Christchurch Catholic Kāhui Ako – Bridging and celebrating diversity
On paper, it would be difficult to find a more structurally diverse Kāhui Ako than the Christchurch Catholic Kāhui Ako (Te Māra Akoranga Katorika). With fifteen schools scattered across an area of more than 250 square kilometres, they are one of the only Kāhui Ako nationwide to span the full decile range, and the only Kāhui Ako with five secondary schools. Despite this, they have found common ground in their shared Catholic special character, in particular the Catholic social teaching principles.
Across school teacher roles
The Kāhui Ako developed across school teacher (AST) roles with particular focus areas that ranged from those more focussed on student achievement – literacy, numeracy and science, and those with a broader and more holistic focus – transitions, wellbeing, culturally responsive practice and special character. Three individuals were originally appointed to the broader AST roles, and have since been joined by a fourth.
While it wasn’t planned, the four have valued being able to work together, and have found that this strengthens and complements their individual focus areas.
“Megan and I had a joint role, and we naturally gravitated towards Keri in his role of culturally responsive practice. Now Lydia has joined the team, and we are working well as a group of four –we seemed to be overlapping all the time, so it makes sense for us to meet and work together,” said Liz Beattie, Deputy Principal at St Joseph's School, Papanui, and AST in the area of wellbeing and transitions.
Establishing a shared vision and purpose
The group established a wider vision of hauora that incorporated their individual areas, and established a particular focus on whakawhanaungatanga. They believe that effective collaboration depends on firstly building trusting relationships across schools and teachers, and then being purposeful and open about addressing concerns and questions.
The group firstly facilitated a Teachmeet for principals, within school teachers (WSTs) and other teaching staff interested in wellbeing. At this hui, participants explored the purpose of the Kāhui Ako, and used De Bono’s hats to develop a collective understanding of purpose. The group spent time identifying the existing strengths and knowledge that they had within the Kāhui Ako, rather than focussing solely on externally-facilitated PLD. Participants could also give anonymous feedback relating to their questions and concerns about the Kāhui Ako’s structure or work programme, and all feedback was compiled and provided to all members.
Megan Martin, Head of Health at Marian College and AST, explained that this open approach to communication was a deliberate step to develop staff engagement, “We’ve been trying to get it right from the word ‘go’, that our communication is not top down, and that everyone is equally part of the Kāhui Ako. It has grown, and there’s now a lot of ownership of the Kāhui Ako, compared with initially, when it was – ‘well, you three, it’s your job and we don’t have anything to do with it.’”
Following the success of the initial Teachmeet, the Kāhui Ako has hosted two WST hui, the first of which built upon the whakawhanaungatanga focus of the first hui. The schools in the Kāhui Ako then participated in NZCER’s Me and My School survey, and in the second WST hui participants were able to work with Julie Roberts from NZCER on developing an understanding of engagement trends across the Kāhui Ako, and potential areas for focus or development. This analysis is already starting to inform teacher inquiries, and the Kāhui Ako is aiming to re-take the survey in 2019.
Establishing protocols and sharing inquiries
Time was also spent at the second hui developing protocols around data and information sharing, and guidelines for visiting other schools. The Kāhui Ako was supported in this piece of work by an expert partner.
Participants also spent time sharing information about their strengths and the focus of their inquiries, which was collated so that teachers across the Kāhui Ako are able to identify potential collaborators who are exploring a similar area of inquiry.
The range of inquiries reflect the diversity of the Kāhui Ako, and vary from wellbeing and pastoral care, through to gamification of the curriculum, science capabilities, and enviro teaching. While the topics differ, participants valued being able to see that many schools were dealing with similar concerns and issues, particularly in the areas of staff and student wellbeing.
The time spent establishing protocols has since proved a valuable investment, as it provided an agreed framework for WSTs’ visits to other schools in the Kāhui Ako. Both Liz and Megan noted that, in hindsight, they had underestimated how challenging WSTs would find it to initiate visits at other schools. As a result of this, they allocated groups of WSTs to a particular AST, and found that this support increased WST’s confidence to schedule and complete visits to other schools. Following this hui, WSTs have been visiting other schools to observe and learn from teachers with similar inquiry areas to their own.
In a final hui for the year, participants will share information about both their own inquiry, and what they have observed in their school visits. They will also be reflecting on progress to date and deciding on their next steps. “We want to revisit what we did at the beginning with all the concerns and see if we managed to solve any of that. Rather than hiding from problems, how do we make it better and continue to improve?” says Megan.
- Be prepared to ‘go down rabbit holes’ – Both Liz and Megan commented on the number of rabbit holes they went down while narrowing their focus areas and developing their approach. However, both recognise that this was an important part of the process for building buy-in and establishing areas of focus relevant for all schools.
- Take time to agree on protocols – Trusting relationships require an understanding of each other’s contexts, but many teachers don’t often visit other schools aside from their own. “If you haven’t been to another school, you don’t know their protocols so you need to be really respectful – even simple things like calling ahead, arriving at suitable times to visit, and not offering your opinion but just being there to observe,” explained Megan.
- Take it slow and small – It’s important to remember that while ASTs have release time to carry out their role, other teachers are carrying out the work of the Kāhui Ako within their existing teaching role. This means it must be seen as valuable, and it has to integrate with teachers’ existing areas of focus. It is important to remember that it will take time to incorporate feedback and change or narrow the area of focus: “With the size of our Kāhui Ako, it’s like getting a cruise liner to shift direction, it’s really slow”, observes Megan.
- Establish groups of WSTs who work with an individual AST - This has been, notes Liz, “a really nice way of supporting the inquiry focus, and adds to the work we’ve been doing in the wellbeing space.” This model provides accountability, but also gives the WSTs a direct line of communication for questions or support.
This Toolkit is made up of five tools to help Kāhui Ako facilitate conversations, capture decisions and share their learning. The tools combine to help communities to build a shared local curriculum, focused on supporting children and young people across the education pathway.