Learning Support Delivery Model in action

A North Canterbury Kāhui Ako has developed an effective safety net for its schools and community based on longstanding relationships and the Learning Support Delivery Model.



Ohoka School is one of 17 schools and ECEs to benefit from the LSD model. From left: Jude Edwards SENCO, Hunter  (Year 6), Kate McClelland (principal), Matilda (Year 2), Kelly McGowan and Sharon Marsh.

Ohoka School is one of 17 schools and ECEs to benefit from the LSD model. From left: Jude Edwards SENCO, Hunter (Year 6), Kate McClelland (principal), Matilda (Year 2), Kelly McGowan and Sharon Marsh.

The Puketeraki Kāhui Ako in North Canterbury, which was established four years ago, includes 17 mainly rural schools and ECEs. This Community of Learning (COL) is working within the Learning Support Delivery Model (LSDM) to address the learning support needs of its learners in flexible, responsive, collaborative ways. 

Team leaders and special education needs coordinators (SENCOs) meet regularly to share data and plan how to combine resources and expertise to address the learning support needs of the local community; identify gaps and trends in service provision, and deliver the right services in a timely manner.

“We have a saying in our Kāhui Ako that it’s better when we work together, rather than alone,” says Sharon Marsh, Principal of Leithfield School and Lead Principal for the Puketeraki Kāhui Ako.

She says North Canterbury has traditionally had a close-knit group of principals who work together, and prior to the Kāhui Ako, neighbouring learning community clusters had evolved to support each other after the Christchurch earthquakes. 

“The Kāhui Ako has been the vehicle to get everybody together. We are now very connected – 90 per cent of our students follow a pathway to Rangiora High School. Now teachers are in each other’s spaces, conversations happen and resources are being shared in a way that never happened before the Kāhui Ako,” explains Sharon. 

LSDM evolving

Kelly McGowan is the resource teacher: learning and behaviour (RTLB) cluster manager for the Puketeraki Kāhui Ako and says that the Kāhui Ako combined with the LSDM has helped build relationships and simplify things so that systems can be more responsive.

“Since the transformation of the RTLB service in 2012, we have worked really hard to connect and support our SENCOs. The LSDM is about taking what we have done and expanding on it with the extra learning support coordinators, who will start this year. We are extremely lucky – 21 have been allocated across North Canterbury, with 11 in Puketeraki,” says Kelly.

Learning support coordinators will mean more people on the ground to help the Kāhui Ako plan and deliver tailored support to children and families. “It’s working together to develop some consistent responses to the challenges that we’ve got and collectively supporting each other to respond to those challenges.

“When we think about the children who have challenges across our cluster, we put the child and family at the centre and think about the right people to have around the table for that one-plan approach. It might be RTLB, a Ministry of Education psychologist and a speech language therapist. We then have flexibility to come and go, as the situation requires. There’s that real sense that we are in this together,” says Kelly.

Mana Ake part of support network

Canterbury schools have access to a range of support services. Mana Ake, established in April 2018, is a mental health and wellbeing programme that was developed in response to the ongoing effects of the earthquakes. 

The service provides advice and guidance for schools and whānau to support the wellbeing of school children between Years 1 and 8. North Canterbury has three full-time and four part-time Mana Ake kaimahi (social workers and counsellors), who are connected to the Kāhui Ako in the region.  

“Between the Ministry’s learning support service manager, Mana Ake and RTLB, we meet twice a term and we support each other – we have each other on speed dial,” says Kelly. 

The LSDM means earlier and better access to services for children who need them.

“An example from my school was a child who potentially was a referral to mental health for support. The Mana Ake team came in and wrapped support around the family and were able to calm the whole situation for that child. The earlier intervention helped to provide the parents with the structure and support they needed so the referral wasn’t required. That’s where I see the difference the LSDM has made,” says Sharon.

Joined-up approach to attendance and engagement

The Puketeraki schools are currently talking to each other about issues around attendance and truancy, says Sharon.

