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Manurewa High School – A rising tide

The thinking and pedagogy that underlies the new curriculum is proving to be an ideal springboard for Māori teaching and learning programmes at Manurewa High School.

Manurewa High has a Māori leadership academy at years 9 and 10, and offers te reo programmes from levels 1 to 8. The school is a large decile 2 school in South Auckland with more than 2,000 students, 27 percent of whom are Māori.

The journey to where the school is now with its promising Māori programmes began with its experience of the ‘gifted and talented’ initiative. In recent years, Manurewa High has set up a number of academies in areas such as music, sport, academic and Māori leadership.

rising tide team image

The philosophy and techniques developed to cater for the ‘gifted and talented’ students have provided an excellent foundation for introducing the draft te reo curriculum, says Sonia White, a TEAM Solutions facilitator. Sonia worked closely with Makere Tihore, HoD Māori, and Paul Lees, director of the Talent Development Initiative, to establish the Māori Leadership Academy.

"Makere approached me for help in exploring the draft te reo curriculum, recalls Sonia. We wanted to develop a differentiated learning approach because that is a key feature of The New Zealand Curriculum and it was the direction that Makere wanted to head in.

I found the draft te reo curriculum a wonderful resource. The pedagogy in the front of the document supported where I was coming from as a ‘gifted and talented’ facilitator in terms of differentiating and personalising learning. But even more importantly it is a practical document that fleshes out the principles and the thinking. It sets out achievement objectives that match the appropriate unit themes, with related learning objectives and activities at different levels. It is such a rich resource. It gave me confidence that a personalised learning approach could be implemented in the te reo programme for all students."

The combination of new curriculum philosophy with practical examples of learning activities at various levels makes the draft te reo curriculum extremely useful for teachers, says Sonia. "It made it easy to establish success criteria so that students can take control of their own learning and monitor their progress. That is a crucial part of developing self-managing learners."

image of Makere Tihore.

"This year has been the highlight of my 13 years of teaching. I love being at school. That's why I'm here at 7.30 every morning and in the holidays, and the kids are here too so it's obviously paying off"

Makere Tihore, HoD Māori

Makere Tihore admits that she was nervous when she first approached the Te Reo draft curriculum. "I thought it might be hard work and difficult to identify with. I was surprised how user-friendly it was and how simple it was to apply to schemes of work. It introduced me to the whole notion of differentiation. I assumed that my students learned the same way as I do but they don’t. It really changed the way I teach.

I used to think in terms of one-size-fits-all but now I have students working at a number of different levels. This approach empowers them all to be achieving at the level that’s right for them and getting on with it. Take, for example, a topic like ‘kura’. I might have a student working at level 1, which involves using basic vocabulary and fill-in-the gap exercises. Students at level 2 might be recognising and using familiar words and phrases in sentences, and the more fluent students could be interviewing classmates about their school routines and habits. This is all going on at the same time."

The recognition that students in the same year are at such different stages is fundamental, says Sonia. Learners have different background experiences, they learn in different ways, and at different speeds. This approach is about pursuing what is best for each student and helping them to take control of their own learning.

"If I wasn't part of this (Māori Leadership Academy), I probably wouldn't come to school most days."

Norton Reuben, student

Students working on laptop.

"It’s really hard to manage this diversity in the classroom and I wouldn’t expect that teachers could make it happen overnight, says Sonia. The differentiation process is a long, slow one but getting the support from the te reo curriculum documentation is a great first step."

The emphasis on differentiated and personalised learning is something that Makere is applying in her teaching at the Māori Leadership Academy as well as in her te reo classes. The Academy programme focuses on protocols and tikanga around leadership, and it also includes an introduction to classical Māori language appropriate to Rangatira students.

"If I didn't have these opportunities (Te Reo and Māori Leadership Academy), I wouldn't be in the Academy. They give me lots of support with everything."

Crystal Harvey, student

"When we set up the Māori Leadership Academy we wanted depth, and that’s what we found in the draft te reo curriculum, says Paul Lees, facilitator of the ‘gifted and talented’ programme at Manurewa High. Some Māori Leadership students are fluent in Māori and others are not. Those that were struggling identified the need to develop their language skills so they could advance in leadership. The challenge for us was to find more flexible ways to provide Māori language learning for these students at the level they require."

Image of paul lees.

"It's a huge shift because it's a whole new way of teaching. As a secondary teacher, you were not really taught how to teach. You were taught how to deliver a curriculum, but this is talking about how to teach and about learning."

Paul Lees, facilitator of the 'gifted and talented' programme

Under Makere’s guidance, the Māori department has taken up the challenge and now offers a range of differentiated learning opportunities in te reo. In addition to the timetabled Māori Leadership and te reo classes, Makere also offers te reo classes in the morning before school and during the holidays. "The students have relished these opportunities, says Paul. The students come in at 7.45 in the morning and turn up for two weeks solid in the holidays. They recognise their own need to learn and that’s the breakthrough."

