Schools taking action

Accent Learning’s Poverty Impacts on Learning symposium in May included truly inspiring presentations from four school principals: Kiri Smith Natone Park, Eddie Uluilelata Rangikura, John Murdoch Taita College and Bunnie Willing from Epuni who co-presented with Julia Milne from Project Aotearoa.

In each case the school had worked to understand the problem, to ‘clean up our own backyard’ and had then gone beyond the classroom committing to different additional activities that involved the school, community, whanau and the kids themselves.

A common thread was that there was no agenda for involving parents other than a wish to break down barriers and work together for the good of their children. The schools had become a hub catering to the interests of their families and whanau who were seen as having skills and knowledge of their own to contribute.

Some examples included BoXFiT classes, dancing, a bike library, knitting or just a chat over a cuppa. We heard about teachers giving up holidays, evenings, weekends on a regular basis for Waka ama, Tamaiti Mua, mentoring, gardening and cooking to name just a few.

We heard about how kids learnt to grow vegetables, prune trees, harvest and cook. We heard about how kids who were offered fortnightly mentoring sessions and extra teaching opportunities wanted more.

The impact has been significant. There has been an increase in community pride evidenced by an almost total reduction in vandalism. There has been an increase in attendance by kids at school and parents and whanau at interviews or meetings. There has been an increase in extracurricular activity and school volunteers.

All these rewards add up to improved achievement evidenced by meaningful choice of credits and NCEA results, National Standards results and ERO reports. We were excited by this bright positive picture and wonder what it will take to get this happening more widely.

The schools' presentations are available below.