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Striving for personal excellence

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As a part of the process of community consultation, redeveloping the charter, and strategic direction of Te Kura o Hiruharama, the board made the decision to change the school's mission statement. Here, the school's principal, Sue Ngarimu-Goldsmith, explains the process and thinking behind the school's mission 'Striving for personal excellence'.

Ngati Porou East Coast schools have worked collectively through the E Tipu e Rea Education Partnership, as they have developed their school curricula. There are three stories in this series:

  1. Developing whānau priorities at Te Kura o Hiruharama
  2. Striving for personal excellence
  3. A culturally connected curriculum

Professional learning conversations

These questions and suggested actions encourage you to reflect on your own school context.

High expectations 

The curriculum supports and empowers all students to learn and achieve personal excellence, regardless of their individual circumstances.

The New Zealand Curriculum, p9

High expectations should be supported by high-quality teaching. Projects such as Te Kotahitanga show the powerful effect of high expectations when accompanied by effective teaching developed through collaborative, evidence-based, whole-school professional development (Bishop et al., 2007).

  • Discuss the ways that Te Kura o Hiruharama brings the principle of high expectations to life.
  • What do you currently do in your school that reflects the high expectations principle?
  • What additional steps can you take to support and empower all students to achieve personal excellence?


As a part of the process of consultation, redeveloping the charter and strategic direction of our kura here, the board made a decision to make a change to our mission statement here at school. And what they did is that they identified a whakatauākī that had been associated with the school here for quite some time and that was resurfaced.

And that whakatauākī says:

Iti te kōpara e kai takirikiri ana i runga i te kahikatea

And we interpreted that as striving for personal excellence.

Now that whakatauākī is a very strong visual analogy. The kahikatea is a very big tall white pine tree. It is the tallest tree that you will find in the ngahere. And a kōpara is a small bell bird. And so the visual analogy is that the kahikatea tree is education and the kōpara is the learner, and e kai takirikiri ana is when this little bell bird is working really hard to beat its wings very hard so it can feed at the berries at the top of the kahikatea because those berries are the ones that get the sun so they are the sweetest, ripest, biggest berries. So this little bell bird hasgot to work really hard in order to get to those berries.

So if our children our learners are the bell bird, they have to work very, very hard to be able to gain the fruits from their education. It is not just going to be something that falls into their lap. They have to really strive for excellence in education. They have to work hard for it. We use the word ‘personal’ excellence. That was a very, very deliberate inclusion of that word because we recognise that each of our learners is a unique person. They are all very different and they have all got varying and wonderful inherent potentials within them. And one learner’s inherent potential is going to be different to somebody else’s inherent potential. Therefore excellence for one learner is different for another.

That mission statement was further unpacked in a series of three visioning statements that underpin a lot of what our whānau have identified as what they really want for their kids.

Our children will be achievers who realise their inherent potential and gifts through a love of and commitment to lifelong learning.

The second one is that our children will be bicultural citizens who are secure in their unique identity thus enabling them to take their place in a diverse and changing world.

And the third statement is that our children will be kind, confident, and courageous people of character who make a positive contribution to society.

Published on: 09 Jul 2010