Cropped Mere News Item

It's time for a change

Posted on 01 June, 2018

Prof. Mere Berryman urges those who seek change to look at the evidence

As a country, we are currently experiencing a time of critical reflection and self examination in education. The coalition government has initiated parallel processes of listening and co-construction to formulate and mandate change throughout the sector.

Professor Mere Berryman, herself a member of the Tomorrow’s Schools Taskforce, reminds us that in seeking answers to today’s issues we should not ignore the lessons and evidence of the past. Research over the last twenty years has provided the evidence of what can really make the difference in our classrooms, schools and communities for Māori and for other minoritised students.

Here, she shares with school leaders and academics at Waikato University why there is a need for change and presents a research-based model to accelerate simultaneous success trajectories focused on wellbeing and belonging in schools.

Read more
Wananga 1 March

‘Forced fit’ or ‘Belonging’ as Māori

Posted on 15 March, 2018āori

A provocation by Professor Mere Berryman

Having to leave our culture at the school gate to achieve in schools that marginalised and belittled our own cultural identity, has been the experience of generations of Māori students including myself.

Regrettably, especially for Māori boys not prepared to compromise their cultural identity, many were forced to fit within a schooling system that held little promise for their future.

As a result, too often these students were described as having ‘fallen through the cracks.’

I would suggest this was no mere accident.

Assimilation is the systematic redefining of students’ identities, so that they are forced to fit into the culture of the majority group.

The combined loss of the potential of these young people, over generations, has been enormously wasteful and continues to be costly for our country.

Education without compromise

Rethinking and redefining education so that Māori students are able to receive education without having to compromise their own cultural identity, was finally to see the emergence of the Ka Hikitia school policy. First released in 2008 this policy direction, and the Education Review Office’s 2017 evaluation framework, aim to promote equity and excellence ‘as Māori’.

These solutions have emerged over the last 20 years from Māori communities, classrooms and schools, and from the education system itself. Finally, educators in New Zealand’s schooling system have begun to modify the dominant power structures in education in search of students’ rights to the benefits from education promised to both Treaty partners under the Treaty of Waitangi.

However, are we as a nation ready for this?

The call for change

Phase 3, the renewed iteration of Ka Hikitia with three priority statements, was released in January 2018 calling for sustained system-wide change, innovative community, iwi and Māori-led models of education provision and Māori students achieving at least on a par with the total population.

At the same time, the New Zealand Schools Trustees Association (NZSTA) and the Office of the Children’s Commissioner (OCC), identified yet again, what Māori students told us in 2001.

Alarmingly, this time, it is not only coming from Māori students; the voices of immigrants and refugees are also asking us to understand them and their whole world. Together, students speak of the ongoing racism they continue to face. Ongoing evidence of inequity for Māori is still stark. I wonder, will our refugee students become our next shameful statistic?

While the change required is complex, we now have the evidence to show what works, we have built on learnings since Te Kotahitanga and we now know how to accelerate the difference and work seamlessly with primary schools. Alignment of coherent principles, theorising and practices, across schools, communities and society is essential.

This will not be solved by a one-off, one-group programmatic approach; alignment and coherency is essential.

Poutama Pounamu have seen what can be achieved when school leaders understand and follow a theory of change that has been informed by New Zealand research. Together, with facilitated support, working systematically to reform education through across school and within school teachers has added immensely to these benefits.

When Kaiwhakaako are also a part of the same critical learning and reform conversations, and they are spreading learning to new members from across the whole community, the effect is further spread and accelerated.

Challenging themselves to be agentic at a personal level has seen new understandings of the part they have played in supporting a system that’s actually been inequitable, particularly for Māori learners.

School and community members who engage in this conscientisation can begin to ask critical questions of themselves and others about what needs to be done differently. Now that they understand how power and privilege are playing out, they can begin to engage in resistance.

When we engage in new practices that focus more on equitable social reality for Māori learners, transformative praxis has begun. Rather than feel they must fit in Māori students can truly belong.

As a nation, we must make the difference, our students are our future.

We must all take joint-responsibility to engage in reforming education by relearning from the injustices of our collective past and being prepared to share power and work for reciprocal benefits. This must continue to occur within an iterative process that seeks to understand through the voices of the people themselves. It is only then can the change for social justice, finally begin to emerge.


Kaiwhakaako is the term given to those who are leading their own, and others, learning in Poutama Pounamu’s Blended Learning initiative.

