Chair of Manaiakalani, Pat Snedden believes living in a low socio economic community should not determine your education outcomes.

“Manaiakalani schools in Auckland have parents with an average adult income of $19,000 per annum. We are fundamentally challenging the notion in New Zealand that just because you’re living in a low socio economic community you can’t do well at school,” he said. “We are demonstrating that we can change that dismal picture.”

Walk into Manaiakalani Schools and it is quickly apparent that something special is happening.

The Manaiakalani programme is a cluster of 12 schools in the Tamaki Auckland region, including Pt England School and is achieving accelerated learning through advanced teaching practice using technology and a digitally-enabled learning environment to connect and engage students. Critical to its success is the active role that parents and the local community play and the sense of partnership that drives the cultural change shared across the clustered schools.

Speak to Principal of Pt England School and Manaiakalani Schools cluster convenor, Russell Burt and you’ll come away with a sense of optimism for the future of our lower decile schools.

“I believe this programme has the potential to help solve the real problem of equity of education. It’s about access to transformative digital learning and technology to provide our kids with the opportunity. It’s about sustained involvement of parents and the community to lift their expectations and approach to their own families,” he said. “It’s also about equipping our kids with the education they need today to compete for tomorrow’s jobs.”

NEXT Foundation will fund Manaiakalani Outreach to support five clusters of schools in some of New Zealand’s lowest socio economic communities including Kaikohe in Northland , Papakura and Mt Roskill in Auckland, Hornby in Christchurch and the West Coast of the South Island. Manaiakalani Outreach will make it possible for over 8,500 learners throughout New Zealand to experience accelerated learning outcomes. The Manaiakalani Outreach programme will focus on learners from these lower-decile schools across New Zealand, focusing on a shared pedagogical understanding described as ‘Learn, Create, Share’ and using a digital learning environment and their community to accelerate learning outcomes for their students.

“We have learning from 8 years of working with schools in Tamaki that is enabling us to broaden our scope and go to schools that are struggling with all that comes with a community at subsistence level and taking them to a position where they can say, hand on heart, we’re doing really well for our kids and not just looking after their pastoral care but also a level of achievement that we can all be proud of,” said Snedden.

Professor Stuart McNaughton from the Woolf Fisher Research Centre at the University of Auckland has been evaluating the Manaiakalani programme for the last three years. Collecting observations and data, the researchers have been instrumental in the analysis and development of the programme. NCEA Level 2 success rates have risen from 26% to beyond 70% in three years of the programme at Tamaki College. At primary level there have been significant shifts in writing and student engagement levels. The programme is evidence based, innovative and proven.

“We have been privileged from the start to work with Education researchers at the University of Auckland to learn from their evaluations and analysis of information and data,” said Burt. “A third eye to observe classroom interaction and behaviour, test our data and feedback on big ticket issues has improved every aspect of the school process and connection.”

NEXT Foundation will fund a further extension of the Woolf Fisher evaluation to Manaiakalani Outreach.

Transformational in its potential to be nationally scaled, Manaiakalani Outreach follows the community of schools approach that is currently being introduced by the Ministry of Education in its Investing in Educational Success (“IES”) programme. IES is intended to strengthen collaboration between principals, teachers and schools in order to raise student achievement, specifically in those students who aren’t doing well. And, too many of those students are Māori and Pasifika children who continue to be under-served by the system.

“The Manaiakalani methodology is successful because it gives school students the opportunity to learn through interconnectedness, and builds their capability in today’s digital tools, while supporting a community of school clusters and their teachers with resources for learning,” he said. “Combine these factors with binding parents to their child’s learning and the entire community benefits. All boats will rise in a rising tide,” he said.

Pat Snedden is Chair of the Manaiakalani Education Trust that supports the Manaiakalani cluster of schools in Tamaki and the Manaiakalani Outreach programme.

Russell Burt is Principal of Point England School and convenor of the Manaiakalani Cluster of the 12 schools in the programme.