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Responsive Written Feedback

Posted on 15 March, 2018

Responsive written feedback in action

The Ministry of Education proposes that Communities of Learning allow for collaboration and the sharing of expertise so that students' learning pathways can be supported and their transition through the education system can be improved.

Three schools from the Tauranga Peninsula CoL put this theory to the test recently and engaged the expertise of secondary students to improve the writing of primary school students.

Working together

Gate Pa Primary School, Tauranga Boys' College and Tauranga Girls' College worked together on the well-known writing intervention, responsive written feedback. This intervention is similar to a pen-pal arrangement as it involves a pair or two buddies (a writer and a responder) writing to each other each week and exchanging stories or messages.

School leaders from Gate Pa School saw this intervention as an opportunity to simultaneously strengthen relationships between their schools and improve literacy engagement and achievement of the Gate Pa primary school students.

Students from a junior English class from each of the secondary schools were invited to be writing responders for two classes from Gate Pa School. Each of the primary school students had their own writing journals and the secondary students learnt that, in their role as responders, their job was to respond to the messages that were contained in the weekly writing entries of the Gate Pa students and provide through their response a model of accurate and well-structured writing.

This meant that the Gate Pa students would see that the messages in their writing were being read and valued without any corrective feedback or evaluative judgement. The strategy also provided a purposeful context for writing for both the secondary and primary school students.

Over 10 weeks

The teachers of the four classes worked out matched gender buddies and made arrangements for the students writing journals to be picked up and dropped off each week. The intervention spanned a term (ten weeks) and, at the end of the term, all four classes came together at Gate Pa School so that the buddies could meet each other in person, talk about their shared writing experiences and celebrate their learning by sharing pizza for lunch.


An analysis of the Week 1 and Week 10 samples from the Gate Pa students indicated that they had increased the quantity and quality of their writing over the period of the term.

For the teachers involved, it was greatly encouraging to see that this work had resulted in the primary students writing more, and with greater spelling and grammatical accuracy.

The secondary teachers also reported their students were taking a greater level of care to check and edit their own writing to ensure that the model that they were providing was indeed accurate and well-structured.

Other qualitative benefits that were observed by teachers included increased motivation for the Gate Pa students - particularly from reluctant readers and writers - as the intervention generated the excitement of ‘getting a letter each week’ so there was an authentic purpose for reading, and knowing that there was an authentic audience for their writing was a great incentive.

Additionally, responsive written feedback had enabled the development of relationships between the buddies through the context of writing, and teachers felt that providing an opportunity for the buddies to meet each other in person was special and served to affirm their relationships and the value of their writing.

This experience for students and teachers has provided an excellent relational foundation for the schools from which further collaboration endeavours can build on.


Leaders and teachers were satisfied that the aims of responsive written feedback of strengthening relationships across schools and improving the engagement and achievement in literacy for the Gate Pa students had been realised. They also have first-hand experience of the benefits that can be incurred when the expertise of students is accessed and shared so that learning pathways can be supported and relationships that enable improved transitions are developed.


For more on Responsive Written Feedback, in the Resource section see the
eBook: Connections and Collaborations: Strategies to accelerate Writing

Submitted by Therese Ford

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Teacher-only-day at Taita College

Posted on 15 March, 2018

Planning for the future

Whāia te iti kahurangi ki te tūohu koe me te maunga teitei
Aim high for what is truly valuable, be persistent and
don’t let obstacles stop you from reaching your goal

Taita College is nestled amongst the hills at the northern end of the Lower Hutt Valley.

Students at the college come mainly from the northern Hutt City suburbs of Taita, Avalon and Stokes Valley. With a staff of approximately 35 teachers, the school’s aspiration is to offer high quality education with an emphasis on promoting and celebrating student achievement and success.

