Dr Pedro Noguera and Dr Allyson Pimentel visit NZ and Kia Aroha College

We were privileged to have Dr Pedro Noguera visit New Zealand as the keynote speaker for the Tuia Te Ako 2015 Conference in Christchurch from 8-10 July.  It was also great to have his wife, Dr Allyson Pimentel, travel with Pedro and to join in all of the conference activities.  Pedro and Allyson visited Kia Aroha during the weekend on their stopover on their way home to the USA and promise to return. Scroll down to watch Pedro's keynote address and click here for further interviews and posts during the conference.

Dr Pedro Noguera's Keynote at Tuia Te Ako 2015

Dr Pedro Noguera is the Peter L. Agnew Professor of Education at New York University. Dr. Noguera is a Sociologist whose scholarship and research focuses on ways in which schools are influenced by social and economic conditions, as well as by demographic trends in local, regional and global contexts.

NZ Principals' Federation "Service with Distinction" Award

My thanks to the New Zealand Principals' Federation for their recent Service with Distinction Award, awarded to a member "who has made an outstanding contribution to the teaching profession or education as a Principal," which I was presented with in Wellington on 2 July.  

In my thanks and acceptance of this Award I said:

It’s a sort of ‘out of body’ experience hearing someone else talk about you.  I think we all just get on with doing the work every day in our schools - and we don’t stop to add it up or put it in one place.  I remember being genuinely surprised a few years ago – and a bit flattered I admit - when I was introduced to an audience as an “education activist”!  I thought, Who, me? 

I have always seen myself as a mother, grandmother and great grandmother of Maori children who typically, our education system fails, and any service I have given anywhere has always been fuelled by my outrage about this situation.  These days I have much less patience about this than I used to,  so “activist” now is probably quite mild and I’m certain there are some people I’ve rubbed up the wrong way, in places like the Ministry or ERO, who have other, less flattering descriptors!

The truth is, that when you make an intentional decision to stick your neck out and challenge our system and, in my case, our own Pakeha comfort zones, particularly in an area as controversial as Maori education, then you understand that’s going to be an isolating and lonely experience – it just goes with the territory.  That’s why this Award is such a special honour! To receive this acknowledgement from your colleagues means a very great deal and I truly appreciate it. 

None of us go into this role to give service to each other, or to education in general, maybe that’s unfortunate!  We teach, we learn, we struggle, sometimes we lead, and we do the best we can in the schools and communities who welcome us into their midst, and everything else is a bonus I think.  I’m most proud of the service I’ve been privileged to be able to offer to the students and whanau of Kia Aroha College and of the support and amazing learning I’ve received in return.  

This Award honours our whole community and the journey we have taken together over the last three decades to make a difference for our Maori and Pasifika kids.  So… I thank you, my whanau – three of my daughters have travelled to be here today - thanks you, Kia Aroha College’s warrior-scholars, our staff, board and community all thank you. 

Nga mihi
Kia ora tatou.

Te Whanau o Tupuranga gets a mention at Yale!

Jeff Duncan-Andrade Keynote – Yale School of Management Education Leadership Conference

Kia Aroha College, Te Whanau o Tupuranga and Fanau Pasifka, have a long relationship with Dr Jeff Duncan-Andrade. Associate Professor of Raza Studies and Education at San Francisco State University and Director of the Educational Equity Initiative at the Institute for Sustainable Economic, Educational, and Environmental Design (ISEEED). In addition to these duties, he continues as a high school teacher in East Oakland where for the past 21 years he has practised and studied the use of critical pedagogy in urban schools.

In April, 2014, Jeff was a keynote speaker at SOMELC the Yale School of Management Education Leadership Conference.  His keynote address is here.

In the Q & A session following their keynotes, Jeff and Dr Howard Fuller expanded on their themes. Watch the Q & A session video. At approx 21.00 minutes the professors are asked to “elaborate on some school communities doing right by school choice in terms of those students most economically disadvantaged.”  At 25.28 Jeff explains why young people have to be able to be who THEY are FIRST – and at 28.40 he says “Go to Otara, in New Zealand, and go see the school called Te Whanau o Tupuranga…” and he explains why!  Thanks Jeff!!

Reflections 2014

Celebration Day Speech 2014

Year 13 Graduate Warrior-Scholars 2014

Kia ora tatou

Welcome everyone to our Celebration Day.  It’s great to have you all join us to reflect on a very busy 2014 and to join us in celebrating  thevery wide range of achievements of many of our students this year.

