The recent debate over Charter Schools, National Standards, class sizes and other proposed changes to the education system has rightly caused much concern amongst educators, parents and employers. The emphasis on basic numeracy, literacy and language skills at primary level has been useful but has also resulted in a lot of extra work for teachers and has meant resources that would otherwise go into producing more well rounded students have been diverted.
So it is with a lot of pride we read the Education Review Office report on Waikirikiri School that was released this week. Waikirikiri is a Decile 1A school – that means it is located in one of the poorest neighbourhoods in one of the poorest regions of the country.
One of the features of Waikirikiri is that half the school has a teaching and learning programme completely in Te Reo Māori, while the other half is bi-lingual with instruction in both Māori and English. Staff work hard to ensure both sides of the school have activities that compliment the other and a strong sense of unity is maintained across the school.
Given the significance of the home environment, the management team and previous BOT made whānau engagement our top priority. ERO recognised this: “There is a strong sense of pride and belonging in the school that is shared and expressed by staff, students and the wider school community. Many whānau have long-standing and intergenerational connections with the school. They are increasingly engaged in the school… A high percentage of whānau attend meetings to discuss learning, progress and achievement with their children and teachers.”
While the introduction of Tomorrow Schools in the 1980s provided both opportunities and challenges for poor communities, schools in Kaiti have always been able to find skilled and committed people to lead them. ERO believes: “The school is very well led by a capable principal and a committed board of trustees. The principal, teachers and trustees have high expectations that the school will perform well. Significant professional learning and development for teachers has been a priority. The provision of effective teaching and learning to improve student progress and achievement continues to be the priority.” This high calibre of leadership is reflected in academic results: “School achievement information shows that students in mainstream classes achieve well in relation to the National Standards in reading, writing and mathematics. Students in the immersion whānau, achieve well in Ngā Whanaketanga Rumaki Māori (NWRM) in kōrero, pānui, tuhituhi and pāngarau. Some students make accelerated progress in reading and pānui.”
It is also reflected in the social and cultural development of students: “The school curriculum is effective in promoting and supporting student learning and students benefit from a curriculum that reflects te reo me ngā tikanga tuturu o Ngāti Porou. The New Zealand Curriculum and te Marautanga o Aotearoa provide the flexibility for the school to localise their own curriculum, affirming of the student’s identity to Te Papa Tipu o Horouta, the history, place and people of the Horouta canoe, unique to the school community. It has been developed through ongoing community consultation to put students at the centre and makes authentic connections to Ngāti Poroutanga.”
So while some may argue that the current public school system fails Māori and isn’t producing young people ready for work, there are plenty of outstanding examples – even in our poorest neighbourhoods – where the public education system is producing young people that know who they are, what their responsibilities are and how to work hard for the benefit not only of themselves and their family but also the wider community and their country. Congratulations Waikirikiri!