What did ERO find across the Puna Whakatupu?

The five Puna Whakatupu share similar kaupapa Māori philosophies that influence the way they work with children and their whānau. In this section ERO shares the common approaches and practices found across the Puna Whakatupu.

Children are taonga tukuiho or treasures gifted to the physical world by ancestors... there are no boundaries to children’s learning.

Learners at the centre – where they come from, how they learn their interests and achievements.

Ruia te taitea, he pito matā

Children are most receptive to learning during their early childhood years. There are many elements that support children to become successful learners. In Puna Whakatupu the following elements strongly influence positive outcomes for tamariki:

  • Tikanga Māori.
  • Culture and identity.
  • Meaningful and loving relationships that are both valued and valuable.
  • Language learning strategies.
  • Learning environments that promote exploration and provide challenge.
  • Learning expectations and learner opportunities.

Children learn and use tikanga Māori throughout their day and in their interactions. Kaumātua are present and involved with children in daily learning. Their presence strengthens tikanga used, influences positive behaviour and acknowledges the value and importance of respecting elders. Children see their whānau interacting with kaimahi, and their familiarity and presence helps create a sense of security and connection for the children. Kaimahi sensitively model how to interact with a range of people based on tikanga Māori. Children develop the skills and knowledge to stand and recite their pepeha, lead karakia and iwi specific tikanga and kawa. Children have a strong sense of their place.

Children follow what interests them, experience success and know who they are. Kaimahi affirm children’s culture and identity. They know each child and acknowledge and value each child’s whakapapa. They construct a range of meaningful activities and learning experiences that build on children’s knowledge and interests. Kaimahi talk about the connections children have with others. Children are confident and happy.

Children establish meaningful relationships with other children. The tuakana teina relationship is strong among them. There is an integrated teaching and learning approach where babies and older children work and play together and are able to mix with those who share interests. Babies are shown aroha, manaaki, tiaki and awhi as they learn. Older children learn about sharing and caring with babies and how to negotiate with their peers. These children are learning about and using whanaungatanga values. Children are caring and loving toward each other.

Children are exposed to good language learning strategies. They hear both te reo Māori and English being spoken. The well resourced environment and variety of learning opportunities stimulate children to talk about what they are doing. Kaimahi talk to children using open-ended questions that encourage children to think, respond and extend their oral language. Te reo Māori language learning is an opportunity for children to hear, understand and practice language function and experiment with new words. Children show they are creative and flexible in their thinking as they communicate with others.

Children explore, experiment and are challenged in their learning environment. There are opportunities for children to participate in individual and social play. A wide range of resources and equipment provide opportunities for exploration. They are engaged in learning and play for sustained periods of time. Babies enjoy a loving and caring learning environment that is responsive to their physical and emotional needs. Whānau, kaimahi and specialist services collaborate to ensure that children receive the full benefit of a programme that is tailored to meet their individual needs. Children are interested and enthusiastic learners.

Children initiate their own learning and take risks. Kaimahi have an expectation that children are capable of taking responsibility for their own learning. They become involved in children’s learning when deliberate teaching is required, but children develop their own scripts for play and direct their own learning. They are confident in their choices. Babies move within and across the learning programmes when and as they are ready. This learning transition process is gentle and calm. Children actively take control of their learning.

Whānau actively engage in the learning of mokopuna

Learner and their whānau – involved, informed and contributing

Mā te whakaaro nui e hanga te whare

Mā te mātauranga e whakaū

Whānau are actively involved in their children’s education. At Puna Whakatupu there are two groups of whānau: those who have whakapapa links to the iwi of that area and those who are drawn together because of a common kaupapa. Whānau believe that the atmosphere and wairua of the Puna Whakatupu provides them with a strong sense of belonging.

Children are successful when whānau make valued contributions to learning. Key factors that influence positive outcomes for children include:

  • Whanaungatanga.
  • Strong aspirations and expectations for children.
  • Learning about their children’s education.

Whānau value whanaungatanga and genuine, meaningful and reciprocal relationships. The learning environment reflects whanaungatanga as the foundation for all interactions. Whānau feel valued by staff and are keen and happy to offer their support to the kaimahi and the children’s learning. Whānau know they are valued participants in the learning journey for their children’s care and education.

We were keen to find a whānau based learning environment that was loving and caring. We found it here at this Puna

My child loves being here – I love how they look after her… Our girl is very clever. She has the best social skills. These people have helped us to mould routines for her here and at home.

Our kids have their favourite whaea… they really, really care for our children. I feel good about leaving her here… you know trust and respect is important to us as parents

The manaaki and awhi for our kids is just awesome

Whānau in Ngā Puna have strong aspirations and high expectations for their children. Being Māori and preparing children for kura is important to them. Whānau believe that te ao Māori perspectives taught in the Puna supports children to understand who they are and where they come from. Whānau consider that if children are confident in themselves as people, they will be confident learners. Whānau are empowered to contribute to their children’s learning.

We moved here from Australia… It was important to find the right place for my child. His father is from Vanuatu. We wanted something with a strong cultural base. It’s important that he learns other languages

Preparing him for a new environment (kura) is important. Skills and knowledge he learns here will support him when he changes environments. There is an encouragement and love for learning. We really want him to speak te reo Māori and have an understanding of the culture. That is what happens here

The children going to school from here are confident. They are good speakers and warm, loving children.