Each year I stand up here to talk about the major issues we face in an education system that has never suited our kids, and still doesn’t.

I complain that this situation gets worse every year with a narrower curriculum and very poor definitions of success and achievementwhich paint a picture of our kids as problems, that the government wants to “fix” –  that hasn’t changed, so I don’t want to talk about that today.

I also stand here each year to talk about our achievements as a school – and there are many.  People continue to visit us regularly to find out how we do, what we do.  I speak to audiences all over the country who want to know HOW we make such a difference.  Magic happens in Studio 274 where our students flock after school and  Ido want to congratulate the Studio for the amazing opportunities they give our young people, and the youth in our wider community.

Our students have been successful in many different aspects of their learning – academically,  in Samoan, Maori, Tongan – and Englishspeech competitions, in Pasifika performing arts – in national and regional kapa haka competitions, and in sports and I want to thank all those who gave so much time to tutor our groups and coach our teams.

But you are going to spend the rest of the day seeing for yourselves our achievements as a school, through the many achievements of our students – so I don’t want to talk about that either!

What I do want to talk to you about this year is my English class,because it has been a very long time since I have actually had to be a teacher, but this year, when our usual teacher took study leave, both Whaea Cindy and I thought we’d go back into the classroom!

I could probably say I wasn’t a teacher this year either, but I, and my NCEA Level 3 English students, were all definitely learners! 

The students learned how grumpy I could be (not that they didn’t know that already!) and that I was going to stalk them until the work was done, and that there was no point in making excuses.

“I don’t do writing” Brodie told me in the first week.  He has achieved Merit grades for his writing and can write really well!

“I can’t do speeches” most of them told me – “I’m too shy” – the same ones I would see at full volume on the kapa haka stage.  Savili hid from me for weeks, then surprised me, and himself, by receiving an Excellence grade for his speech.

The person who learned the most, however, was me.

I learned our kids often doubt their real talent and ability, and they don’t have to.

I learned how hard it is for teachers, myself included, to stay motivated, and keep your students motivated while you are disappearing under the mountain of paperwork that NCEA requires.

My students were studying the stories of Witi Ihimaera aboutstruggle and conflict, and racism in our society – and I was havingmy own struggle and conflict with the racism and white spaces in our education system that try to force our kids into topics and assessments that don’t fit, and show them exemplars that don’t look or sound anything like them.

I also learned about the frustration teachers experience when kids just don’t turn up to school. “I slept in,” “no transport,” “family problems,”  “I had to help at home,” “I had to go to work,” are all real life situations I know, and all are legitimate – some of the time – but I often wonder if whanau realise how these multiple days off accumulate, and what a huge impact they have on your child’s achievement overall.  I also wonder if you realise how often the teacher has to repeat that one lesson for the students who were missing?  Our teachers’ workload and our children’s learning suffer hugely from absence and lateness.

The most significant thing you can do to help your child achieve, is to get them to school on time, and every day.

I learned that Level 3 English has not so much to do with Englishitself. As any teacher can tell you, it’s about relationships, it’s aboutbeing there, as a mentor, a guide, a coach – at all times of the day or night – as the emails I’d get at midnight taught me.  “What did we have to do for tomorrow” they would ask?  I learned though that even when I answered immediately, Savili, having asked his question, had happily already logged off and gone to sleep!

I learned, or more accurately, I remembered all over again, that teaching is a really hard job that requires many, many, hours of preparation and assessment time outside of class time.

I learned that it can be thankless, and it can also be amazingly rewarding, when “I don’t write” and “I can’t speak” turn into statements like “I’m a writer” and “I’m a speaker” – and you see results like those you will see shortly from Claudia, in Whaea Cindy’s class, whose poetry slam impressed me so much I invited her to be our guest speaker today, and my friend, Savili, whose speech blew me away!

It has been a real privilege to work more closely with our students than I am usually able to do, and I am very proud of our joint achievements and the learning we did together.

So today I’m saluting, and thanking our teachers, and the incredibly hard work they do, day and night, weekends and holidays, for all our kids.  I’m pretty certain, I am never going to teach again.  I’ll stick to just being the principal, which I think might be much easier.

My thanks also to our great support staff, and to Julie, and our Board of Trustees, who all work hard in their support of our students and our school.

I congratulate all of our young people who we will honour and celebrate today and give special thanks and best wishes to all of our graduating Year 13 Warrior Scholars who will soon be joining us on the stage.  They are heading off into university study, careers and employment, and I know they will all continue to make us proud of their achievements.

