Te Kete Ipurangi Navigation:

Te Kete Ipurangi

Te Kete Ipurangi user options:

New Zealand Curriculum Online navigation


Fairhaven Special School – Culturally responsive pedagogy

Fairhaven students are aged between 5 and 21 years of age, and learn either at the Base School in Taradale, Napier, or in one of their satellite classes. Approximately 24% are Māori and all students are working within NZC level 1. The majority are ORS (Ongoing Resourcing Scheme) funded.

Fairhaven logo.

Becoming more culturally inclusive

Fairhaven principal Diane Whyte shares their learning journey to become a more culturally inclusive school

As part of strategic-self review and redesigning our school curriculum, we knew staff had a firm understanding of diversity and meeting individual needs in terms of the culture of disability. However, we realised that for our school culture, environment and curriculum to be truly inclusive, we needed to increase our own knowledge and understanding so we could develop a shared understanding of what cultural competence for teachers of Māori students looks like.

Staff first of all unpacked the front end of the New Zealand Curriculum. This included reviewing and developing our school values and sharing these with parents through the school newsletter. Feedback was positive and parents suggested these values would be strengthened if they were written in te reo as well.

PDF icon. Fairhaven School values (PDF, 644 KB)

At meetings and workshops with the senior team we covered an in depth analysis and interpretation of the Treaty of Waitangi principle. Staff developed a shared culturally responsive vision for our school ...

“For all students to be proud of who they are, learning, achieving, and successfully participating in their communities”

This further led to the design of our new school logo, ensuring we kept some of the previous elements to show respect for what has gone before, and making more explicit links to things Māori – our dual heritage and our motto whānau ako – learning together. 

We explored and unpacked Ka Hikitia – Accelerating Success 2013 – 2017.

Staff wrote statements for the five principles of Ka Hikitia with the school leadership team providing a strong climate of professional growth and learning for teachers as the work progressed.

We explored and strengthened our knowledge of Tātaiako through clarifying the five competencies. This was a very hands on workshop which stimulated thinking and discussion around teacher practice. All teachers set specific goals based on their own practice. Shifts were clearly seen with individuals and groups of teachers. Feedback from staff following this meeting was incredibly positive with all staff completing their own poster of their current knowledge and then setting both short and long term goals.

Fairhaven art.

A staff workshop linked Ka Hikitia and Tātaiako knowledge to the Registered Teacher Criteria in an attempt to discover what evidence can be collected to demonstrate the impact on learners. There was some initial confusion regarding strategy and evidence, so we brainstormed a list of evidence and this proved helpful.

Connecting to the community


A whānau evening was held at the beginning of this year which was not so well attended. The school campus is on six sites and our community is diverse, coming from a wide geographical area. Many students come to school in taxis and siblings attend other schools. We had to think hard about how we could find out about whānau and then have natural conversations so we can make further connections with our students, especially those who have complex needs and / or are non-verbal.

We’ve since encouraged parents to attend our celebratory school assemblies and we regularly get about 30% of parents along. Sometimes all the whānau come, including grandparents. We also hold morning teas for parents which have proved successful in bringing parents into school.

We asked our senior students what they would like to do and they have asked for a social event to be held one evening next term with whānau.

End of year data for 2015 showed that our Māori students were making the same or better progress as other students, in both Literacy and Numeracy and 2016 mid-year data has seen a greater acceleration of both progress and achievement.

“There have been shifts in thinking, shifts in the way we do things at Fairhaven School. There is a growing sense that we are responsible for more than just the young people in our own classes or satellite sites. We each contribute to the development of our young people over their whole time at Fairhaven School.”


Fairhaven teachers reflect on the learning

Gloria Stafford, teacher

The awareness of the needs of Māori learners in our school has been steadily increasing this year as we put some of the ideas from our workshops into action in our classrooms. I was able to reflect on how the tuakana-teina initiatives are working for my students, and how planning together for work-experience, community involvement, and volunteering in the community, has helped to build relationships between ourselves as educators, and the students' whānau.

