Māori succeeding as Māori

Published: 04 Sep 2017
Māori student achievement
Evaluation indicators
Improvement in Action Te Ahu Whakamua


“Once Māori feel safe and comfortable in the environment they can really do anything.”

A school principal talks about how he works with his school community to develop an environment where Māori learners are supported and can succeed as Māori. Māori parents talk about their own and their sons’ experiences at this school and a senior Māori student talks about how Māori feel safe, are acknowledged and set up for success.

Key messages:

  • For schools and systems to better serve Māori students there must be deliberate actions to effect change
  • “There is no one ‘right way’, there are lots of right ways”
  • Cultural relationships are observed, understood and respected
  • Teacher positioning has shifted together with a deeper sense of knowing individual learners and their potential
  • Pathways to achievement are progressive and made visible to learners
  • “Now it feels normal, it feels as if this is just how we are here”


Things to think about:

  • How do your Māori students and their whānau view the school environment?
  • How do you know?


The evaluation indicators this video illustrates

  • Domain 2: Leadership for equity and excellence
    • Evaluation indicator:
      • Leadership ensures an orderly and supportive environment that is conducive to student learning and wellbeing



This video is part of a series

This video is part of the series Improvement in Action Te Ahu Whakamua. We created this series to inspire schools with examples of success in action. These examples highlight the benefits of fulfilling the evaluation indicators we use to review schools.

Remote video URL

(The video opens on a man sitting against a wooden wall, facing the camera. Text on the bottom of the screen reads, “Chris Grinter, Principal, Rotorua Boys’ High School.

As he says ‘school’ the video changes to show the exterior of a large, white school building with a red roof. Letters above the entranceway read, “AD ASTRA PER ASPERA”.

As he says ‘finding’ the video shows a boy in a backpack, holding a skateboard, walking across a parking lot. This is followed by a shot of a large group of boys in school uniforms walking together. A man points, directing a group of adults somewhere. The camera then pans across a crowd of boys in uniform sitting on the ground outside, while in the background adults find their seats. )


I can remember a time in this school when finding a good group of Māori prefects was a real challenge for the system or a time when the number of Māori crossing the stage at prize-giving to receive academic rewards was nothing like it looks today.


(The video returns to Chris Grinter looking into the camera, before showing him in a suit and sunglasses speaking at a podium. Older students in blazers sit behind him.)


And sure, as the percentage of Māori has increased in our school, that has become easier.


(The camera shows a crowd of boys in uniforms watching on before returning to Chris at the podium. We can hear clapping softly in the background.)


But now it's self-fulfilling.  These boys set the standard.


(We are back at the crowd of boys. A man holds a child up on his shoulders.)


And the momentum and energy committed to that is such that it takes others with them.


(The video returns to Chris Grinter looking into the camera.)


It is deliberate. It has to be.


(We now see a close-up of a picture book telling the story of a māori legend as someone flips through it. The camera then shows a book about rugby, then pans up to show the student reading it before showing a classroom full of boys all reading books. We then briefly return to Chris Grinter before returning to the classroom where the boys are reading.)


If things were to improve for young Māori learners, schools and systems have to change. That won't just happen randomly.  That has to be constructed.


(A woman sits in a chair against a textured white wall, speaking to the camera. Text on the bottom of the screen reads, “Justine Gloyne, Parent, Rotorua Boys’ High School”.)


The Board of Trustees and the people in there work very hard to get their ideas across to the principal.


(Her voiceover continues as the video changes to show a group of adults greeting each other. They shake hands and hongi. The camera then pans across the students sitting on the ground nearby before returning to the adults. )


And he's an experienced sort of fellow, who sees the greatness in people, I believe. He is very open to, how else can this be done? There's no right way. There's lots of right ways.


(We return to Justine Gloyne.)


He really does give the trustees a voice. And then that transfers to what happens in the school.


(The voiceover changes to Chris Grinter’s voice. At the school a man in tradition Māori clothing performs with a taiaha as a large crowd of students in uniform look on. We briefly see Chris talking to the camera before returning outside, where three men in tradition Māori clothing lead a group of older students in a hāka.)


As our awareness of what makes a difference, in terms of young Māori succeeding as Māori, has increased, we've been very overt and deliberate about steadily building, layer upon layer, with tikanga and with protocols and ceremonies that endorse and enhance the place and presence of Māori students within the school. And now, it feels normal.


(The hāka ends and a crowd of the students while were watching begin to move towards the speakers area to take their seats.)


It feels as if this is just how we are here. We formally welcome new students with a powhiri. And so it's the start of a five-year journey for them.


(The camera now shows a teenage boy in a school uniform standing in front of a wooden door. Text on the bottom of the screen identifies him as “Rawiri Manley, Head Boy, Rotorua Boys’ High School”. He speaks into the camera. As he mentions the pōwhiri we see a man in traditional Māori clothing performing.)


I can remember my first day clearly coming to some place where they do a powhiri for you, where koroua and rangatira speak on the pae on your first day.


(A large group of students in uniform walk slowly as they watch a woman call out in welcome as part of the pōwhiri.)


To me, that's a warm feeling, because I've become familiar with that kind of process throughout my life, and to me, that felt inviting. It helped in terms of settling me in.