I wish all of you – and all families – best wishes for Christmas and the New Year.

Kia ora tatou

“Fighting in a Phone Booth”

Friend of Kia Aroha College, Dr Dave Stovall, as always, keeps it real.  I can so relate to his claim that educationally these are serious times, and for scholar-activists,  “I think this current moment is like having a bare-knuckle fight with an adversary in a phone booth:  there is little room for error and explicit, unfettered human will is the most precious resource at your disposal.”

Read his article here

Reflections 2013

Celebration Day Speech 2013

Kia ora tatou

Welcome everyone to our Celebration Day.  It’s great to have you all join us to reflect on a very busy 2013.  Soon we will be celebrating the very wide range of achievements of many of our students this year,but I wanted to also talk this morning about our achievements as a school, which I think sometimes we don’t publicise enough!

Last year I spoke about  the government’s pressure on schools to conform to a one-size-fits-all framework –  which treats our children as consumers, schools as businesses, learning as pass rates and percentages,  and which has never worked for our Maori and Pasifika learners.  This year the situation is actually worse.  New research  has confirmed the damage done by the government’s National Standards which force schools to teach to the standards and leave out other important curriculum areas, and which label children as failures.

We also face other pressures in our community.  The most serious for us, across all Otara schools, is a drop in roll numbers – which means a drop in our staffing and the loss of staff, some who have been here for a long time.

Yesterday we farewelled Whaea Haley, who has been here for 17 years and who is off to study to finish her masters degree.  At the beginning of next year we will be saying goodbye to Matua Rihari – also taking on further study, and we farewell Mr Piho who has taught in this school for 30 years and is due for his well-deserved retirement!  We wish all of those staff members the very best in their future pathways – but the fact remains we need to focus on recruiting and retaining our student numbers.

So, against all of that background that is going on “out there” we continue to make a difference, not just to our own students, but to an ever widening network of other schools and communties who are interested in what we do and how we do it.

This year we have hosted visitors from Vietnam, Australia, several different universities in the United States, New Caledonia,  Hawaii, the Cook Islands, and teachers from a Samoan Language Centre based in Hawaii.

We have been visited by school architects and planners from across NZ, as well as groups of teachers from several other schools, some as far away as Christchurch.   I have been invited to speak to audiences in Parliament Buildings, to National Maori ERO reviewers, to principals’ associations in Otago, to the Ministry of Education and local iwi in Christchurch, to teachers groups, teacher trainees, and to indigenous educators in Hawaii.

Why are all of these people interested in Kia Aroha College?  Because we are already doing what they want to learn how to doand all this interest is an indicator of the importance and unique nature of our programme and philosophy. We believe our young people have the right to learn about their cultural languages, knowledge and identity as well as achieve academic success.  It doesn’t sound all that unusual to us, because it’s just what we always do – but to all those other people, it’s different, and sometimes I think we forget to celebrate that difference and to pat ourselves on the back!

This year it was a real privilege to complete my doctoral thesisbecause it tells the story of our struggle as a community to stand up for what we believe works best for our kids.  I was lucky enough to be the storyteller, but it’s our story and we are all in the text.  I want to thank everyone at Kia Aroha for their amazing support of this achievement, but the achievement belongs to all of us.

This year Kia Aroha College students participated in the ASB Polyfest and Tongan speech competitions, in the Ahurea Kapa Haka competition, Nga Manu Korero, the Youth Parliament Speech Contest, the Mana Party’s Feed the Kids initiative, we hosted the Auckland Samoan speech competitions and six of our students travelled to Wellington to the National Samoan speech contest.  We held our first School Ball, and have been involved on the sports field in soccer, netball, rugby, and rugby league, as well as other sports.

Through our partnership with Studio 274 – two of our students were selected to attend the Adobe Youth Voices Summit in Boston, USA.

All of these great opportunities happen alongside what happens in class, and again I want to thank our teachers, all our support staff and our Board of Trustees  for the incredible hard work they do in support of our school and our programme.  It’s great to be able to report that we have just been told that our students’ NCEA work,which is sent away for check marking by national moderators, has reached an all time high of 93% agreement between  our teachers’ and the moderators’ marking.  The national average agreement is 84%. That is a major achievement.

Our Whanau Centre now includes our Youth Health Nurse, two social workers, a youth worker, as well as counselling and the Mana Kidz rheumatic fever and skin infections programme.  Our students are very lucky to have this level of support available right here at school.

