Friday 23 June 2017


He Kākano – making a difference for Māori learners

He Kākano is a significant in-depth professional learning programme for secondary and area school leadership teams. The programme focuses on growing culturally responsive pedagogical school leadership – leadership that actively takes account of the identity, language and culture of Māori learners to build relationships that result in achievement success. In this article, PAORA HOWE, the programmes’ professional operations manager, reflects on the shifts that have happened for schools and Māori learners in the last two years.
Secondary school leaders at a recent He Kākano wänanga, held at the Ngā Kete Wānanga Marae, Manukau Institute of Technology.

We started at the end of 2010 with 89 schools (84 schools plus Te Kura - The Correspondence School, which we treat as five separate schools). In the last two years only one school has withdrawn from the programme. In spite of changes in leadership in a number of schools, we are pleased to say that participating schools have developed senior leadership teams that are becoming really effective at identifying where and how they need to make permanent changes to improve outcomes for Māori learners.
So far we have had four wānanga, and in between the Manutaki (regional coordinators) have visited the schools in their regions anywhere between 10 and 30 times, depending on school need. School leaders say that this programme model works for them and that it is beginning to have the desired effect.
As one principal recently put it: “Senior staff have set expectations into departmental documentation, professional development and programme review. Now these include Māori students, cultural location and matters of tikanga as a matter of course.”
Evidence for improvement
We are seeing lots of evidence for improvement. School senior leaders are now:
  • Practising cultural responsiveness with a heightened sense of self-awareness and of their own understanding of Māori cultural values and practices,
  • Working out strategies for addressing Māori learner achievement and success in a more cohesive and coherent manner, using the different frameworks from He Kākano to monitor their own progress,
  • Using data in a much more focused way to identify where they need to make further shifts and changes in processes or structures,
  • Encouraging more teaching and learning discussions that are agentic rather than deficit theory-based,
  • Using co-constructive approaches to solve age old issues, like low attendance and retention rates, poor engagement and achievement levels of Māori learners (when compared to those of non-Māori),
  • Learning how valuable it is to listen to and analyse Māori learners’ and teachers’ voices,
  • Paying more attention to individual Māori learners’ needs to help increase their achievement levels,
  • Developing improved and positive relationships in a range of areas: among the senior leadership teams, between the senior leadership and middle leadership groups, between leaders and staff, between staff and learners, between the staff and whānau, and between the school and iwi/hapū groups,
  • Developing the skills needed to have the difficult but necessary conversations with staff who don’t agree that a specific focus on Māori learner achievement is necessary to improve their school’s current outcomes for Māori learners,
  • Developing greater whānau awareness of what is going on in the school.
  • Getting ideas from other schools (either at the He Kākano wānanga through the sharing of ideas, or by deliberately working with other schools) about how to resolve mutual issues.
In all 88 schools, Manutaki reports reflect positive trends that augur well for the next few years.
Another principal on the programme says: “Staff are more aware now that Māori achievement is everyone’s responsibility... [Because of our focus], Māori students have a real pride in themselves, their whānau and their school.”

Positive shifts in Māori learner outcomes, and some challenges
Even better, there have been positive shifts in Māori learner outcomes that we did not expect to see for some time yet. Some of those shifts have been really significant. We are not saying that the He Kākano programme has been entirely responsible for these shifts, but we have hard evidence now that attendance levels have improved, achievement outcomes overall are improving and more importantly, school leaders are justly proud of the conditions they are establishing to create positive shift.
The challenges remain, however. School leaders continue to tell us that time remains their enemy.
It takes time for them to understand what is needed, to embed their learning and to share what they have learned from the wānanga. It takes time for senior leaders to develop the skills and confidence needed to bring middle leaders to the same level of understanding that they have. It takes time to keep up with the readings and research needed to become pedagogical leaders. It takes time to develop the habit of sharing power and becoming more distributive leaders. It takes time to develop a school where all staff members are culturally responsive. In response, the He Kākano team is committed to providing quality advice that helps each school find solutions that suit each school’s capacity to succeed.
Three questions currently being debated by schools are: What is meant by ‘success as Māori’? How do we spread reform to middle leaders (HoDs, HoFs, learning leaders and deans) so that they can in turn have impact on their departments/faculties? And how can we increase engagement of whānau in our school in a meaningful and ongoing way?
The team looks forward to maintaining ongoing dialogue and positive relationships with the school leaders, to finding solutions to these questions and to building staff and leadership capacity so that Māori learners’ achievement levels are something to be proud of.

He Kākano is supported by the Rangiatea case studies and the Ruia Tools. Both can be accessed on the Ministry’s website Educational Leaders. Developed with schools, researchers and expert practitioners they are built on evidence that shows when leaders and teachers engage in culturally responsive practices this has a significant effect on the extent to which Māori learners set and achieve their goals and aspirations. 

 ‘E kore au e ngaro, he kākano i ruia mai i Rangiātea
I will never be lost, for I am the seed which was sown from Rangiātea’*
*This whakatauki is a reminder to Māori of our historical, cultural and spiritual links to the past, and is an affirmation that, no matter what happens, our identity as a people will remain strong, because we know who we are and where we are from.