Te Muka Here Tangata – The strand that binds people

Published: 18 May 2021
Early learning

To grow our evidence base on the impact of the 2020 Covid-19 Alert level changes on Māori learners, April saw the launch of Te Muka Here Tangata, an ERO case study of eight, low-decile English-medium schools with high populations of Māori students in the Bay of Plenty and East Coast regions.

The research supports work ERO conducted in partnership with the Māori-medium sector for Te Kahu Whakahaumaru, and the Learning in a Covid-19 World series. ERO’s research highlights the challenges, successes, valuable innovations and opportunities for change which emerged in response to the lockdown events of 2020.

Schools, communities and whānau opened their doors

ERO interviewed learners, whānau, leaders and teachers from eight school communities: Kaiti School (Gisborne), Hiruhamara School (Ruatoria), Whangara School (Gisborne), Tolaga Bay Area School (East Coast), Brookfield School (Tauranga), Merivale School (Tauranga School), Gate Pa School (Tauranga School) and Te Akau ki Papamoa School (Tauranga School).

Qualitative data was collected from structured interviews carried out in all of the schools. Of the 129 learners interviewed, 65 were in rūmaki immersion Māori classes. Many leaders and teachers participated, and we also heard from 49 whānau members. The generosity and willingness of the school communities involved to share their stories, has helped build the sector’s collective knowledge of effective distance teaching and learning, with particular focus on supporting Māori to enjoy and achieve education success as Māori.

The research for this case study was conducted by Te Pou Mataaho – ERO’s evaluation and research group Māori and Te Uepū ā-Motu ERO’s national evaluation and review team Māori.

Communities rallied to prioritise learner and whānau wellbeing

We found that whānau wellbeing and learner engagement and progress was well supported during COVID-19 Alert Levels 4 to 2, despite schools facing challenges which included: lack of resources, inadequate access to digital devices and internet connectivity, and greater financial pressure placed on whānau.

A culture of care and moral responsibility underpinned the schools’ actions. Learners and whānau were given hygiene, care and kai packs. Some of the schools had very strong associations with community groups, iwi and hapū, and together they were able to ensure emotional support was available and kai was provided during lockdown.

“Hard packs and kai were available to all of us. There was a  drive-through here for us to come and collect the packs and those without cars got them delivered to their front step. There were daily lunches for the first week as well for us to come and collect.” Whānau voice

Creative curriculum changes kept most learners motivated and maintained tikanga and school values

Learners and their whānau were well informed of what home learning would involve. Many schools were using digital learning as an integral part of their curriculum prior to lockdown. Software applications and apps on mobile phones were invaluable in assuring whānau that staff were available to assist them and keep connected.

Routines for Zoom hui were appreciated by many. All schools factored in regular check-ins to ensure established tikanga like karakia, and school values like manaakitanga and whanaungatanga continued to be enacted.

“Teachers did Zooms twice a week to set up the week of activities and then again at the end of the week. They used Facebook to post videos of how to do stuff and we posted videos or photos of us doing the mahi. We could comment on each other’s work which was great.” Whānau voice

Schools and teachers demonstrated manaakitanga and creativity to respond to whānau and learners with additional needs

Along with whole-class online learning, most schools offered one-to-one options for learners who required or requested this. Some teachers produced creative and motivating learning videos that could be revisited by learners.

Children with additional learning needs were almost always well catered for. Schools provided differentiated hard material packs. Staff regularly had one-to-one Zoom hui with these learners and some schools continued reading recovery programmes digitally.

Whānau became more involved in children’s learning and progress during lockdown

Generally, parents thought learning levels were maintained or progressed. Learners, whānau and teachers all expressed the significant progress made in the key competencies of self-management, communication and participation. All believed that the most significant progress they made was in digital learning.

“We loved the focus on te reo and karakia and mindfulness and meditation – that kept us sane. And the whānau wero of the week kept us connected and motivated as a whanau.” Whānau voice

Read Te Muka Here Tangata –  The strand that binds people | Education Review Office (ero.govt.nz)