Whānau connections: What? How? Why? So What? Now What? The importance of whanaungatanga at HPSS.

koru fern maori nature photos lucy g-11

1. (noun) relationship, kinship, sense of family connection – a relationship through shared experiences and working together which provides people with a sense of belonging. It develops as a result of kinship rights and obligations, which also serve to strengthen each member of the kin group. It also extends to others to whom one develops a close familial, friendship or reciprocal relationship.
Kōrero ai ngā whakapapa mō te whanaungatanga i waenganui i te ira tangata me te ao (Te Ara 2011). / Whakapapa describe the relationships between humans and nature.

The following post involves reflection and potential action in the ongoing development of whānau connections at Hobsonville Point Secondary School. The importance of whānau connections at HPSS is paramount to the success of our school vision in values and our ability to truly innovate, engage and inspire our learners. Herein lies the importance of defining learner. For us at HPSS a learner is not just the students that attend the school, we see ourselves all as learners…The Senior leadership team, the teaching staff, the support staff and potentially the whānau/ family and wider community. We have already kick started the development of these connections. Therefore it is important to take stock of where we are at and where to now?

I would like to use some basic reflective questions to show this…

What is our take on Whānau connections?

To ensure that we have whanaungatanga in action (as defined at the top of the post), it is important that we involve the whānau on many levels across our school community. To do this we also see the whānau as learners. In education a strong aspect of power relations at play and to be considered seriously is the “history that we are tied to”. We must recognise in all schools, but even more so at a school breaking silos, showing connections in learning and doing things in a very different way, that we all bring our own perceptions of what education is and should be. Not only do our learners bring their history, culture, influences and experiences with them. So too do teachers and whānau. It is therefore imperative that whānau are part of the dialogue that occurs around the learning of their children/dependants.

How have we tried to achieve this so far?

We have attempted to engage whānau on many levels and here is a few examples…

1. From the get go, the Senior Leadership team of Maurie, Lea, Claire and Di played an important part in introducing whānau to learning at HPSS. With individual meetings with the whānau and children on enrolment at HPSS. Also with community evenings/information evenings to keep the community in the loop along the way. Involving the what? How? Why? of learning here and keeping things open and transparent from the get go. The SLT also gathered learner and whānau voice on hopes and aspirations for their time at HPSS and beyond.

2. On-going whole school communication is continuing in newsletters, emails from school, keeping whānau up to date of up and coming events and points to note. Also, Maurie has ensured ongoing links to reading for whānau are a part of these newsletters, to provoke what it is to shift education and innovate.

3. We held an orientation day, where learners were introduced to their staff, communities, and different aspects of the HPSS curriculum. The learners prepared food in a mini project activity, for their whānau who came in that evening. Also meeting, coaches, communities and with visuals and displays of the HPSS curriculum in action.

4. Furthermore, we had an awesome school and community event on Waitangi Day, organised by the amazing Sarah Wakeford who is in charge of big projects and partnerships at the school, working alongside Sharon Afu (Deputy Principal at the Primary). The two schools worked closely alongside each other, involving learners and their whānau across the day. Read more here… https://sallyhart72.wordpress.com/2014/02/07/ma-pango-ma-whero-ka-oti-te-mahi-with-black-and-with-red-the-work-is-completed/

5. Acknowledgement of my communities in our school learning model is important to note. See more about these three aspects:
Whenua, on this post here… https://sallyhart72.wordpress.com/2013/12/04/ma-te-whakaaro-kotahi-ka-ora-ai-the-cohesion-of-perspectives-will-strengthen-the-kaupapa/


6. In addition, we have our hubs, influenced by the advisory model of big picture schools. One coach, guide on the side, who is the main point of contact with whānau. The coach has had regular contact with whānau in a variety of ways. Email contact home has occurred fortnightly, with information about learner pathways, goals, how they are going and more…See here for more details on our coach role…https://sallyhart72.wordpress.com/2013/12/04/ma-te-whakaaro-kotahi-ka-ora-ai-the-cohesion-of-perspectives-will-strengthen-the-kaupapa/

7. HPSS also had the opening of the school and the open day where whānau and community were invited and attended. Again opening the doors and strengthening the connections.