So let’s remember all these collective achievements today as we enjoy the many successes of our students.

My congratulations to all of our young people who we will honour and celebrate today and my special thanks and best wishes to all of our graduating Year 13 Warrior Scholars who will now be joining us on the stage. 

I wish all of you – and all families – best wishes for Christmas and the New Year.

Kia ora tatou

Invitation from I-SEEED

I was delighted to accept an invitation to become a Research Affiliate for the Institute for Sustainable Economic, Educational, and Environmental Design (I-SEEED) in Oakland, CA – and subsequently overawed at the illustrious company I had joined!  My invitation said:

I-­SEEED’s mission is:

  1. To train the next generation of climate scientists, energy innovators, health advocates, and social justice educators from low-­income communities and communities of color; and
  2. To create “pathways” between world-­class research and the creation of start-­ups, social enterprises, and whole industries emerging from low-­income communities and communities of color.  

Our vision is to create sustainable cities and schools so that people do not have to leave their communities in order to live, learn, work, and thrive.  Based on your body of work, we think you would be a good fit as a Research Affiliate.

That sounded pretty good to me!  Read more about I-SEEED and follow their press here and download some of their publications.

I was there!

I’m posting this lengthy video because I was actually there – not marching with a banner, because I didn’t feel I knew enough about the USA education issues to actually engage in the protest, but I was inside the Hilton in San Francisco, listening to Arne Duncan, where there were also plenty of signs, and where you could feel the tension from educators in the packed auditorium.  The video is worth taking the time to watch because it tells many truths from people who know what they are talking about!  Why did I expect the issues would be any different from ours?  I could have been picketing – thenarrowing of the curriculum, more and more standardisation,  teaching to the standards, the devaluaing and scapegoating of teachers, charter schools taking funding from public schooling, and the location of charter schools in black and brown communities.

From the auditorium I posted to Facebook:  “Arne Duncan – USA Secretary of Education – presentable, charming, gift of the gab, “it’s all about the children”, we want to listen to teachers and schools, smart comments back at the audience, and clearly no real intention to change anything!  Drawing any parallels here NZ teachers? Scary similarities”!

Be very afraid New Zealand!  This is our Government’s educational agenda as well and what more than ten thousand primary and early childhood teachers, school support staff, parents and other supporters  marched and rallied against throughout NZ on 18 April. Same isues – just add Novopay!

Picket and Protest against US Education Secretary, Arne Duncan. In San Francisco at American Educational Research Association Conference

Kapa Haka in Te Tai Tokerau

On Tuesday our Kapa Haka group travelled to Moerewa School to participate in the local kapa haka festival.  We spent the night atTe Tii Marae in Waitangi where our students were privileged to listen to local kaumatua and whānau from the marae and Waitangi, tell them stories and explain the history of this important place. On Wednesday the community turned out in force to watch their children and to enjoy and support all the groups.

Moerewa’s senior Years 11 to 13 students are on the roll of Kia Aroha College and five of their students had joined our group at the ASB Polyfest 2012.  They had made a huge commitment to travel down to Otara each week to practise and this trip north was our way of saying thanks, and enabling their community to see their children perform as part of our group. It was a great trip and these photos featured in the local Northern Advocate.

Reflecting on 2012

The following 2012 Celebration Day speech highlights important events and issues we faced as a school, and as a profession, in 2012.

Kia ora tatou

Welcome everyone to our Celebration Day.  My thanks to all of you who have come to join us in celebrating our achievements in 2012 – and, as usual,  it has been a busy year!  This year we took the lead role in the huge ASB Polyfest – as the host school for the Maori stage and convener of the overall event, and where, for the first time, we entered groups in all our Pasifika performing arts. 

We expanded our Whanau Centre, and the social work and health support we are able to provide for families, and, as always, we challenged ourselves to meet our own high academic expectations.   We are a decile one school.  Out of 32decile onetwo and three schools in Auckland our NCEA results last year placed us

  • ·        10th for our NCEA level 1 results
  • ·        7th for NCEA level 2
  • ·        1st equal (with 5 other schools) for NCEA level 3
  • ·        and 4th for our University Entrance  results. 

Our students have spoken out in many different forums and in April, five of our senior students brought an international audience in Vancouver to their feet, and to tears, when they presented their outstanding research about the way working as a whanau in this school, works for them.  What is special about Kia Aroha College is that we believe our young people have the right to excellence in their cultural languages, knowledge and identity as well as academic success.   I want to thank our parents and families, for your support for this very special character and the philosophy of our school. 