“We set high expectations, encourage inquiry at all levels, and design our curriculum to meet the needs of all of our students ensuring they have meaningful pathways.“ (School website)

Unpacking the day

Taita’s teacher-only-day at the start of 2018 began with a powhiri for school leaders, teachers and all other staff in Te Whakaruruhau – the school marae. Staff then connected with the school’s vision - Whāia te iti kahurangi ki te tūohu koe me te maunga teitei - Aim high for what is truly valuable, be persistent and don’t let obstacles stop you from reaching your goal - and the Annual plan.

Throughout the rest of the day, teachers and leaders engaged in a range of dialogic activities to reconnect with their ongoing journey towards ensuring all students achieve educational success and are supported to be strong in their culture and identity. They had opportunities to understand the positive trends visible in their initial NCEA results (2017) as well as the collated evidence emerging from Rongohia te Hau 2017.

Robbie Lamont from Poutama Pounamu then led a session introducing staff to the Ako: Critical Contexts for Change model.

During the afternoon, the PLD Lead team facilitated a range of dialogic activities during which staff began making links between this model and their current situation, particularly in the context of collaborations with whānau and community.

Future plan

While celebrating some positive NCEA results in 2017, principal Karen Morgan is quick to point out that there is still much work ahead however: “It is exciting to know that we are all on the waka of creating positive change for a learning community. We want to do what is best for all students and demonstrate that culturally responsive practice and pedagogy are critical in our success model”.

This year, the PLD team has expanded to ensure a more collaborative approach to school-wide leadership. The challenge of 2018 is to maintain the momentum that saw all teachers involved in classroom observations, individual reflection conversations, and regular structured shared practice meetings in 2017.

It is also to consider how a review of the junior curriculum in 2018 can benefit from, and be guided by, the three contexts for change.


For more on the Ako Critical Contexts for Change go to

Submitted by Robbie Lamont

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An Evening With 2

An evening with…

Posted on 14 November, 2017

Mere and Daniel Murfitt in conversation

As part of their desire to reach out into the broader community, the William Colenso Parents’ Association invited educators, whānau and other organisations from Napier, Hastings and Havelock North to ‘An Evening with Mere Berryman’.

Rather than deliver a presentation, Mere and principal Daniel Murfitt engaged in an interview as conversation, before taking questions from the floor.

“The response was incredibly positive. It was quite intimate and I think everyone enjoyed the opportunity to engage directly and make connections,” reported Daniel, “her message was about working together, about organisational change and listening to one another as the key to moving forward”.

Dawn Ackroyd, Principal of Napier Girls' High School, was in the audience. "Mere's talk was excellent - very sincere and straight from the heart. It was thought provoking, with down to earth practical strategies. It has certainly made me reflect on current practices and refine the strategy direction for our Maori Achieve Focus."

Tim White brought a group from Frimley School in Hastings. “I’d read lots of her work but her personal stories made me realise how much we have to learn about our Māori families if we are to really work together… everyone on my team took something away with them”.

Principal of Napier’s Nelson Park School, Sue Bewley, found the conversation timely, “it was great to go with my DP and Board Chair. It gave us lots to talk about in terms of what does it mean for Māori to be successful as Māori? The thing that really resonated was how critical it is we create a learning context where it is safe to be Māori”.

There was a large group from Totara Health. “The personal stories she told made her messages familiar, and all the more challenging for that” observed General Manager Emma Foster, “how do we get a mainstream system to change its structure to meet the needs of Māori and Pasifika? How do we turn the rhetoric into real engagement? It starts with us as individuals working with whānau and the community.”

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New Friends At Wipce Opening Ceremony

World Indigenous People’s Conference

Posted on 29 August, 2017

Meeting like minds in Toronto, Canada

WIPCE 2017 24-28 July
Six Nations Polytechnic in Toronto, Canada, hosted the World Indigenous People’s Conference on Education (WIPCE) this year.

It was well attended with over 3,000 participants present from all over the world. The conference consisted of many groups presenting their learnings, experiences and ideas of what is making the difference for indigenous peoples in education.

