Discussion

Although each service in this report has a different way of working with the parents and whānau of Māori children, they all focus on realising Māori children’s potential to become competent and confident learners. Each has common aspects of practice and similar challenges in developing and sustaining what they are doing.

A strong feature of these services was the importance given to establishing and strengthening relationships with the whānau of Māori children. Many highlighted the need to establish good working relationships in the teaching team, and to recognise that this was essential to developing responsive and respectful relationships with Māori children and their whānau. Several services acknowledged that first impressions mattered. They focused on how parents and whānau were welcomed and included on their first visit and during the enrolment process. Flexibility in encouraging parents and whānau to participate in the programme was crucial.

Another feature common to many services was how managers and educators perceived and gave effect to a bicultural curriculum. This was particularly so in the context of their philosophy, vision and connections with local people, places of historical and cultural relevance and what was meaningful for children and their whānau. In some services, Māori perspectives were woven through the programme, visible in the environment and teaching practice, and evident in records of assessment such as learning stories. The fostering of close links with the wider educational community, for example with schools and other early childhood services, enhanced the extent to which the curriculum included local history and tikanga.

Managers and educators in these services demonstrated a commitment and passion to make a difference for Māori children. They were motivated to improve their own understandings of Te Ao Māori, including te reo Māori and tikanga. Planning and undertaking relevant professional learning to assist with bicultural development was critical. Such professional development was a collective venture in all of the services. By increasing the level of the expertise and knowledge in the service, managers and educators gained the confidence to work in partnership with parents and whānau of Māori children and recognise and value the experience and knowledge Māori children bring to their learning.

In some services, initial teacher education programmes prepared teachers to emphasise Māori perspectives in the curriculum and to understand what Te Tiriti o Waitangi meant for their work, particularly in relation to working in partnership with whānau. Teachers spoke of their confidence in implementing a bicultural curriculum as a result of their study and experience while gaining their qualifications.The pace of change in services was an important consideration, especially in relation to bicultural development. Managers and educators played an important role in leading ongoing development. Many were strong advocates for Māori children and invested time and energy in relationships with them and their parents and whānau.

Self review enabled services to regularly evaluate what they were doing, particularly in relation to their philosophy statement and their bicultural provision. Services highlighted the importance of working together, seeking contributions from all, being comfortable with the challenges, and able to celebrate progress and success.