Again in 2012 we have hosted visitors from all over New Zealand and the worldto see the work we do – and today I’m delighted to welcome to our Celebration Day Professor Suzanne Soohoo from Chapman University in California, and her husband Pat.  Suzi’s areas of expertise in multicultural education, critical pedagogy, and culturally responsive practice and research are exactly what Kia Aroha College is all about – and we are privileged to have people like Suzi speak about us all over the world.  Sometimes I think we are more famous and more celebrated in California than we are in New Zealand – and that is no surprise to me unfortunately!

In 2012, across the country, principals’ associations and teacher groups have taken action against the current government’s pressure on schools and communities to conform to a one-size-fits-all framework –  which treats our children as consumers, schools as businesses, learning as pass rates and percentages  and which has never worked for our Maori and Pasifika students. This type of bullying forced us out of our partnership with Moerewa School’s senior students and closed their senior class at the end of Term 1.  In spite of this action I am proud of the support that our board and staff were able to provide for the Moerewa community. 

 I want to thank our Board of Trustees for their strength and courage and my personal thanks particularly to Julie for her leadership and her commitment.  It’s not easy to stand up for what’s right in this hostile education environment and our board has a long and successful history in that struggle.

Last year I was invited to speak at the New Zealand Principals’ FederationEducation Summit The president of theFederation, described agovernment that has lost all sense of direction for education, that undermines the trustworthiness and integrity of our profession as educators, that reduces communities’ self-determination and increases state control, that sets up a system that assumes every child is the same,  and allows the government to divest itself of the responsibility for the inequalities in society and the issues  like poverty –  that impact on our children’s success – and deliberately makes these issues the responsibility of the school. 

That hasn’t changed in 2012 and one of the worst aspects of that thinking is the way it paints teachers and boards and schools themselves as the problems.  It is harder and harder to be a teacher in this current climate so today I want to specially appreciate our wonderful staff – our leadership team and our teachers and support staff who walk alongside our students’ whanau, in their support of our young people.  I want to acknowledge the hours and hours of extra work that students and parents never see, the extra professional learning and study to continually advance their practice, the cultural knowledge and experience they instil, their advocacy for Kia Aroha College, the many nights our Tupuranga staff sleep with large groups of students on our marae, the huge meals they cook, thenurturing, supporting, challenging, motivating and the difference all of our staff make in our young people’s lives. 

At our Year 13 dinner last week, as our graduating “Warrior-Scholars” stood to thank their teachers, our collective pride in their achievements, their goals and their chosen pathways to university, to future trades, and to further service in our community made several of us shed some tears.  Some of them told us they had looked forward to their graduation dinner for seven years so again I make a plea to parents to support your 15, 16, 17 year olds to stay at school right to the end of this important Year 13 year – not just so they can go to dinner – but so you can see what we saw, and what will be obvious when our graduating students take the stage shortly.  We are so very proud of you all and we know you will continue to do great things.

Finally, my congratulations to all of our young people who we will honour and celebrate today. 

Youth Researchers off to Canada!

On Sunday 8 April five of Kia Aroha College’s “Warrior-Scholars” will be travelling to Canada, with four staff, to attend two conferences where they will present their research on the impact of structuring a school as a whānau, from their perspective as Māori and Pasifika learners. The group has been working on their research since last October and were able to present their results for the first time on Friday when they spoke at the West Auckland Education Forum in New Lynn. Our presentation followed the keynote address from the new Secretary of Education, Lesley Longstone, who impressed us by asking her taxi to wait while she listened to our students!

In Canada the group will visit Vancouver Island where they will meet and speak to First Nations people and visit schools, then return to Vancouver where they will attend the Hands Back, Hands Forward, Gathering of Indigenous People in the Longhouse at the University of British Columbia, and the American Education Research Association (AERA) Conference. We present our research paper at this prestigious conference in a Symposium entitled “Reclaiming Education: Youth Counter-Narratives in the Neo-Liberal Reform Era.”


I think the biggest question for any speaker is asking yourself if what you said was of any use whatsoever to anyone at all?  You always hope so, but often there isn’t time for much feedback and the audience is busy listening to the next person – so it was great to come across this detailed response to the presentation at the Community Informatics Conference in Prato, Italy in November last year.  Thanks Jocelyn!