New Zealand participation

One of the groups was a small but powerful team from Napier. The team representing the Kāhui Ako–Matariki were:

  • Daniel Murfitt (principal) and Anne Butcher (BoT chairperson), William Colenso College
  • Maurice Rehu (principal) and Maureen Mua (BOT chairperson), Richmond School.

At their workshop the team explained that Matariki is an English-medium Kāhui Ako. This Kāhui Ako is significant in that 100% of the Board chairs are Māori. The team spoke of their desire to create a successful pathway for their tamariki from when they first enter schooling, right through until they leave high school in their community.

They highlighted the importance of whakawhanaungatanga as a way of developing relationships within and across the schools. Establishing relationships first was a priority rather than jumping straight into goal setting. They are very clear that this is about their community – ‘every child and every whānau are all of ours’.

The team went on to share the concept of ako and how it is central to the work of Matariki. The team spoke strongly about being learners and working in collaboration with others to achieve the shared goals of the Kāhui Ako.

Whānau at the centre

The Matariki BoT’s steer the direction of the Kāhui Ako, exemplifying the belief that the whānau are central to the success of their tamariki in their community’s schools. Maureen spoke of how it sometimes seems in communities that the whānau’s role in schools is minimalised or seen as too hard to engage in a meaningful way. They are working to ensure that their whānau are able to contribute and support curriculum development in their schools.

They all agreed that this is a new space and they are learning as they go, co-constructing a way forward together.

The role of Poutama Pounamu

They acknowledged the support of Poutama Pounamu in providing a framework for pedagogy that focuses on relationships for learning -who the children are, their whānau and what they see as important is widely valued. The framework has supported a way of expressing these important concepts to ensure their children, the whānau and the community will benefit from the work of Matariki.

The team enjoyed presenting their story in the workshop and appreciated the opportunity to share their learning with others.

Submitted by: Raewyn Ngamo

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Spreading & embedding Equity, Excellence and Belonging

Posted on 06 August, 2017

Working with Kāhui Ako

Since its beginnings at the start of 2017, members of the Poutama Pounamu whānau have consolidated prior relationships and begun to develop new relationships with schools and Kāhui Ako/Communities of Learning. We have both Expert Partners and Accredited Facilitators available to support PLD planning and delivery and we are working across all regions of Aotearoa from Te Tai Tokerau in the north to Murihiku in the south.

Thriving and succeeding
Members of the whānau are working to support a kaupapa of Equity, Excellence and Belonging. To date we are working in 47 individual schools; primary and secondary. Some of these schools have chosen to continue existing relationships that were developed through Kia Eke Panuku.

Other schools are new to this work and new to the whānau.

However, our foundational principle of developing cultural relationships and using a responsive approach with schools is allowing us to build on the existing skills and expertise in these schools to provide a one size fits one response. These understandings are being promoted across these varied settings in order to support the vision of Māori and all students thriving and succeeding within education.

Working with Kāhui Ako
and schools

In addition to the work with individual schools, the whānau is also engaged with 16 Kāhui Ako. This includes both Expert Partner and Accredited Facilitator roles and responsibilities. At last count, this brings more than 170 additional schools, including some early childhood settings, with whom potentially we will be able to work.

Working with schools and Kāhui Ako to respond to their evidence, and plan for PLD, touches on all core aspects of our work. By way of example, across our schools, members of the Poutama Pounamu whānau are:

  • working with teachers and middle leaders, and in-school and across-school PLD Leads to spread and embed cultural relationships for responsive pedagogy
  • supporting school leaders in their own critical inquiry focused on their leadership roles and responsibilities towards equity, excellence and belonging
  • working with strategic change leaders within the school to embed critical cycles of inquiry focused on equity, excellence and belonging
  • supporting schools to develop and enrich educationally powerful connections with whānau, hāpū and iwi
  • supporting literacy strategies that have been shown to promote educationally powerful connections between homes and school
  • working with schools to develop and implement Teacher Led Innovation Funding (TLIF). To date we have been successful in two out of three proposals.