Mere Berryman, University of Waikato, Faculty of Education

Read more
Iti Story Image

Equity, excellence & belonging through inquiry

Posted on 15 March, 2018

Activating critical and iterative cycles of inquiry

Across Kāhui Ako and across schools the Poutama Pounamu critical and iterative cycle of inquiry is being understood and activated to address equity, excellence and belonging.

Leaders in both Kāhui Ako, and in schools, continue to wrestle with how they promote inquiry cycles at multiple layers across the school that will influence equitable outcomes for Māori and for all.

Some leaders are recognising that it is not enough for teachers to be “involved” in individual inquiries that “tick the box” if issues of equity are not being addressed.

First steps and questions

A first step these leaders are taking is to collect evidence that helps them understand what inquiry currently looks like and how and what evidence teachers are using.

Leaders have shared that teacher inquiries do not necessarily link coherently with the school vision and strategic plan. Middle leaders have reflected on whether the inquiries of teachers in their department or syndicate link to the department annual plan, goals and targets. They have also begun to consider whether evidence of pedagogy informs teacher inquiries and whether data for target students shows a picture of the current situation for Māori and for all.

This then leads to questions like: in what ways do we need to reconsider our inquiries?

A focus on critical, iterative and coherent cycles of inquiry can also prompt questions such as:

What opportunities are there for other “layers” of inquiry - for example, how are middle leaders’ cycle of inquiry focussed on their role as leaders of pedagogy?

Senior leaders have begun to ask how are their own leadership inquiries focussed on equity?

Considering the potential

As teachers and leaders understand more about critical, iterative and coherent cycles of inquiry, and the potential it has to contribute towards an equitable education system that fulfills the promise of a Mana Orite partnership, new questions will emerge.

The simultaneous success trajectories of learning and achieving for the future and cultural identity strong and secure creates the space for schools to consider what evidence informs their inquiries and how they begin to understand what further opportunities a Mauri Ora perspective presents.

Submitted by Iti Joyce

Read more
Group Mtg 4933

Theory of change brings coherence

Posted on 15 March, 2018

Focusing on 2018

2018 brings a sharper focus for our Tauranga Peninsular Community of Learning – supporting teachers and leaders to provide contexts that foster and sustain belonging, equity and excellence for our learners.

Clarity around the different roles across the Community, and a growing understanding of the Ako: Critical contexts for change, shapes and frames our work together. We have a greater sense of coherence and purpose. We are deliberately looking at evidence of the impact of our professional practice across our teams in each school in order to identify the next steps in our schools’ learning journeys.

Each school is engaged in this collective inquiry in their own context. With the support of the teams and responding to their own evidence, our schools are identifying their next steps – providing the best learning context for their ākonga. At the same time school teams are deepening their shared understanding of the ako critical contexts for change.

Reflecting on change

One of our school leaders reflected on how this work is playing out in their school with teachers engaged in reflecting on their own practice relating to cultural relationships for responsive pedagogy.

Teachers have a greater clarity of what is expected of them and what that may look like... “I am naturally working in that way but I wasn’t conscious of it”, or a real aha moment “I had no idea”. We have had both in our staffroom – looking through the lens of student experience as well as from our teacher perspective.

During our professional learning conversations people initially thought this was about ‘me and being critiqued about my practice’ and as we opened up and worked through the day staff very quickly realised that actually this about the learner in the classroom. ‘What is it like for that learner in the classroom? What is my part in that?’ I have to take responsibility for my part. Is this experience consistent across the school?

We have assumptions but what does our data actually tell us. What does that look like from the students point of view, from different community perspectives? Where is the alignment or connections between perspectives and where are the disconnects? Why is that? So what do we do now?

Connecting what and how we ‘do things’ in our schools with the ako critical contexts for change has provided an opportunity to gain a sense of coherence building from our current school context.

When we are engaged in the busyness of doing the work we often don’t take the time to reflect and connect it with the framework or the research... All the pieces were there: strategic plans, the charter, school systems, the way we work but we weren’t consciously connecting through and drawing them all together.

We are looking at this alongside ‘Our code. Our Standards’ and teaching as inquiry and it comes together with every aspect of being in our school. So exciting times!

This is exciting work we are engaged in.


For more on the Ako Critical Contexts for Change go to

Submitted by Margaret Egan

Read more
Cropped Recipr Reading 4

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

Read more
Cropped Dc Taita College Pld Team 20180302 083046 1

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

Read more
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.”

Read more
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

Read more
Matamata 2 Cropped

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

Read more