Kia tipu pai i roto i ngā reo e rua me tōna taha Māori.

Whānau are focused on their children’s education. A shared philosophy is that for every child involved, a whānau will be engaged. Ngā Puna Whakatupu have become places where whānau learn with, and alongside their children. Kaimahi ensure that whānau are informed of what has happened for their children at the end of each day. Whānau have access to children’s profiles and have opportunities to provide feedback through conversations and whānau hui with kaimahi. Whānau are excited as they understand how their children learn.

It has been a beautiful journey here. I see the kaiako and my child’s engagement with learning. It helped me, both of us, to understand about how and what our child is learning. My child was encouraged to take control of her own learning. Now that is a foreign idea because we expect that they will ‘teach’ our child. Once they explained what that meant it was really interesting. We’re being educated about our child.

We had a whānau hui… this was great. We shared information about our children and got some cool feedback about what our children are learning.

I feel confident as a parent. Kaimahi communicate well. They tell us what they want to do, what she (our child) loves and it just connects us with what we know already about her.

Koro talks to her and he is fascinated with her. Everything she comes home with is really good. We get emails about children’s progress. Open communication with staff. I have been asked to make comments on her profiles. I come in to help all the time. Over time we have been gently encouraged to be more involved which is so nice. We had parent interviews which was great.

Mary [pseudonym] has an IEP [individual education plan] putting things in place for her. I know a lot more about her condition now… the kaiako, GSE [group special education] worker and I put a plan together. This place helps parents like me to understand.

I notice my two-year-old girl does this thing before kai time at home… she shakes her hands and sways and calls. We think she’s doing karakia but that’s not how they do karakia at centre. She has been doing this thing for a while. I asked whaea. She told me that the centre follows Tainui protocol and what she was doing was a karanga to bring everyone to the table. I learnt so much from that simple question… I am learning alongside my daughter. How wonderful is that?

Ako is a sharing of knowledge experience, time, space and energy with others (Edwards 2013)

Learner and the profession – influenced by kaupapa Māori

Mā te mātauranga, ka ū te maramatanga.

Managers and kaimahi in Puna Whakatupu are committed to providing a high-quality education for children. Mātauranga Māori is significant to curriculum development. The philosophy of Ngā Puna Whakatupu clearly identifies that prioritising mātauranga Māori is their key point of difference.

Mātauranga Māori communicates something fundamental about the Māori world, something distinctive and valuable. It encompasses both ancient and modern forms of knowing and enlightenment (ERO 2013).

Kaimahi as professionals are influenced by:

  • Mātauranga Maori in the curriculum.
  • Ako in practice.
  • Leadership and learning.

Children and whānau enjoy a curriculum where te ao Māori perspectives strengthen their role as tangata whenua. Kaimahi design and implement a curriculum that fosters children’s learning and growth. All kaimahi understand that the inclusion of mātauranga Māori in the curriculum acknowledges and protects te reo Māori, includes tikanga Māori and validates Māori knowledge. The use of te reo Māori and iwi dialect is valued across all regions. Most puna draw on the tikanga, kawa and local iwi knowledge to enhance the learning programme. Children and whānau know their roles and responsibilities as tangata whenua.

This image shows children in Maori dress

She is learning what I can’t teach her. She is getting more benefits, understanding her culture, the values, knowing who she is. I know she will have similar values, respect for elders, she will know the marae, to sit, listen and hear karakia.

Te reo Māori… It’s who they are, it’s their heritage... it’s therapeutic, healing… it’s more soothing, like the spiritual component.

Children and whānau experience learning in an environment where everyone’s contribution is respected. Kaimahi apply the concept of ako through the sharing of knowledge, the created experiences and how they interact with others. Children, whānau and kaumatua benefit from intergenerational learning. The presence of kuia enables whānau and children to learn about the ‘old ways’. Children and whānau are involved in learning as both learners and teachers. Kaimahi support children as they develop working theories about the natural, social and physical world. Kaimahi have a caring and respectful approach when working with their children and talking with whānau.

As kaimahi we embrace our own values and beliefs we were brought up in. We are receiving knowledge from koroua and kuia, knowledge that has been handed down and is being woven with whānau and tamariki.

I have the chance to be involved… preparing all our children for a journey, a lifelong journey. Helping our kids to build new skills, show them how to be loved, they see different ways of knowing.

Children and whānau enjoy an environment where professional leaders strive to provide the best possible learning conditions for children and their whānau. Leadership is based on whanaungatanga, mātauranga Māori and ako. Leaders recognise that language, culture and identity are critical to Māori children succeeding as Māori. They value the relationships that are built within and beyond the learning community. Professional leaders influence learning, wellbeing and create a sense of belonging.

My strategy was to build a relationship with the team, trust what they were doing and network with the community.

I had to step back, watch, listen, look and focus on strengths that all kaimahi, whānau and children bring with them to the puna. We learn from one another.

Kotahitanga is an approach we take to our mahi… it’s about collaboration, being able to challenge and find our way around challenges.

I have the chance to be involved… preparing all our children for a journey, a lifelong journey. Helping our kids to build new skills, show them how to be loved, they see different ways of knowing.It’s all about providing a place where being Māori is normal, feeling safe is a given and listening is something we do naturally.

We invest in our children’s education… we need to make sure they receive the best possible opportunities. That’s our commitment and our job.