Teachers Rock!

It has been back to school this week for Kia Aroha College staff.  We met on Tuesday – not to start our planning for the year – but to share the planning teacher teams had already done in meetings during their holiday break.  Over these last few days teams have discussed and refined their planning, down to the finest detail, to make sure our students get the very best learning possible.  The amount of work that goes into preparation for the start of the year, and throughout the year as well, is incredible and I am impressed, every time I sit listening in these sessions, with the commitment of our staff.

Yesterday I returned from Waitangi, where 250 principals and teachers from Tai Tokerau spent two days in a conference discussing engaging Māori learners.  The weather outside was stunning, the Waitangi setting was beautiful and historic, yet we were all inside talking about children and learning.  I was privileged to be able to contribute.  Congratulations to the Aka Tokerau Māori Principals’ Association for a wonderful event and for enabling your teachers to participate in such great professsional learning.

It’s this type of hard work and dedication that those hell bent on “teacher-bashing” and denigrating the work we are doing in our schools don’t understand.  The only sour note in the Tai Tokerau conference was a Ministry speaker losing her cool when faced with legitimate questions about policy.  Her reaction treated us all, education professionals, as naughty children.  The very tense relationship that has developed between principals and the Ministry could possibly be improved if the Ministry was prepared to visit the chalk-face and sit in on the wonderful work our teachers do and, God forbid, listen occasionally!  Being righteous, does not make you right!

Colouring in the White Spaces

These holidays have been long-awaited writing time for me – finally proof-reading, editing and updating the doctoral thesis that has taken on a life of its own, and has certainly taken over mine!  What started its journey four years ago as an exploration of how Māori and Pasifika children could develop cultural identity in our mainstream schools, turned into how can they reclaim cultural identity and educational sovereignty that should already be available, but isn’t, in our Eurocentric education system. Colouring in the White Spaces: Reclaiming Cultural Identity in Whitestream Schools, tells the story of the journey of Te Whānau o TupurangaClover Park Middle School and Kia Aroha College to change that situation in our community.  It is finally in one document and ready for final (hopefully) feedback. Part of the draft abstract reads:

If we look at a child’s colouring book, before it has any colour added to it, we think of the page as blank. It’s actually not blank, it’s white. That white background is just “there” and we don’t think much about it. Not only is the background uniformly white, the lines are already in place and they dictate where the colour is allowed to go. When children are young, they don’t care where they put the colours, but as they get older they colour in more and more cautiously. They learn about the place of colour and the importance of staying within the pre-determined boundaries and expectations. This thesis argues that this is the setting for our mainstream, or what I have called, whitestream New Zealand schools — that white background is the norm. When we talk about multiculturalism and diversity what we are really referring to is the colour of the children, or their difference from that white norm, and how they don’t fit perfectly inside our lines. If the colour of the space doesn’t change schools are still in the business of assimilation, relegating non-white children to the margins, no matter how many school reform initiatives, new curricula, strategic plans, or mandated standards we implement. What the schools in this study have tried to do is change the colour of the space – so that the space fits the children and they don’t have to constantly adjust to fit in. 

New Zealand’s education system has been largely silent on the topic of whiteness and the Eurocentric nature of our schooling policy and practice. However, when I talk to senior Māori and Pasifika “warrior-scholars” in Te Whānau o Tupuranga and Clover Park Middle School about “white spaces” they have encountered in their schooling experience they can identify them all too easily. “White spaces,” they explain, are anything you accept as “normal” for Māori – when it’s really not, any situation that prevents, or works against you “being Māori” or who you are, and that requires you to “be” someone else and leave your beliefs behind. White spaces are spaces that allow you to require less of yourself and that reinforce stereotypes and negative ideas about Māori. Most telling of all was the comment from a Māori student that goes straight to the root of the problem, “White spaces are everywhere,” she said, “even in your head.”

Celebration Day Speech 2011

Celebration Day Speech 2011 (the celebration!)

Last week we enjoyed our Year 13 Graduation Dinner and I listened as these young people talked about their plans for next year – university study – to become a teacher, to study media and politics, communications, graphics and digital design, early childhood education, and automotive and vehicle technology – and all with the achievement levels they need to be accepted for these courses. I was impressed as always by these “Warrior-Scholars”.  I am also impressed by all of our teachers who nurture them through their younger year levels and develop in them, the motivation to stay at school right through to the end of Year 13 – for the first time, many tell us, in their whānau’s experience.