(Justine Gloyne’s voiceover returns, and we briefly see her speaking into the camera before returning to the pōwhiri. The students who were previously doing the hāka file out. The camera then returns to Justine, then to the students sitting on the ground.)


It was a genuine welcome. They also got to listen to some really good whai kōrero what's happening with other kids, and where they come from. And so they get to see and hear all of these things all wrapped up in that powhiri.

I just watch my son sit on the tarmac and think: wow, when you're Year 9, you get watch everyone else sit on seats, it was hot and they're sweating in their uniforms at that stage.


(The camera pans across the boys, who are watching the older student perform a hāka.)


They look up at the senior boys, with all the shiny things on their lapels, and that's what I want my son to aspire to and ask himself: how do you get there?


(A woman in front of a wooden panel wall speaks into the camera. Text across the bottom of the screen reads, “Mercia-Dawn Yates, Parent, Rotorua Boys’ High School”. The camera shows her briefly before returning to the boys at the pōwhiri.)


This has been a school of choice for many Māori parents, because they want their sons to come to a school where they feel as though they belong.


(We hear a man speak in voiceover. At the pōwhiri a man in a suit holds a taiaha as he calls out.)


It's not because of one particular teacher or area of the school, it's because of the whole school.


(We now see the man speaking, who was holding the taiaha at the pōwhiri. Text along the bottom of the screen reads,”Kimiora Webster, H.O.D. Māori, Rotorua Boys’ High School”.)


The wairua from the school gets instilled into every student.


(We briefly return to Justine Gloyne. Her voiceover continues as the video again shows Kimiora Webster with the taiaha at the pōwhiri.)


The boys see that these senior people, that teach me and see me everyday, they're very respectful of this thing we call Māori culture.


(In a classroom several boys in uniforms sit at a table, books open in front of them. One boy speaks passionately as the other boys listen intently.


The boys next to me, they're passionate about who they are. And it's given it mana.


(The boys at the table talk amongst themselves.)


And then, just by doing that, they've give themselves mana. So there's a real integrity. It is quite a beautiful thing when it's working, and you see that every boy is supported.


(The camera briefly returns to Justine before showing a classroom where a teacher talks with a student. We then see a hallway where a student and a teacher walk together. Then students working in a classroom.)


I've noticed the difference in staff, at Rotorua Boys' High School, over the many years, and their ability to intimately know their learners.


(The teacher says something and a boy raises his hand.)


That's been transformational.


(We return to the classroom where a teacher speaks with a student. Chris Grinter speaks in voiceover before the camera returns to show him speaking into it.)


We have had to break away from that traditional attitude that: I have taught these boys what they need to know to pass this assessment.


(A group of students in parkas leave the school grounds together. We then see some students playing basketball outside a classroom. When he says “well” the camera briefly returns to Chris speaking into the camera, before showing him outside the school. He wears sunglasses and speaks with Rawiri Manley, although we cannot hear what they are saying.)


I've talked to staff about not falling into that defensive attitude that: well, you've had the opportunity, and you've spurned that opportunity or not-- rather, see our boys as being worth that further opportunity, being worth that further piece of encouragement, and not letting them opt-out with their feet.


(We briefly return to Chris Grinter indoors before showing him outside with Rawiri again.)


And, in this vulnerable teenage period in their life, these young people need adults, who will constantly and consistently and gently encourage them to do what's required to open the next door.


(The video briefly shows Mercia-Dawn Yates speaking to the camera before we see a teacher with students in a classroom. It zooms in on a piece of paper a student is holding with the title “Geothermal Energy”.)


I loved observing my son flying alongside his teachers as they learnt more and more about him. I certainly got the fact that the teachers bought in to knowing who my son was.


(Outdoors a teacher and a student, both in school uniform parkas, walk together through the school.)


It equipped him and enabled him to become a better student along the way. And it equipped him to ask the necessary questions.


(Rawiri speaks in voiceover.)


They've provided support around the cultural aspects, like kapa haka.


(We once again see him speaking into the camera.)


They really acknowledge those kind of things around our school, and as Māori, it makes us proud.


(Returning the to pōwhiri, the camera pans across the crowd of students. The younger students watch the older boys perform a hāka.)


They praise Māori for being Māori and achieving as Māori. So I think they've created an environment where Māori feel safe.


(The camera returns to Rawiri, then back to the pōwhiri.)


Once Māori feel safe and comfortable in the environment, they can really do anything-- that goes into achieving in all arenas.


(Chris Grinter is back speaking to the camera.)


Our boys, now, really do embrace achievement.


(A group of boys in uniform wearing backpacks walk towards a classroom, backs turned to the camera. Next, a group of boys father outside a classroom.)


I think NCEA, for all its critics, has really helped, in many ways, because it's chunked education, and education hasn't always been like that.


(We briefly return to Chris before the camera shows a school library. Four boys sit around a table reading books. As Chris’ voiceover continues the camera closes-up on the boys faces as they talk amongst themselves.)


Young Māori men like competing with the system and gathering in those credits and then being given an opportunity to tweak their work and maybe lift it from an Achieve to a Merit, or Merit to Excellence.


(Chris Grinter once again speaks into the camera.)


Our boys, at any point in time, would be able to tell you how many credits they're on, how many they have at Excellence and Merit, and how many they need, and where they're going to come from.