Part 1 – Principal Advisor Panel Discussion: Ways schools are moving towards giving effect to Te Tiriti o Waitangi.

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 schools are moving towards giving effect to Te Tiriti o Waitangi. We share some of the insights imparted by the panelists and the facilitator in this article. Note: This is Part 1 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. However, many of us are just not quite sure what that means or looks like in action. What are the tangible actions we can take as educational leaders to prioritise this in our mahi, and in our ways of being?

At a recent Te Huinga Kākākura Mātauranga | Evaluation Associates 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 are moving towards giving effect to Te Tiriti o Waitangi. 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)

Panelists: are all principal advisors who provide support nationally for beginning and experienced principals or tumuaki:

  • 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 insights imparted by the panelists around the first two of Sue’s five questions in this article.

Part 1: Engagement with whānau Māori and mana whenua

It is critical that schools build relationships for engagement with their school communities. We are interested in the ways that schools are doing this with both Whānau Māori and Mana Whenua as they are not necessarily one in the same.

Question 1.

“How are schools building relationships and strengthening engagement with Whānau Māori?”

In a nutshell: There is no silver bullet! Be mindful that some Māori whānau may be uncomfortable in the school office so spend the necessary time on whanaungatanga. It takes times to develop relational trust. As the tumuaki, consider where you school is at, do you need to create, build and/or sustain? And, if you are a new tumuaki, what do you need to do to sustain an existing relationship? Reflect on how you might give the lead back to mana whenua around tikanga.

With regards to whānau hui, if you think “I advertise these and no one comes”, ask yourself why? Maybe effective looks like moving away from surveys and moving towards talking to whānau at sport events, in the car park, at the gate, and having face to face kōrero to invite parents in for the kanohi ki te kanohi event. Build the relationships face to face not only by a pānui invitation. Promote and support Whānau Hui. Be visible and positive when promoting the hui and encourage staff to do the same.

Consider what makes a successful hui, as often this involves ākonga performing, sharing of kai and then the opportunity to talk about the strategic direction of the school. Resist the impulse to control Whānau Hui. Provide a “cuppa and some kai”, and plan for supervision of the kids who turn up with their whānau.

Attend events and activities in the community or at the marae that whānau attend. Be kānohi kitea (the person who shows up and is present) at a range of activities and occasions, both big and small, e.g., sports, local hui, ANZAC dawn ceremony, service for tangi, etc. It is especially important if you are invited to something at the marae e.g., birthdays, weddings – and make sure to pick up a tea towel when it’s time to do the dishes! 

Finally, avoid the “a lot of hui and no do-ey” scenario at all costs, because consultation should lead to action!  

Here are some other ideas:

  • Invest in laying the foundations of positive connections whenever they occur, both formally and informally.
  • Make appointments that will promote and support connection with Māori.
  • Build a culture of connection with the staff – with each other, ākonga, whānau – so that this becomes ‘our way’ e.g., display photos of the staff with ākonga and their whānau.
  • Recognise your privilege when you’re included into Kaupapa Māori activities, care for it and be humble at all times – listen and be curious, suspend all judgements.
  • Get quick wins on the board by acting on whānau feedback, prioritise this in your strategic direction. Strengthen Māori voice in the strategic plan (governance).
  • Cultivate the disposition of quiet invitation to whānau to give feedback ways that are comfortable for them.
  • Engage with and support activities that are culturally valued by Māori, e.g., Manu Kōrero, Kapa Haka.
  • Listen to feedback and act on whānau voice. Check in first to make sure that you are interpreting messages accurately – make no assumptions if something is unclear.
  • Deliberately celebrate the successes of ākonga and ensure that provision to do this is budgeted for. Do this often!
  • Foster a mindset of inquiry about whānau Māori, who they are and their stories.
  • Seek support and guidance, e.g., local marae, MAC, RA PLD, kāhui ako and other networks.
  • Make quick contacts via phone, text or DM to share the good stuff and to check in.

Question 2.
How is this relationship building differentiated for mana whenua? What strategies are being used that promote active engagement with, and valuing of mana whenua?

In a nutshell: When working in partnership with mana whenua approach initial hui with no fixed agenda and listen actively. Invite and encourage iwi-initiated hui so that aspirations and experiences of maemae (trauma) can be shared. Ensuring the locus of control is with mana whenua can also prevent ‘pākeha paralysis’. Be open to the fact that the journey may be bumpy and persevere.

Use the development and/or improvement of your localised curriculum as an authentic rationale for engagement. This is Mātaiahikā (relationships with tangata whenua) in action as it is about moving the school out of the position of power. Explore the stories of people and place with staff, visit those places and include mana whenua. You could start a ‘mana’ week where the whole school goes to the marae and they learn about waiata, tikanga, and history through kōrero. Go on a hikoi to share and learn the history of key areas and why they are important to the local iwi. Invite, ask, create space for iwi to lead the process; welcome their stories and ensure you show that you are interested and that you care.

Here are some other suggestions:

  • Listen, listen, listen.
  • Be open to learning – move from informing to listening and seeking advice, guidance and counsel. Share the ‘power’, share the ‘control’ and ensure your ‘walk theory = talk theory’.
  • Keep promises – do what you say and say what you’ll do.
  • Identify who is mana whenua at your school, e.g., when ākonga enrol have a process that identifies if their whānau are mana whenua.
  • Create a Kāhui Rangatira to provide advice and guidance, include Mana Whenua, business community and other external partners.
  • Provide opportunities for mana whenua to be at the board table and on staff; co-opt to involve with long term intentions and strategy.
  • Actively use iwi created resources such as websites, and make it known how you are using these.
  • Suspend the timetable to provide for Kaupapa Māori based learning opportunities at the marae and on the whenua, such as at the start of the year.
  • Move past your own anxiety and ‘pākeha paralysis’. Recognise what this is and plan how you’ll manage it.
  • Utilise available processes, e.g., LAT to employ mana whenua, make appointments with those who whakapapa to the area.
  • Collaborate with others, like kāhui ako, so that mana whenua works with a group as opposed to having to respond to individual schools.

There can be inherent challenges when multiple iwi whakapapa to the area and this can make school leaders anxious. Our panel advises that leaders tap into Ministry of Education support where possible and look to other schools, especially their own cluster/kāhui ako. Then, share your success stories with other schools so that they can learn from your journey.

We hope there were some tangible ‘takeaways’ for you from this article.  What are you already doing?  What might you try or do differently?  

Watch for part two of this article series Being a school in Aotearoa in our next pānui.

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