Contact us
If you would like to discuss your school’s PLD priorities with one of us or explore how we can support the work in your school or Community of Learning please contact:

Submitted by Robbie Lamont

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Matamata Kaahui Ako Teacher PD Day​

Posted on 06 August, 2017

Ako: Critical Contexts for Change at Matamata

Members of the Poutama Pounamu team had the privilege of working alongside the 12 schools that make up the Matamata Kaahui Ako in the Waikato region. A teacher only day was held attended by approximately 160 staff from across all schools. The day was hosted by Matamata College and focused on:

  • developing relational trust through whanaungatanga
  • developing a shared understanding of the AKO: Critical Contexts for Change.

About the first day
The day started with a mihi whakatau (words of welcome) from local kaumatua, Mokoro Gillett, the tumuaki of Te Wharekura o Te Rau Aroha.

Mokoro welcomed everyone to the hui on behalf of the local iwi and hapū. His warm words were reinforced by Alan Munro, the principal of Matamata College.

Alan, who is also the Lead Principal of the Kaahui Ako, is supported by a leadership action group that includes the principal of Te Poi Primary school, Linda Larsen, the principal from Matamata Intermediate, Daryl Gibbs and the principal from Hinuera Primary school, Dean McDonell.

The Matamata Kaahui Ako has four Across School Teachers who each took a lead role in facilitating the learning activities throughout the day. The first of these was an icebreaker where all teachers formed pairs to share their current understandings about their Kaahui Ako and what they see as its potential.

Therese Ford, who is the Expert Partner for the Matamata Kaahui Ako, spoke first. Therese provided an overview of the education context which began with the Treaty of Waitangi and traced policy through to today where we are all engaged in the challenge of realising the potential of all students and ensuring equity, excellence and belonging across the system.

A facilitated session from the across school teachers followed. The purpose of this activity was to provide all teachers with an opportunity to meet, work and learn together in mixed school groups.

Their task was to visually represent the shared vision of the Kaahui Ako, a task where they further familiarised themselves with the strategic direction of the Kaahui Ako.

Paula Rawiri, the Director of Education for the Waikato region, spoke about her experiences of education from the perspective of being a Māori whānau and community member. Her koorero reflected strong connections to the principles of equity, excellence and belonging.

Mere Berryman then built on the key messages and themes from Therese and Paula’s presentations to contextualise the Poutama Pounamu Ako: Critical Contexts Change. The Across School Teachers worked with teachers in school teams to reflect on these three contexts and consider what was already happening and what else could be done.

The final learning challenge required mixed school teams to compete in a quiz (Quizlet) to test their knowledge about local history. This was a great way to draw on the collective prior knowledge and experience of teachers in the Matamata area and exemplify how collaboratively learning can indeed be fun!

About the second day
Following the day, Iti Joyce, the Accredited Facilitator, worked with Alan and the Across School Teachers team to analyse feedback from this hui.

Reflective comments, from teachers’ learnings included:

  • This is an exciting time to be a teacher in Matamata
  • I enjoyed reflecting on how we can be more culturally inclusive and responsive within our school and community.
  • Making relationships within the community and allowing students to share their identity and culture. Looking at what students bring to school in their experiences and prior knowledge.
  • Inclusiveness of our cultures/Mutual respect /Bicultural partnerships
  • The power of change when we come together as one. Now we know what we know, we have a moral imperative to change!
  • research shows involving parents in learning is the highest contributor to student achievement. I need to continually inform parents/whaanau about what my students are learning.

Follow on
This Kaahui Ako is currently working alongside Iti to gather evidence to ascertain the profile of pedagogy and the range of interventions across the Kaahui Ako. This evidence will inform multiple inquiry cycles across Kaahui Ako, where everyone is looking forward to accelerating learning and realising the potential of all learners within the Matamata community.

Submitted by Iti Joyce

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Matariki Celebrations at Ōtūmoetai College

Posted on 06 August, 2017ōtūmoetai-college

Celebration and tradition reinforcing identity

Ōtūmoetai College as a school is focused on ensuring that Māori learners enjoy and achieve success as Māori. As a part of this focus, the school celebrated Matariki last term. Kim Beaton, one of the teachers, recorded some of these events and captured some of the learning during this special time.

