide initiative set to support the te reo Māori development of teachers, leaders and staff across Aotearoa. Each intake will enrol in a programme of learning of up to 170 hours (contact, directed & self-directed). There are no fees associated with this programme.

Reconnect with Tū Rangatira: Māori Medium Educational Leadership: Leaders could also revisit Tū Rangatira, which focuses on key leadership roles and practices that contribute to high-quality educational outcomes for Māori learners. It can be used to break down and unpack what these seven leadership roles (whenu) and practices mean, and then to look at how they are enacted in the school and what impact they have. Using Tū Rangatira to understand a Te Ao Māori perspective on leadership is hugely valuable learning for all leaders.

Commit to developing staff capability: Making learning around te reo should be a non-negotiable, afterall, Our Code, Our Standards | Ngā Tikanga Matatika, Ngā Paerewa requires this of all educators. Revisit the standards with the team as you develop and/or refresh your Quality Practice Statements (as part of the Professional Growth Cycle in your school). Use the support of tangata whenua, your kāhui ako, and/ or MOE PLD to build te reo capability and ensure there are evaluative processes in place to monitor and review impact. Also, build te reo capability within your induction programme for new staff.

Learn from Mātaiahikā: Provide opportunities for your staff to connect with, learn from and contribute to tangata whenua; organise a hikoi in the rohe with iwi; create artefacts with iwi to be able to confidently share the local stories (check this out:Te Tiriti o Waitangi-Te Tai Whanake ki Tauranga Moana).

Upskill the board: Ensure Māori representation on the board and co-opt if you need to. Use and unpack Hautū with your board and discuss the whakapapa of Te Mātaiaho, especially the WHY components of Mātairangi, Mātainuku and Mātaitipu. 

Here are some other ideas:

  • If you have a student council, create a student rep-ākonga Māori.
  • Invite learners and their whānau to model their learning journey for staff.
  • Invite kaumatua to grow and share the local stories – utilise every leaver and lever!
  • If te reo Māori and tikanga Māori are not reflected in the classrooms, make this your leadership goal to develop this further school-wide
  • Look for opportunities for yourself such as those available on, and
  • Create and participate in Kāhui Ako initiatives that support te reo and tikanga learning.
  • Host wānanga.
  • Connect with Māori Achievement Collaborative MAC engagement.
  • Articulate clearly the school-wide expectations and the non-negotiables; e.g. be clear that Y8 still being at L1 te reo is unacceptable.
  • Embrace the Māori performing arts as a vehicle for stories and promoting engagement.
  • Understand and support that creating classroom cultures in this space is ongoing mahi.
  • Explore and use resources such as: 
  • Invite and include iwi in staff learning and checking in.
  • Use a wide variety of media resources.
  • Dive deeply into and embed ANZH into your school curriculum.
  • Use NZCER Te Reo Māori tool with ākonga, staff and Board.
  • Remind the team about the Values in Our Code, Our Standards; identify how these are enacted.

Our Values (screenshot from Our Code, Our Standards) — Image by:

It is vital that leaders are working to ensure te ao Māori and te reo Māori are seen and heard in the school, everyday. We hope there is useful information for you in this article, and we invite you all to celebrate what is working well in your school and to reflect about what might you try or do differently.

If you haven’t already, check out or revisit Part 1:Engagement with whānau Māori and mana whenua and Part 2: Being a school in Aotearoa of this series.

A special thank you to Sue Ngārimu and the wonderful principal advisors at Evaluation Associates | Te Huinga Kākākura Mātauranga.