Fairhaven student.

We now write the date in both languages every day in my classroom, and notices are headed in both languages. Now we (the teaching staff of our unit) are beginning to look at ways we can incorporate Māori culture as well as language into our class environment. We have identified a couple of incidental learning opportunities, which have arisen such as learning about cultural norms surrounding the cutting and use of harekeke. There are a number of flax in our garden which have become too big for the space. This is a good opportunity to seek and use the knowledge of the students' whānau members. Another matter arose when a visitor who had recently arrived from overseas, sat on a table during a discussion. It provided a good discussion starting point for students to express their cultural norms of behaviour. Our school has settled on three karakia we will build into our school community gatherings. One will be said before we eat together. I have printed it and displayed it in the classroom. In the next few weeks students and staff will learn what it means and how to say it. These are small steps but each one is building higher expectations of respect for Māoritanga.

Roxy Hickman, teacher

I am keen to embed a few ideas that we talked about into our daily programme. One of these is Wā whakangā – time to relax. This will be a relaxation period at the beginning of the day to welcome the new school day and blow away any negative thoughts. Also I have changed my signature on my email to "ngā mihi nui".  

This work has brought me to reflect constantly on how I can go deeper. I come back to Whare Hauora and the need to use this model within my whole classroom programme, rather than leaving it to be a one-off event. It would fit nicely when working one-on-one with students reflecting on their goals.

We met with a Māori colleague to gain a better insight, utilise her "expertise" in Tikanga Māori and explore ways to incorporate this within the theme. She opened my mind to how she sees the world – as she put it “a Māori perspective always considers the four walls of Whare Hauora (the walls of wellbeing)”. She related how she works, and how she sees learning – always from this perspective.

It made me consider the importance of incorporating Whare Hauora into the Te Reo Kori mahi (work) as well as other areas of my teaching. We have observed the engagement and pride of some students, who may normally sit back, a sense of connection that I believe is part of this.

“Success as Maōri is about achieving in all areas in your own way – being valued for who you are and what each child sees as being of value. Multiple voices and worldviews are valued and honoured within an authentically collaborative process. We tautoko each other’s learning”.

Group statement, Fairhaven staff

Merv McNatty, teacher

My inquiry focus this year began with a desire to learn a range of marae protocols but my reflections from my reading took me on a much deeper journey.

I think that with a better understanding of some of the darker side of our history, I will be a better teacher. Te Tiriti o Waitangi is a living document, which has an effect on what I do each day, so I’m part of the building of a bicultural Aotearoa. I am part of history. 

I want to research deeper into the history of the separation of Maori from the land – the whenua.

This has become important to me.

Currently kaitiakitanga has been a focus of my work because the school has been gifted some farmland. I explained kaitiakitanga, taking guardianship, to students and received a positive response. As kaitiaki we are helping return land to what it was … small increments to learning.

It’s always about thinking of the two worldviews … being bicultural.

"As I have been writing, investigating and reflecting I’ve asked myself many times what relevance has this to do with my teaching practice. I currently don’t have a full answer. One thing I feel, is that just as young men need role models to learn their role or place in society regarding gender, young people also need role models who are confident of their place, most importantly in a bicultural context, then in a multicultural context in Aotearoa New Zealand.”

Merv McNatty

Read more about Merv’s inquiry and the Pathway Project that Merv and his students are involved in to create an outdoor classroom on farmland gifted to Fairhaven. 

Next steps

We’ll continue with our planned actions to develop the school’s curriculum, including culturally responsive practice for Māori as this is an ongoing journey. Our senior leadership team is very motivated to pursue this. We see the only way forward is to have "cultural competency" as a formal part of our self review. By viewing all we do with this lens, we will be able to continue to develop our thinking, our systems and our school culture in a way that will be benefit us all as learners – our students, our staff and our school community. Whānau Ako – learning together. 

Diane Whyte, principal

curriculum design and review

Published on: 17 Jan 2017