Christchurch school teaches on innovative pa model a success

Special character school, Te Pā o Rākaihautū, embodies the old proverb ‘it takes a village to raise a child’.

Located at the old Linwood intermediate school site, the state-designated character school, offers education founded on tikanga and Te Reo Māori in a pā-based environment encouraging families of all ages, from early childhood to tertiary to participate. It has been operating since 2015.

Board of Trustees chairwoman Rangimarie Parata Takurua said the plan was to have a maximum roll of 100 pupils in the first year, but early on it was obvious demand was going to be high, and the roll now sits at 244 and includes Nōku Te Ao, its own early childhood centre. Te Pā has already outgrown its Linwood Intermediate base and the school is working with the Ministry of Education to find a new site, design and build their own pā wānanga (learning village) that will integrate education, health, social and cultural services for the whole whānau on one site.

Innovative 21st century learning is at the centre of the school’s philosophy and it caters for students from early childhood all the way through to Year 13 and on to tertiary with a number of night classes offered on site.

Rangimarie says the school is devoted to educational success for Māori, and the removal of ‘walls’ between early childhood, primary, secondary and tertiary education.

“Te Pa is about creating a seamless, lifelong learning experience which is positive and normalises Māori succeeding as Māori. An enormous amount of research out there supports what we are doing,” she says.

The school has been designed to accommodate and encourage the whole whanau and the wider community to become active partners in the education of their tamariki (children) – it takes a village to raise a child.

Every child works within an individual learning plan and is given the opportunity to celebrate their Maori identity all day long.

Modern technology and practices also support the school’s aim to raise the national standards and NCEA achievement of its students.

Te Pā believes health and nutrition is one of the most important contributions they make for the wellbeing of their students and whanau.

Rangimarie says “Kai is important to Māori. However Māori health statistics confirm we are eating too much of the wrong kai and not looking after themselves as well as we could. We also know if that if our children are hungry or sugared up they are not ready for learning.”

The key to whanau transformation is through their tamaraiki.

“Teaching them healthy life skills from growing kai through to preparing and cooking their own meals, as well as the nutritional benefits has a ripple effect when they take that knowledge into their own homes.”

Rangimarie says whanau involvement is essential to their health and nutrition programme, with parents and students working side by side in the kitchen preparing the kai.

Te Pā is the result of what can happen when a community has vision and the passion and dedication to bring that vision to life. They have worked hard for over a decade to consolidate their position so they had a strong foundation for the creation of their pā wānanga, a full learning village, which would meet the needs of the children and their whanau. With strong governance and management structures in place, and good support from the Ministry of Education and the wider community, they are well positioned to achieve their vision.

Rangimarie says Te Pā is about reconnecting students and whanau with our place, our people and our stories.

“We are about creating a Māori Learning Environment, one that nurtures our pononga (students), a tinana (physically), a wairua (spiritually), a hinengaro (mentally), a whanau (socially) – every day in every way.”

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