Paul is convinced that the success these Māori Leadership students are beginning to experience is a bridge to success in other subject areas and a model for other Māori students at the school. "In the past so many Māori students were labelled failures and came away as failures. When Māori students experience success for the first time it is a great impetus to try for success elsewhere. It lays down a bridge between the Māori and Pākehā worlds. We try and get them to see that the learning and thinking habits they have developed and the success they have experienced can be translated to other areas of study."

"The way we have been taught in the past has been like a monologue. One way and one way only. There are many ways to learn but teachers often use only one way, like walking in a straight line, like tunnel vision. There are different ways of achieving and different ways of learning. One may learn slow, one fast, one by touching, one by listening. Teachers have to adapt to how we learn and think.”

Arran Matia, student

"At a teaching level we have fused the ideas in the draft te reo curriculum document with ideas about Māori leadership to create a very confident group of students who are able to stand in the community with their heads up. It’s a team approach and it’s a lot of hard work but it’s worth it."

Paul can see the new pedagogy and practice working. Truancy, often a major problem in a decile 2 urban school, is virtually non-existent in the Māori Leadership Academy. Academy students are achieving in a range of subject areas, numeracy and literacy standards are on the rise, and the top Māori students are aiming at the top level.

Images from Manurewa High School.

Sonia White believes the secret to success lies in a pedagogy that empowers students to assess where they are at and to take control of their own learning. "Clear success criteria is vital for progress on the learning journey. These students can see for themselves where they are at and what the next step up is on the ladder. It makes them think about their learning and that is the key to becoming confident self-managing learners."

"I want to go on to year 13 and on to university. That's what it's all about, believing in yourself. I'm proud of being Māori now. It's good to have talent in things Māori."

Loren-Lee Tupaea, student

Paul Lees agrees that student-centred learning is the game-breaker. "You’re relying on students to be responsible for their own learning. That’s so important. And in so doing, the student is much more aware of how they learn and that differs from one student to another. This approach encourages persistence and confidence. They don’t quit. They can see the progress they are making when they work at the right level. Kids are discouraged if they are trying to work at a level that is above or below them. We find the students work well with one another, it’s not always via the teacher. Control of learning is in their own hands and in the Māori Leadership Academy; the differentiated learning approach is woven in with Māori values of whanaungatanga, manaakitanga, and rangatiratanga.”

Those involved in the Māori programmes agree that the leap in thinking involved is challenging but rewarding for teachers. “It’s a huge shift because it’s a whole new way of teaching, says Paul. As a secondary teacher, you were not really taught how to teach. You were taught how to deliver a curriculum, but this is talking about how to teach and about learning.”

"All students are somewhere on the learning ladder, says Sonia. All of them can reach the top of the ladder eventually but some will take longer than others and that doesn’t matter. It’s about identifying the next rung, and reaching for it, not reaching for one that is likely to make you fall off.”

“We used to put ourselves down by thinking we were dumb. We could sit in an English class and get work given to us that we could not understand but we were afraid to ask questions because kids might laugh. I feel a lot more confident in my other classes now.”

Norton Reuben, student

Implementing this new teaching approach has been a transforming experience for Makere and Paul. “The great job for me has been bringing in the Talent Identification Programme at Manurewa High School, says Paul. “And my greatest joy has been trying to develop Māori students and getting them to achieve within the school. It’s starting to happen. When Makere approached me I said let’s look at the top end. It’s a top-down approach; these students are becoming positive role models in the school.”

Reflecting on the journey which Manurewa High School has been on via its gifted and talented programme, Sonia summons a telling metaphor. “There’s a saying among ‘gifted education’ educators: ‘A rising tide lifts all ships’. What is good practice becomes part of a teacher’s toolkit and a teacher becomes far more aware of difference – different needs, different levels, and different approaches. Once teachers adopt a differentiated learning approach, they apply it for all students, which is what the new curriculum is all about. It’s an asset rather than a deficit model. If you look at what your students can achieve, rather than what they can’t, and how you might move them to the next level, you are always looking upwards.”

Paul Lees is certainly looking forward and upwards. “We’re looking forward to seeing some of our year 10 students doing te reo NCEA level 1 and then by year 13 they may be able to do part-time university Māori studies. I don’t see why not.”

Review questions image.

The New Zealand Cuuriculum acknowledges the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi and the bicultural foundations of Aotearoa New Zealand. All students have the opportunity to acquire knowledge of te reo Māori me ōna tikanga (NZC, p. 9).

  • How are you helping students to take control of their own learning?
  • What learning strategies are you developing to encourage persistence and confidence in students?
  • How is your school providing Māori language learning opportunities for students that allow flexible and differentiated pathways?
effective pedagogy
learning languages
learning to learn
māori achievement
te reo Māori

Updated on: 24 Sep 2010