About Matariki
Matariki stars signal the beginning of the Māori New Year. Kim shares:

“ Ōtūmoetai College, we are looking for new ways to inspire and accelerate success for our Māori learners. Encouraging staff to link student learning to this cultural celebration aims to strengthen ties between all departments, year groups, staff, students, whānau and our wider community.

Matariki links from classroom learning to our school strategic intent and the New Zealand Curriculum documents. Celebration and tradition reinforce identity.

These photos, taken by Paul Furneaux, show our senior Horticulture students harvesting the produce to take to our neighbours Te Wharekura o Mauao - ready for the shared hangi and Matariki celebrations.”

Kim asked what Matariki meant to their Year 9 students, and here are some of their replies:

  • Matariki are very important stars to the Māori culture."
  • "I think learning about this is really cool and I will start to celebrate it now more with my family."
  • "Time to harvest crops, family get together, Māori New Year, Sacred Māori night."
  • "Matariki means, to me, a new start/beginning. We celebrate it by going up the Mount."
  • "Matariki means having friends and family over to celebrate."
  • "Seven stars."
  • "It means to have a family barbeque and to gather for a while."
  • "Matariki means to me: by celebrating with my family and having a talk and kai. Or else we would go up the Mount to look over the horizon.”

Kim continued

“... our vision is to support our kaupapa with ideas around food, fun, games and a kite day. Some of our Horticulture students have been learning about the forward planning involved in the preparation for Matariki, they planted these crops last year.”

We are proud to work alongside our community to revive, grow and celebrate this national time of family, friendship, reflection and planning. Together we may inspire and strengthen connections to culture. We strive to ensure the future is one of success and happiness, for all our young people.”

Submitted by Raewyn Ngaamo

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Thinking about Postgraduate or Master’s study?

Posted on 06 August, 2017

Exploring two masters papers

Leading the pedagogical growth and development of fellow leaders and teachers is an important role of middle and senior school leaders and a considerable responsibility.

This can also be a challenging task in light of the Ministry’s expectation that the professional learning and development that teachers experience be responsive to evidence of outcomes for students, have a theoretical basis, and is informed by research about ‘what we know works’ to accelerate learning.

The continued focus on strengthening biculturalism, accelerating the progress of priority learners and the promotion of leadership for equity and excellence within ERO’s Process Indicators are other systemic considerations that leaders need to be cognisant of, as they contemplate what professional learning and development they might seek themselves, in order to be well positioned to support the learning and development of others.

In recent years the previously mentioned developments in the education system have been the catalyst for middle and senior leaders to return to tertiary study and pursue Postgraduate diplomas and Master’s degrees.

About the University's Masters papers
At the University of Waikato we specifically offer two Master’s level papers (Level 8) that enable leaders to better understand and respond to a range of leadership challenges and responsibilities that are inherent in the current education system.

PROF523 (BTG) Māori Education Policies: Their Development and Some Strategic Responses
This is a C semester paper that is taught in the A semester from January-June.

The course begins with a two-day teaching block and is then taught online through Moodle. The course examines the historical and contemporary politics and practices that have contributed to the current education disparities that affect Māori people in particular, but also the wider fabric of New Zealand society. The paper then considers historical and contemporary policies developed to address these disparities and a number of programme responses that have ensued. Comments from previous participants included:

  • This paper provided me with a deepened, richer understanding of the history of New Zealand's educational policies and practices. It provided the knowledge and understanding, based in educational research and theory, that I needed to transform my teaching and leadership practice.It enabled me to theorise, reflect and improve my practice. I have become more deliberate and aware of my interactions, conversations and practice with students, whanau and colleagues. The high level of support given by the Poutama Pounamu team through the initial two day face to face hui, and through the Moodle meant that I always felt secure and on track, including with the aspects of academic reading and writing I was unsure of. I highly recommend this paper for all educators. (Primary school deputy principal)

PCSS502 (BTG) Kaupapa Māori Research

This paper is taught in the B semester from July-October.

