Leading collaboration: the Kāhui Ako lead is critical to success of collaboration

Inclusive leadership is a characteristic of successful Kāhui Ako. Leaders have a crucial role to play not only in developing a compelling vision, but also in implementing that vision in a way that genuinely includes the perspectives and aspirations of participating institutions and the community, particularly learners, parents, and whānau. The role of the Kāhui Ako lead is critical to the success of this collaborative endeavour. The ability of leaders to motivate, energise and progress collaboration amongst all partners requires clarity of purpose and direction.  Supported by the expert partner and the Ministry, the Kāhui Ako lead strives to bring about change through influence and deliberate acts of facilitation that leverage external and internal expertise as needed.

Successful Kāhui Ako leaders in this study demonstrated high levels of educational leadership and interpersonal skills. They understood that the effective formation and development of Kāhui Ako depended on shared, non‑hierarchical decision making. Success factors in these three Kāhui Ako included establishing a shared understanding of good practice for:

  • forming partnerships
  • building trust when sharing data and strategies for learning
  • using resources in the best way.

Success factors also included a systematic, collaborative focus on improving the progress and achievement of learners, and willingness to evaluate and respond to the results of evaluation to continue to improve practice and outcomes. Leadership success is evident in each of these Kāhui Ako.

The lead role

Appointing a lead in each Kāhui Ako was relatively straight forward. This role was usually taken by a prime initiator in forming the Kāhui Ako, who had taken a lead role in earlier cross‑community networks. The lead already had the confidence of Kāhui Ako colleagues and had developed rapport through the formation phase.

A Kāhui Ako lead needs to:

  • work with different groups at different levels of the system
  • engage with the Ministry and other Kāhui Ako leads
  • participate at different fora organised by the Ministry
  • provide direction and leadership to the across‑school teachers
  • work with expert partners.

This has stretched their educational leadership and interpersonal skills. 


Building and sustaining collaboration

The leadership displayed by the Northcote Kāhui Ako lead and that of the stewardship group, was critical to creating and sustaining the collaboration. Collaborative and inclusive leadership made sure appropriate people were brought together in constructive ways. Early learning services (ELS) have been, from the beginning, particularly positive about their inclusion and role in the Kāhui Ako. Ongoing efforts to keep all ELS in the area updated about progress is seen as a reflection of the commitment to creating pathways for learners in the community. The Northcote Kāhui Ako lead played a critical role in fostering collaboration and building relational trust at each level of their community. Establishing the Kāhui Ako enabled school leaders and teachers to step up and rekindle their passion and enthusiasm for the profession. It also provided new and varied challenges for experienced principals.


Strong relationships

The Ōtūmoetai Kāhui Ako showed that strong relationships and partnerships across diverse actors can build support and legitimacy for collaboration. ERO noted the Ōtūmoetai Kāhui Ako was deliberate in both developing new partnerships to deepen its understanding of the issues, and drawing in different skills, perspectives, and expertise to develop a multi‑pronged, community‑wide approach to collaboration. The leader worked to bring about change through influence and through careful acts of facilitation to leverage external and internal expertise as needed. The Ōtūmoetai Kāhui Akolead’s role was seen as the strength of this Kāhui Ako and was endorsed by all participants.


Collaborative enquiry

At the start of the process of establishing the Waimate Kāhui Ako, the leadership demonstrated by the secondary school was seen by some as a ‘takeover’. These reservations were put to rest as implementation progressed. Waimate Kāhui Ako provides an example of the value of inclusive and influential leadership:

“Two years ago, the idea of our schools working and thinking together was absent. Now there is a shift in our language from ‘my kids’ to ‘our kids’, ‘Waimate kids’.” Lead principal

The Kāhui Ako leadership was well connected, well aligned, and committed. The lead principal played a critical role in fostering collaboration and building relational trust at each level of the Kāhui Ako. The leadership role provided an important opportunity for school leaders to step up, and rekindled their enthusiasm for the profession through new and varied challenges. The commitment displayed by the Waimate Kāhui Ako lead contributed significantly to creating and sustaining this collaboration. The lead’s foresight and influence in the initial stages was critical in transforming the aspirations and vision of this Kāhui Ako into a reality.

Role of AST and WST: new roles to support Kāhui Ako

Two new roles are critical to the success of Kāhui Ako: the across‑school teacher (AST), and the within‑school teacher (WST).  In the majority of instances, it took time for these positions to be filled.

The ASTs are the lynchpin in the Kāhui Ako programme, and it was important to make sure the right people with the right skills were appointed. This teacher acts as the bridge between school leaders and classroom teachers. The teacher is required to teach 50 percent of the time, so their knowledge and expertise is current and credible with school leaders and teachers alike. It has taken time for the Kāhui Ako to come to terms with these roles and negotiate ways of working across the Kāhui Ako so the focus of these roles is on achievement objectives.

ASTs viewed these roles as challenging and rewarding, both professionally and personally. They had the opportunity to observe leadership in action, and step into leadership themselves while maintaining a focus on teaching and learning. Other teachers had begun to see the contribution and added value of these roles, which lessened initial resentment about additional remuneration. It has allowed teachers to act as practitioners of research, inquiring into and working on issues likely to have the most influence on learning across the education pathway.

WSTs acknowledged some initial reluctance and concern that stemmed from lack of confidence and negative perceptions relating to the role’s workload. Since this early phase, teachers have become better informed about expectations and responsibilities, particularly about the initiative and leadership required to drive change within their school. Some concern remains about the size and function of the role and some WSTs have sought greater clarity about the direction of their work.