We say good bye to these senior students today and we wish you all the best in your journey beyond school, where we know you will continue to make us very proud of you.

I also see our young people take the stage in Kapa Haka and Pasifika performing artsspeech contests, speak their own languages, welcome visitors to our marae, do the dishes, serve the kai, and look after those who visit our school, and I see how strong they are in their cultural knowledge and values. Knowing who they are and being proud of that is an even greater achievement than any academic success – and what is special about Kia Aroha College is that we think our young people have the absolute right to both.

So I want to thank all our staff, teachers, support and office staff who work so hard every day in support of our kids. My thanks to our Board of Trustees for their strength and support. Thank you also to our parents and families, for your support of Kia Aroha College and the very special character and philosophy of our school.

Finally my congratulations to all of our young people who we will honour and celebrate today.

[headline]Celebration Day Speech 2011 (the issues!)[/headline]

Usually at this time of year principals stand up at prizegivings and talk about their school’s achievements – and there will be plenty of those celebrated today. But this year I can’t help commenting instead on what is happening outside our school – so it’s great to see our Member of Parliament, Jamie-Lee Ross here today to hear what I have to say. While we might not have had much change in 2011, unfortunately we can’t say the same for our wider education system where it seems to me that change is out of control. With the completely out of the blue agreement this week between John Key and John Banks to trial charter schools in South Auckland – it’s about to get much worse. You will notice of course we are not trialling these schools on the kids in their electorates! Just ours!

The extreme pressure from the Ministry of Education on students, teachers, principals and boards in schools like ours that have resisted the introduction of policies such as National Standards – because we know they have failed everywhere else in the world – has been the worst I have known in my forty years in education – and many of you know I’ve been in some big fights with education policy and officials.

These changes treat children as consumersschools as businesses, and learning as pass rates and percentages – and I am extremely proud of our board and community’s courage in standing up against these major – and seriously flawed – changes.

Like other schools across the country who have also stood up against these policies, we will  be forced to give in under this pressure and comply, but the important lesson for our young people is that we make our voices heard and we stand up and speak out when things are not right – especially when they damage our children.

All of us who are parents know our children don’t walk or talk at the same age but we give them time and we praise every effort as a huge success – and eventually they learn, at their own pace. When we expect children to all achieve the same standards at the same age and, when we label their efforts as failures when they don’t, that flies in the face of every truth we know about how children learn.

What on earth is Community Informatics?

Community Informatics is an emerging field of investigation and practice concerned with using information and communications technology to enable and empower communities. However, until recently community informatics has been more about research at an academic level rather than in communities themselves. From a Māori perspective, Robyn Kamira (2003) observes that “technology still happens “at” Māori,” and she discusses the danger that information technology becomes a further instrument of colonisation when the knowledge is controlled by the dominant culture and when the technology makes the extraction and exploitation of knowledge more sophisticated and covert.

That thinking is behind the development of the Te Rongo Haeata Centre for Community Informatics Research, a joint venture between Clubhouse 274Kia Aroha College, and Te Whare Wānanga o Awanuiārangi.
The Te Rongo Haeata Centre sits within the Tokorau Institute for Indigenous Innovation based at Te Whare Wānanga o Awanuiārangi. The purpose of the Tokorau Institute is to unlock the potential of indigenous people, their knowledge and their resources, by connecting indigenous or traditional knowledge systems with new, advanced and emerging information and communication technologies. The Te Rongo Haeata Centre is ideally placed therefore to align Community Informatics with an indigenous research paradigm, and to explore the impact of Clubhouse 274 on our young people, their whānau, and the wider community.

Last month, Mike Usmar, (CEO of the NZ Computer Clubhouse Trust) and I attended the international CIRN (Community Informatics Research Network) Conference at the Monash Centre, in Prato, Italy, where the conference theme was “To measure or not to measure? That is the question.” We presented a paper that made the point, “To measure or not to measure? How is the question!”

Thriving as Whānau!

Yesterday was a great day! We were privileged to welcom back into the school this newly released research report,Thriving in Practice, (O’Sullivan, 2011) from the Families Commission, who looked for cases of “exemplary organisations that put ‘families whānau’ priorities and motivations at the centre of their practice.” Huia spent two years being part of every aspect of our school life. Our senior students told her:

We’re about whānau

Whether it’s your whānau kura

Or your whānau at home

Your up-north whānau

Or the whānau you never met

When you’re together, that’s whānau

That’s the connection

I leave my house walk down the road
And I’m home again.

