Local solutions best meet local needs

02 May 2019

Grow Waitaha, initiated by the Ministry of Education, is a partnership between the Ministry, iwi, four providers, schools and their communities. It focuses on ensuring wellbeing strategies are embedded in schools.

Rātā talks to MOE’s Garry Williams about the importance of wellbeing strategies and the impact they are already having.

What led the Ministry of Education to initiate the Grow Waitaha network?

The Government’s strategic response to the 2010/11 Canterbury earthquakes was to establish the Greater Christchurch Education Renewal Programme (GCERP) to “position greater Christchurch as a future leader in teaching and learning practice”, and its objectives related to education renewal, as well as property and infrastructure.

The objective was to develop a bold new model of support for schools and kura foundered on collaboration between iwi, providers and schools, with the needs of Māori learners at the centre- knowing that what works for Māori will work for all learners. The Ministry of Education recognised that any significant investment in infrastructure would have little impact on education unless schools, leaders, teachers, students, parents and whānau were supported and encouraged to explore new ways of thinking about teaching and learning.

At the time there were a range of Ministry-funded support initiatives and professional development opportunities - some of which pre-dated the earthquakes - however, it was clear that the level of readiness to change teaching practise and the decision to request assistance was determined by the interest and motivation of each school Board and Principal. Not developed for the demands of regional widespread rebuild, existing initiatives did not provide equitable access to targeted support for schools working through their visioning process in the early days of the rebuild programme.

What was needed was a coherent and uniform approach to assisting schools to grow their thinking of education for the future, establish school visions, collaboration, and community engagement.

Our young people’s wellbeing is hugely topical. What drives Grow Waitaha’s success in supporting wellbeing in schools?

There are three fundamental characteristics driving the success of Grow Waitaha in supporting wellbeing in schools.

The first is a rich, culturally responsive approach guided by our foundational partnership with Mātauraka Mahaanui. Mātauraka Mahaanui is an advisory board appointed by the Minister of Education to guide education renewal in greater Christchurch and represent collective ‘mana whenua’, Papatipu Rūnanga, the Māori Community Leaders Forum and other Māori interests. Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu, as the ‘Treaty partner,’ mandated this group to act on their behalf in the greater Christchurch area. This relationship is important in part because of Te Tiriti o Waitangi obligations but, more importantly, to ensure that Grow Waitaha initiatives, including those in the wellbeing space, meet the needs of Māori learners in a culturally responsive way.

The second is that, wherever possible, Grow Waitaha engage school leaders, tumuaki, kaiako and mana whenua facilitators in the design of learning and development opportunities fostering a network of learning rather than targeting individual schools. While both are important, a networked capacity building approach has greater collective impact.

Last, but by no means least, is the authentic engagement processes applied within the mahi. Grow Waitaha always had a commitment to be sector-led from its inception, although there was some initial scepticism in the sector about whether this aspiration could be met. I think though that once schools started seeing how their feedback was influencing the programme’s design and its offerings, a higher level of engagement was reached, and more ongoing feedback and suggestions were offered. Not only did this authentic, sector-led approach lead to further feedback, but there was also a snowball effect in relation to engagement with or uptake of the opportunities on offer by Grow Waitaha.

Over time, we’ve seen participants becoming braver in sharing experiences, and integrating innovation or knowledge within and beyond their own schools.

What are some of the key resources schools utilise in their journey to wellbeing?

We know that wellbeing is a necessary pre-condition of achievement, qualification attainment and overall good life outcomes. At our recent education summits, the wellbeing of our young people emerged as the value most of us want to focus on. Teachers play a vital role in promoting wellbeing by, among other things, fostering caring and supportive relationships, and responding to warning signs of emotional distress. Wellbeing is promoted in ECE and schools in a range of ways, including:

  • The ECE curriculum, Te Whāriki, has a strong focus on promoting the holistic wellbeing (mana atua) of all learners. For school aged children and young people, mental health is part of the Health and Physical Education and Hauora learning area of ’The New Zealand Curriculum’ and ‘Te Marautanga o Aotearoa’ from year 1 to year 13. The curriculum asks schools to help students develop competencies for mental wellness, and to make good life choices.
  • Many schools and early childhood centres use the evidence-based programmes and tools from our Positive Behaviour for Learning (PB4L) suite of initiatives, which help parents, whānau, teachers, early childhood centres, and schools address problem behaviour, improve student well-being and increase educational engagement and achievement.
  • The Ministry of Education provides individualised support for students with the highest needs, through interventions such as the Early Intervention Service, Behaviour Service and the Intensive Wraparound Service, and resources and guidance for schools on preventing and responding to bullying.
  • Social workers and youth workers in schools and ECE (funded by Oranga Tamariki), and in-school public health nurses (funded by the Ministry of Health).
  • And of course there’s the Mana Ake - Stronger for Tomorrow initiative providing support for children aged five to 12 years old across Canterbury. Mana Ake kaimahi work with schools to support teachers, families and whānau when children are experiencing ongoing issues that impact their wellbeing such as anxiety, social isolation, parental separation, grief and loss and managing emotions.

You will find a wealth of wellbeing resources on the website.

What are some of the things the MOE has learnt through the development of Grow Waitaha?

A few things stand out for me.

  • Local solutions best meet local needs.
  • Building authentic partnerships and establishing the conditions for a programme such as Grow Waitaha to be successful isn’t a fast process. Time needs to be allowed for thinking, planning and collaborating.
  • As we are asking teaching professionals, Boards of Trustees, and communities to change the way they work and scale up their efforts in raising student achievement, then we must model the values and practices that we believe will lead to raised outcomes for learners. Demonstrating commitment and a strong and effective working relationship with all stakeholders is required if others are to buy into a programme of this nature and its outcomes.
  • Great things can happen if the Ministry listens, rather than taking the lead all the time.

The four providers for Grow Waitaha are: CORE Education; Evaluation Associates, Leadership Lab; and Massey University.

To find out more about Grow Waitaha, visit the website.