West side story
All members of the Kāhui Ako wanted to strengthen the education sector and feel a responsibility to be inclusive, so they welcomed the opportunity to partner with the Heretaunga Free Kindergarten Association when general manager Fiona Mason approached them.
Lead Principal of Ngā Hau e Whā Kāhui Ako Tim White says, “What appealed was the kindergartens were proactive and Fiona talked about what they could offer the Kāhui Ako.”
The Kāhui Ako structure has been designed and resourced with schools in mind so the involvement of the kindergartens has had to be more organic.
Fiona says, “For early childhood education to come on board, we’ve had to be creative and flexible in how we engage and that’s been easy to do given how open, welcoming and collaborative the schools have been.”
Fiona respects that numbers in early childhood education centres in any area are high and could overwhelm or over complicate the development of a Kāhui Ako. She has seen her role as representing the kindergartens at the Kāhui Ako management table. Fiona’s role is equal to all other members including in decision making, which she says has been very empowering for them.
Fiona has heard some Kāhui Ako may not be as open to early childhood education participation but her view is the early learning sector needs to be involved and as a result has a responsibility to create flexible models and ways of working that are cohesive with how each Kāhui Ako operates.
Hayley Whitaker, Lead Adviser – Communities of Learning at the Ministry, has been working in the sector developing models for ECE participation that doesn’t overwhelm Kāhui Ako.
She says, “We’re discussing representation models such as early childhood networks, which is effectively what Fiona is doing; working with Ngā Hau e Whā and filtering information through the network of kindergarten teachers.”
Professional Learning and Development
When Tim White, Lead Principal, was developing their PLD journal application he worked closely with Fiona to work out how the PLD might look in their centres; as Tim says, “It was critical the Kāhui Ako considered how we were going to support our kindergartens’ involvement and that the activities and time commitment were realistic.
“It was trial and error before we got to the place where each head teacher has the same status as a within school leader. While the professional development is free for all members, including the kindergartens, the Heretaunga Free Kindergarten Association through Fiona has done a lot to resource their participation. We told her if it gets tough, let us know – we want it to work.”
It was tough for Fiona finding the resourcing but the benefits for children, whānau and teachers outweighed the difficulties in working out how to fund it. She says, “We have chosen to invest.”
The PLD projects are helping because they are all about cultural competence and responsiveness, which everyone said was the one thing that they believed needed to develop. The Kāhui Ako is working closely with their PLD provider, Poutama Pounamu from Waikato University, where all teachers and a number of support staff are involved in the Blended E-Learning course and the Rongohia te Hau programme.
Across school teachers
Kate McKenzie, an across school teacher, works with a group of Kāhui Ako schools and early learning centres and has been visiting kindergartens and building relationships with the staff and the children.
She says, “The kindergarten I work with is Mahora and it backs onto our school so it’s been great to make those connections with whānau and siblings; my visits have been about those connections – whanaungatanga.
“The connection with teachers is important so you get shared progression of learning for children and students, as opposed to the isolation of kindy and then school.”
Kate has used the PLD’s observation tool in the kindergartens to build an understanding of them and where they are at. It’s empowering for parents and whānau to see Kāhui Ako teachers interacting and developing relationships.
Kate says, “In the early meetings with secondary, primary and early childhood teachers, we were all defensive of our sectors. Now it’s far more collegial and constructive; we have better discussions because no one is feeling like they need to defend their place. We value each other’s roles. It’s now all about our tamariki.
Lessons learned from each other
Tim says, “One of the things that resonates with me is that we have met four incredibly passionate and committed head teachers, who are enthusiastic and committed to a bicultural setting and to connecting with the primary schools their children move on to.
It’s similar for Fiona as the kindergartens have connected with a group that have the same passion and commitment as them and willingness to work together.
“Personally, I have learned a huge amount about leadership and leading in the education sector so that has been empowering for me as a manager – there is much our sectors can learn from each other,” she says.
Kate agrees: “I have been enjoying that collegiality and breaking down those barriers – it doesn’t matter if you are ECE, primary or secondary trained, we are all professionals and we are all trying to do the best for our tamariki.”
Tim and Fiona agree while Ngā Hau e whā Kāhui Ako is still in its early days, it’s progressing well and will continue to progress in partnership, with tamariki at the forefront of everything they do.
Members of Ngā Hau e Whā Kāhui Ako
- Lead Principal: Tim White
- Camberley School
- Ebbett Park School
- Frimley School
- Hastings Girls’ High School
- Heretaunga Intermediate
- Mahora School
- Raureka School
- St Mary’s School
- St Matthew’s School
- Camberley Kindergarten
- Frimley Park Kindergarten
- Mahora Kindergarten
- Raureka Kindergarten
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