“We never had a joined-up conversation before. None of us knew what each other was doing and some of us didn’t know there was a whole lot of information that could be accessed to support whānau. It’s having the time and space to have that conversation and then to have the people in the room who know where the resources sit,” she says.

The Puketeraki Kāhui Ako nestles beneath the Puketeraki range depicted in this graphic, which has even found its way onto coffee cups.

The Puketeraki Kāhui Ako nestles beneath the Puketeraki range depicted in this graphic, which has even found its way onto coffee cups.

Conversations and trust

The Puketeraki Learning Support Network comes together once a term to discuss needs identified by the Kāhui Ako. 

“A typical network meeting would begin with the MOE service manager and RTLB service sharing some data and talking about trends and issues and then we would do some professional learning based around these,” says Kelly. 

“We’ve looked at things like universal design for learning (UDL), quality adaptive learning plans and responses to intervention and supporting teachers who are managing children with difficult behaviours.”  

The LSDM now sees all kinds of groups coming together across the Kāhui Ako to find ways to work smarter, harder and more efficiently to benefit tamariki, explains Sharon. 

“It’s created communities that perhaps hadn’t existed before, but it’s built on the back of a history of professional relationships and trust among the school principal groups. Last year we started network groups; teachers self-select in an area of interest. 

“We might have early childhood teachers and Year 13 biology teachers – those sorts of conversations around the whole educational spectrum have been a big area of growth.

“Now that there’s some relational trust, teachers are more interested in taking conversations into what that looks like in their classrooms or, if they are an early childhood teacher, how they would judge a student’s sense of belonging in the classroom. There’s never been a platform for those sorts of conversations before,” she says. 

School and community learning

An annual Puketeraki teacher-only day held in 2019 was attended by 400 teachers and ECE kaiako along with MOE, RTLB and the Mana Ake kaimahi. The themes were about wellbeing and the importance of networking. There were keynote speakers and workshops on topics from yoga to making the best of curriculum maths resources.

Community initiatives include sessions for parents about restorative practice. “Getting some understanding about what restorative practice is about and why we might do it differently is really good. If the message is the same across our community – it’s really powerful,” explains Kelly.

“Most of our schools are somewhere in that journey of using restorative practices and a consistent approach will make a big difference in our schools. We have seen a decrease in requests for behaviour support coming through to us and we think this is due to PB4L schoolwide systems and practices being implemented with fidelity,” she adds.

Identifying trends 

The Puketeraki Kāhui Ako doesn’t use a learning support register yet but pulls together data from RTLB, Mana Ake and the Ministry to look at the big picture and identify specific trends. 

“Our whole Kāhui Ako has done the NZCER Me and My School Student Engagement Survey for the past four years. It gives us a chance to see if there are any aspects of engagement that are different to the national picture or areas of strengths that we can build on.  

“We’ve sat at the table with all of the Kāhui Ako data and said, ‘OK, what does this mean for us?’; or ‘It’s not the same in my school’. It’s those conversations about what you do that’s different that are particularly valuable,” explains Sharon.

Supporting learning support coordinators

When the Kāhui Ako was told it would be getting 11 learning support coordinators, it made a conscious decision to allocate them to the areas of greatest need and ensure that the coordinators are not isolated in schools but teamed up so they can support each other. 

“We’ve made it clear that we know that needs shift and change, so our 11 new learning support coordinators know that their job is to put their arms around the community where they are needed – but they could equally be effective elsewhere at another time,” says Sharon.

“That’s why it’s important for us as we think about how we build the systems now that support them and that we don’t splinter them off because they will be less effective. The LSDM has taught us that we are all better when we are teamed up.” 

The initial national Kāhui Ako model was very top down and hierarchical, but the model that has grown has been very
inter-connected and networked.

“Because we have been in the Kāhui Ako  for so long now and had very few key personnel changes, there’s a sense that the Kāhui Ako ‘has got this’ and even if something bad happens, that it will all hold together – no-one is alone,” says Sharon. 

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