That’s achievement as far as I’m concerned! However, it wasn’t enough for Year 13 student, Ivory. when the researcher and writer came to school to feed back the draft poem to the students. Having read through the draft poem the day before, Ivory was ready with carefully thought out notes that told the researchers they hadn’t gone far enough and she wanted to add another verse. To their credit, they wrote down every word and returned it to us that afternoon, with every one of Ivory’s points included in the final verse.

Looking to the future
We will know who we are as Mäori
We will identify ourselves as Warrior Scholars
We will be articulate thinkers speakers activists
We will take ownership of our physical and spiritual wellbeing
We will make decisions about what feels okay for us
We will demonstrate a strong work ethic
We will go on to achieve
When we leave school
Our future pathway will be clear
We will have left our mark on Te Whänau o Tupuranga
And the door will be open for our return
At this place of learning
Commitment to the kaupapa is everything
Tüturu ki te Kaupapa!

Whose Standards?

Congratulations to the Auckland Primary Principals’ Associationon their recommendation that its members cease to attend any training around the implementation of the National Standards. APPA believes that the government’s National Standards policy is irreconcilably flawed, confused and unworkable. The standards are not in fact standards and therefore cannot be moderated to provide valid, reliable and consistent achievement data.
On 2 July, 500 principals at the New Zealand Principals’ Federationconference in Queenstown added their voices, sending a clear message to the Minister via three remits declaring they believe the National Standards will not deliver intended outcomes, they want a complete and urgent review of the system and they support regions looking to boycott National Standards training. The APPA decision adds to the stand taken against implementing the Standards by schools in Tai Tokerau (Northland) and Invercargill. Since the APPA announcement, the Southland and Canterbury Principals’ Associations have joined Auckland’s decision.

On 6 July, a hui of more than 200 Māori educators in Rotorua, attending the annual hui of Te Reo Areare – the Māori Council of the education sector union NZEI Te Riu Roa, issued a strong vote of no confidence in National Standards, saying they will damage the learning of tamariki Māori.

Our Board’s stance is clear. The Board of Trustees and staff of both schools:

  • supported the NZEI call for a trial before the implementation of National Standards proceeds
  • were signatories to the NZEI School Communities appeal to the Prime Minister
  • were signatories to the official NZEI petition to Parliament campaigning for a trial
  • hosted the NZEI Bus Tour for the Otara community – other schools, our BOT and staff, and community members attended

– and are against the implementation of National Standards because they:

  • do not represent a Māori or Pasifika world view and therefore disadvantage our Māori and Pasifika students
  • come from a dominant Pakeha ideology and hegemony, which will perpetuate the marginalisation and ‘ghettoising’ of our Māori and Pasifika students and further negate their cultural competencies and identities
  • are contrary to the goals and design of the National Curriculum, which our two schools support due to its alignment with our practice and developed learning model, and for its flexibility to be specific to our community.
  • will distort a balanced curriculum approach by requiring schools to focus on the Standards to the exclusion of other learning. This distortion will be particularly evident in low-decile, Māori and Pasifika schools such as ours are untested
  • will not solve the issues of underachievement
  • will undermine students’ identities as learners and label some children as failures from a very early age
  • have been driven by distorted data gathered and interpreted with flawed methodology
  • have been implemented without consultation with educators or communities
  • will result in league tables which will again disadvantage schools in low-decile, Māori and Pasifika communities nationally
  • have failed when implemented in other countries

The current BOT position is to delay any implemention of, or teacher professional development in, National Standards until these issues and our serious concerns about the effect of National Standards on our students is addressed through; thorough consultation with community and professional educators; professional development of teachers; adequate resourcing for students identified; the standards are responsive to Māori and Pasifika worldviews; and a process is determined that prevents the development of league tables using the data.
Te Whānau o Tupuranga and Clover Park Middle School will continue to discuss the issues with parents and:

  • benchmark students’ learning outcomes and progress against national norms through the use of resources already readily available in schools
  • use these resources to supplement and provide comparisons with school-based assessment resources
  • report this achievement to parents in plain language which gives parents reliable information about their child’s progress against national benchmarks
  • continue to report on, and discuss with parents and whānau, equally important learning outcomes based on cultural identity, cultural knowledges and competencies, home language/s, relationships, and all aspects of learning ‘as’ Māori, Samoan, Tongan, Cook Islands Māori, or who you are. These are not included, and not valued, in the required national standards.