A critical leadership function in the Kāhui Ako is to provide effective coordination and use of resources and the provision of supportive infrastructure. In these three cases, leaders worked hard to meet the complex challenge of developing cohesion across a group of self‑managing organisations.
The time needed to build trust and to ensure collaboration at different levels and across the community was a major resource challenge for these Kāhui Ako. The allocation of AST and WST roles and responsibilities was also a major challenge. It was important to make the right decisions about these roles, for reasons of perception about the roles and for their effectiveness as a key part of the new structure. All three Kāhui Ako were deliberate and strategic in how they used these roles to fulfil the purpose of the community of learning.
The Northcote Kāhui Ako received an allocation for three ASTs and 16 WSTs. At the outset, however, the schools struggled to fill these roles. A lack of clarity around the work and responsibilities combined with the sector’s response to the Kāhui Ako venture resulted in little interest being generated in terms of finding people to achieve quota. Due to the overall confidence of secondary school teachers, there was a risk that all AST roles would go in their direction. Despite this fear, the stewardship group was deliberate in their allocation and distribution of roles across the schools. Duties and responsibilities have since evolved in a way that is likely to draw more interest and help recruitment in the future.
The distribution of roles clearly indicates this Kāhui Ako commitment to the spirit of collaboration and to reducing variability across member schools. For instance, when the stewardship group realised that Onepoto, a small primary school, did not generate any Kāhui Ako resources, they decided to allocate two WSTs from Northcote Intermediate to work exclusively with Onepoto teachers and parents. There was an explicit acknowledgement of the needs and priorities of the schools in the Kāhui Ako and the importance of linking the resources to meet them. The decision‑making processes for allocation of resources appeared to be relatively smooth, reflecting the high relational trust that exists in this Kāhui Ako.
Once achievement challenges were endorsed, and the Kāhui Ako received notification releasing the resources from the Ministry for the roles, the steering committee met to discuss the distribution of the resources across the Kāhui Ako. The Kāhui Ako was funded for seven ASTs and 35 WST positions. In line with the focus of the Kāhui Ako on intervening early, most of the resources were put into primary and intermediate schools. They also decided to allocate two WSTs to Brookfield School, despite its smaller roll. The decision‑making process for the allocation was thoughtful and deliberate, and anchored in the operating model. These elements signal this Kāhui Ako commitment to use the operating model to guide decision making every step of the way.
The Ōtūmoetai Kāhui Ako was resourced to fund seven AST roles. Initially, the expected level of interest was lacking, which meant individuals were asked to apply. The biggest challenge for these appointments was lack of leadership experience, especially in terms of leading the learning of adults. To counter these challenges, the Ōtūmoetai Kāhui Ako created learning mentor roles. These arrangements have not only helped the Kāhui Ako to support ASTs to meet the expectations of their roles but also to grow their capability.
“The lack of clarity meant there was not sufficient interest in the roles. So we made a deliberate decision to identify people who could grow in their role as leaders. The learning mentors are helping the ASTs in this aspect.”
The WST roles also suffered from lack of interest, resulting in a mixed approach to these appointments across the Kāhui Ako. Since these were in‑school appointments, member schools were given sufficient flexibility to appoint the roles to meet the needs of their school contexts. In some instances, recently registered teachers were appointed to the roles, which raised some questions in the teaching community. However, ERO’s study highlights that the WST roles have yet to take shape and form; at the time of writing they were “flying under the radar” with the expectation that they would take more leadership in the following year. This finding is consistent with the NZCER Teaching and Leadership practices survey.
The AST roles are critical for achieving the achievement challenges set by the Waimate Kāhui Ako. There is provision for only one AST role in Waimate, so the stewardship group decided to use this role differently. The AST met regularly with the Kāhui Ako lead to make sure their efforts and communications were aligned; coordinated Professional Learning and Development (PLD) across schools; attended principals’ meetings; and provided coherence between this group and the across‑school syndicates in line with agreed goals. In the Waimate context, having only one AST could be quite isolating for the individual performing this role. Representatives of the Kāhui Ako expressed the view that, from a sustainability perspective, providing a forum for ASTs to meet and discuss emerging issues with other ASTs would provide stronger peer‑to‑peer support.