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Te Akau ki Papamoa School – Cultural Inclusiveness

Te Akau ki Papamoa School is an English-medium contributing school in Tauranga. It has a thriving sustainable eLearning programme and has been recognised as NZ’s first Apple Distinguished Primary School. Culture, identity, and te reo Māori are reinforced everyday to 680 students through the innovative use of ICTs, expertise, and collaboration.

Principal Bruce Jepson shares his kura’s vision and journey in becoming one of New Zealand's leading schools in normalising the delivery of te reo Māori and cultural competencies and the positive impacts on student achievement, school, and community culture.

Know me before you teach me

At Te Akau ki Papamoa School the concept "Know me before you teach me" drives the teaching and learning outcomes for all learners; particularly our Māori students.

Identifying each child’s background transcends all cultures and ethnicities so that teachers can take the best approach to teach every learner. If students feel that their individual needs are being met and that they are a valuable member of our community, Māori or otherwise, their confidence, pride, and self-belief leads to aspiration and in time, to achievement.

Effective pedagogy
Teachers at Te Akau ki Papamoa School promote student learning by creating a supportive learning environment. They take time to know their students and attend to their cultural diversity and specific learning needs. Students feel accepted and enjoy positive relationships with their teachers. 

Community engagement

Our focus on cultural competency means we foster strong relationships and engagement with Māori learners, their whānau, and iwi. In consultation with our Māori community, the school reviews how to best meet the needs for teaching and learning in tikanga Māori and te reo Māori. If a parent requests a higher level of te reo Māori, our staff will explore opportunities to meet this need.

Parents need to see the benefits of school. At TAKP parents are very engaged. We ensure meetings with whānau are very simple. For example, a meeting could be "What is it you want? How do you want us to do it?”

Community voice
The New Zealand Curriculum encourages schools to seek out and listen to the ideas of students, parents, whānau, and the wider community when designing their local curriculum. Te Akau ki Papamoa School regularly consults with their Māori community to ensure that they are best meeting the needs of their Māori learners and their families. This ensures a culturally responsive local curriculum. 

Te Reo on the radio

Our school has established a radio station that delivers te reo instruction to students daily in their classrooms. Radio TAKP 107.60FM broadcasts almost entirely in te reo Māori. The broadcasts offer a variety of content, including ways to learn, consolidate and practice te reo Māori.

It’s everyday, for 20 minutes at a time. Now we have three te reo Māori teachers, they all broadcast at different times at three different levels. Students can opt to do more than the 20 minutes by dialling into the radio and putting on their headphones. The child’s emoji comes up so the kaiako knows they are attending.

At first students found listening to radio lessons a struggle, so to keep them interested visuals were introduced using software that synchronised slides with the broadcast.

Slides synchronised with Radio TAKP broadcast.

Radio TAKP 107.60FM has been particularly successful in fostering te reo Māori for both students and teachers. It supports and develops teacher capacity and has grown their confidence. The radio broadcasts have removed the anxiety that teachers often experience with teaching in te reo Māori. We currently have 12 teachers at TAKP learning te reo Māori through the local wānanga. The classes operate out of the school in the evenings.

We’re not relying on any one person. We have this goal: If a child went to our school up to year 6 then they could go on to kura kaupapa.

Te reo Māori
Teachers at Te Akau ki Papamoa School recognise te reo Māori as a taonga. By learning te reo and becoming increasingly familiar with tikanga, their students can strengthen their identities and grow shared cultural understandings.

Māori achieving success as Māori

The result of a deliberate and strategic focus on promoting success for Māori is that Maori students are achieving academic results exceeding 2017 Ministry of Education targets in reading, writing, and mathematics.

Particular strengths of the school’s approach to promoting success for Māori as Māori

  • The presence of strong, well-informed and knowledgeable Māori role models on the board, in senior positions, and in the teaching team. Two-thirds of our board are Māori and they’re involved in business, banking, and law. As our reputation has grown so has the quality of our governance. The majority of our senior leadership team is Māori.
  • The way Māori students and families are welcomed into the school. When children enrol at our school they indicate their iwi. We make the link and their whānau in the school will come over and welcome them. We add them to our map where 37 iwi are represented. The purpose is to get kids back to their roots and identity. Parents give their consent for us to register them online with their iwi. We send reports about these children to their iwi, ensuring to report the positive aspects.
  • The high expectations for Māori attendance and participation in classrooms, sporting, and cultural activities. We use Maui’s hook – a weekly prize for attendance. Our children are engaged and when they are engaged they come to school. Our attendance is around 95%. Success perpetuates lots of positives.
  • The ongoing focus on the significance of being Māori in the Bay of Plenty region. Bay of Plenty has a high Māori population. The importance of being indigenous is highlighted. Māori have a sense of belonging as tangata whenua and their standing in their place. We see the results when their culture is celebrated.
  • The recognition and value trustees, leaders, and teachers place on Māori cultural identity. Our school culture is interwoven into everything. The way we talk and what we do. If you’re doing a good job by Māori they will have a sense of belonging in their kura, in their home. If a child knows their culture and their language what would they look like? Sound like? Feel like? It’s not an add on so it’s not just for Māori, it can be applied to all cultures.
Students with tablets.