The course also begins with a two-day teaching block and is then taught online through Moodle. This course explores Kaupapa Māori research theory and methodologies, and seeks to enable students to develop more informed and culturally responsive research practice. Consideration of culturally responsive research methodologies can support school leaders who are engaged in leadership inquiries that include a focus on priority learners and their families.

Some comments from previous participants:

  • This paper was the only paper that I did throughout my Master’s of Educational Leadership programme that actually enabled me to understand the challenges associated with reducing achievement disparities and more importantly what the solutions were. I was worried that expertise around te reo and tikanga Māori would be a problem because the paper was called Kaupapa Māori research but I found it was not a problem at all. (Primary school deputy principal)

  • I am so glad that I decided to do the Kaupapa Māori paper as it provided a very useful theoretical grounding and preparation for my Master’s research. This paper was different to others in that the culturally responsive and relational approach that was espoused was also modelled as way of being throughout the paper, making it a safe and unique experience. (Secondary school deputy principal)

Submitted by Therese Ford

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​Prime Minister’s Education Excellence Awards

Posted on 21 July, 2017

Celebrating the winners

The Poutama Pounamu team congratulates William Colenso College, which was recently awarded the Excellence in Leading award at the 2017 Prime Minister’s Education Excellence Awards. William Colenso College was the only school in the country to be finalists in three out of the four possible categories for the awards.

The Excellence in Leading award was accepted from the Prime Minister by a full contingent of the leadership team at William Colenso College - their Head Girl, members of the Board of Trustees and the in-school senior leadership team.

William Colenso College demonstrates an approach to leadership that critically examines their professional practice to ensure equity, excellence and belonging for all. They focus on activating their collective potential to promote a climate of trust, mutual respect, open-mindedness and willingness to learn from each other.

For Daniel, leadership is about embracing the concept of tuakana teina and “acknowledging other people are coming to the table with all these skills and knowledge and background… that supports the team in going where you want to go… It’s about having everybody on the waka and then you’re much more powerful as a group.”

The educational community has also been the only school to be acknowledged by the Minister of Education for having improved NCEA results for four years in a row, particularly for their Māori students. Daniel believes, "it's about focusing on the difference you can make and not worrying about the things you can't change ... everyone's contribution adds up to one big achievement.”

The principal of William Colenso College, Daniel Murfitt, is also the leader of the Matariki Community of Learning. The Matariki Kāhui Ako embraces the following whakataukī, alongside their vision of maximising students outcomes through collaboration:

Kia kairangi te tū!
Striving for excellence together/collectively!

William Colenso College’s journey towards embedding and sustaining cultural relationships for responsive pedagogy began when they entered Te Kotahitanga as a Phase 5 school in 2009, then participating in Kia Eke Panuku from 2014. The College now works alongside an expert partner and accredited facilitator within Poutama Pounamu as part of the Matariki Community of Learning. For the seven schools within the Kāhui Ako, the seven stars of matariki represent a collective understanding of a new beginning and a celebration of what they hold.

The schools and principals in the Matariki Kāhui Ako are:

  • Henry Hill School - Jason Williams
  • Hukarere Girls’ College - Lelie Pearcey
  • Maraenui Bilingual School - Chris Worsley
  • Marewa School - Chris Meynall
  • Richmond School - Maurice Rehu
  • Te Aute College – Shane Hiha
  • Te Awa School - Tim Van Zyl
  • William Colenso College - Daniel Murfitt.

Submitted by Zac Anderson

Awards-related videos

  • The Prime Ministers Excellence in Education Awards videos can be viewed here.
  • The highlights package from the Awards night can be viewed here.

Associated videos

This earlier video highlights aspects of leadership at the College.

This video tells of the establishment of the Matariki Kāhui Ako.

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