School culture

The school culture is reflected in the children. They are thriving, confident in their own identity, culture, and language. They do everything with humility and they are grounded. This is evident in the staff as well. They see value in what we do.

Our children know why they are learning te reo Māori, because it’s their national language.

We ask ourselves “what would the culture be in our country if everyone thought that way?”

I have learned not to underestimate a group of people. Anything is possible. The culture we have encourages everyone to give it a go and take on challenges. We need to build capacity across the school and let people have the reins.

At TAKP we teach children as if they are our own. We are hard on standards, soft on people. If you accept mediocrity then that’s what you get. My own children went through the school and it has set them up for success.

He aha te mea nui o te ao

He tangata, he tangata, he tangata

What is the most important thing in the world?

It is the people, it is the people, it is the people

Student achievement

Māori student achievement at the school has continued to climb since ERO last visited in 2014. Year 1 Māori learners were achieving to expectation at a rate of 84%, up from 50%. However achievement and education in general is an holistic enterprise, with so many factors requiring fine-tuned balance. Putting Māoritanga and te reo Māori at the heart of the school means that the spirit of whanaungatanga can have a positive influence in this respect, as well as removing barriers to Māori achievement. 

Next steps?

We’re always thinking ahead and reflecting on what the future could look like at TAKP. For example:

  • “What will it mean when we have another 12 teachers conversant in te reo?”
  • “What does learning another language and being connected globally mean for brain development? What will the future look like for children growing up this way?”

Māori achievement hasn’t really shifted nationally. At TAKP we’ve shown one way it can be done. We’re confident about where the culture sits at our kura so we want to ...

  • support other initiatives in our area  
  • continue to be involved in Te Akatea
  • continue to develop the way we learn and teach in our school - globally
  • work on content development of resources to support other schools.

TAKP has five Apple Distinguished teachers. They’ve been developing resources which are available on iTunes.


Te Kupu o te Wiki
This touch book is developed as part of a level 1 programme for a school as part of a weekly broadcast of te reo māori lessons based around current events within the kura. The programme is developed by Kaiako, but led by our Tuakana (senior students). This book supports pronunciation and kupu in action.

Advice for other schools

  • Do the right thing by your children. Be brave. It can be unchartered territory.
  • Keep checking in with your local iwi and form a sincere relationship.
  • Culture, identity, and te reo have to supersede everything you do. Our school is unrecognisable from how it was eight years ago.
  • Whatever your first "meet and greet" is, that is your culture.
  • Things that are Māori must be embedded.

The meaning of our school vision

The central panel

Our waka is our vehicle of learning where learners, lead learners, whānau/community and the Board of Trustees journey together, riding the crest of our "seven waves of learning". (Represented as seven waves leading towards the "Te Moana o Toi" – the ocean of Toi – being the stretch of beach between Mauao and Ohope).

Our waka is navigated and driven by all those on board, each having a role – learners leading their learning, lead learners facilitating the process, whānau and community providing guidance and support, and the Board of Trustees providing governance.

The journey is also guided by Tāwhirimātea with the power of the four winds (e hau e wha) which signifies the ever-changing direction of learning for the individual.

The triangular sail is significant, depicting the use of technologies to assist in the learning process and recognises the markers provided by the stars as another means of navigating.

The inclusion of the three seagulls recognises the importance of guides in our journey which connects us to the natural world within which we live, providing further direction.

The Papamoa hills (ngā rae ō Papamoa) are featured as our maunga (mountains), recognising the importance of tangata whenua (people of the land) and our relationship with the land and our school.

The three whale flukes recognise the importance of Pakiwaitara (local legend) of the three maunga – Mangatawa, Hikurangi, and Kopukairoa of Mataatua waka and the hapū (sub tribe) of Nga Pōtiki. (Four waka are associated with this area: Mataatua, Te Arawa, Tainui and Takitimu.)

The area between ngā rae ō Papamoa (the Papamoa hills) and the beach is traditionally important for harakeke (flax) and this is represented within the green clusters between the maunga and the beach. Harakeke also features prominently with triangular whatu bindings which tie the three elements (the three panels) together.

The left panel

This panel contains the Mangapare design (hammerhead shark) and the names of the three whales (maunga) acknowledging the whenua (land) that remains when we journey beyond our school of learning and into the wider world.

The right panel

This panel depicts six "hoe" (paddles) that signify the importance of whānau/family that continue to guide learner’s vision.

  • W – Whanaungatanga: Interrelatedness
  • H – Hui: The importance of shared understandings
  • A – Awhi: To support and assist
  • N – Ngati: Inclusiveness
  • A – Aroha: The love of whānau/family
  • U – Ukaipo: Protection, Governance

Further reading

Article in School News

community engagement
effective pedagogy
māori achievement
te reo Māori

Updated on: 12 Feb 2020