8. We have held a parent information evening that was a huge success. Taking parents through stations of learning and engaging them in the aspects of the HPSS curriculum. With hands on activities, information to support their learning around the school model and question and answer time. This was extremely beneficial in helping parents to also shift their understanding of and allowing them to engage in the way that we are doing things here.

9. IEMs (Individual Education Meetings)
These have been held at the end of the term. A type of student lead conferencing, allowing the learners to bring where they are at, what they have learnt and where to now, to the table. Evidencing the learning, but leading the way…informing parents/whānau rather than being reported on. See more details on IEMs in on-going work here that Megan has lead…http://mrsmeganpeterson.wordpress.com/2014/04/22/individual-education-meetings/

10. We have also looked to gather data from our whānau, further connections with the whānau to ensure we are engaging them in their child’s learning. Here is a copy of the information we collected. https://docs.google.com/a/hobsonvillepoint.school.nz/forms/d/1p9y0wKwjJNhFlp4-_jpyTnHXlHyt5BFVb3cqNFuRE0U/viewform

Why are whānau connections so important?

The importance of creating educationally powerful
connections with family, whànau, and
communities is an extremely important component of: School Leadership and Student Outcomes: Identifying What Works and Why Best Evidence Synthesis Developed by Viviane Robinson, Margie Hohepa, Claire Lloyd [The University of Auckland] in 2009.

Synthesising the data to look closely at answering…

• What kinds of connections make the biggest difference?
• How can school leaders build educationally powerful connections with families, whànau,
and communities?

Here is a summary of the data that answers this…

Screen Shot 2014-04-27 at 2.53.16 PM

Equally as important as the research, we hold strong to our school values of connectedness, collaboration, innovation, inquiry and excellence. In doing so connectedness and collaboration is not just with the learner in mind, also with the teachers as learners and the whānau as learners.
This is why we are engaging whānau and will continue to develop this with our values in mind. Always coming back to the why?

So what has been the outcome so far?

Anecdotal evidence and feedback suggests that the powerful partnerships we are forming with whānau at HPSS, have already had a positive impact on learning and the engagement in and with the school community has had an excellent start, in just one term at HPSS. Parents have really enjoyed the fortnightly contact home form the learning coach and also great feedback was received in relation to Orientation day, Waitangi Day, Parent information night and IEMs. This is a great start and I look forward how we develop these relationships further in the future. Ensuring that we are informing and engaging parents in their child’s education, rather than just reporting to. Learner voice has also given us valuable data of the connections we are making at a hub level, with their whole school learning and their feeling of community that we are developing and whanaungatanga at HPSS.

More in line with this shift…

(via EvaluationAssociates ‏@EvaluationAssoc on twitter)

Now what? Where do we go from here?

To ensure the best student outcomes at HPSS we are very aware of the importance of powerful partnerships. We will work towards inclusion of some of the proven ways to do so via research such as the BES.
We will also endeavour to look for innovative ways for furthering this as a community. Ensuring that the powerful partnerships are nurtured to their full potential. This involves whanaungatanga across the whole community. With the Senior Leadership Team in ongoing dialogue with the whānau and community. With Sarah, Pete and their team looking at powerful partnerships with the whānau and beyond with the wider community. With Ros and her focus on culturally responsive pedagogy, which must include whānau connections. With relevant authentic connections being made and action taken with our big projects. With learning coaches and their connections to the whānau.

We want to take a new line of connection with whānau this term, we would like to look to developing the on-going communication with whānau. This can be student lead, involving their own way of driving this… potentially use of social media, such as twitter with hub twitter accounts and blogging, with hub blogs, newsletters or interactive information on apps eg padlets, i-movie, etc.. the potential is endless, we will wait for the learner voice on how we could continue to evolve our whānau connections in a way that each hub sees fit. Allowing for ownership and autonomy. We have excellent role models on this at Hobsonville Point Primary School, The blog written by Amy about how they are using these ideas at the Primary already… http://amymmcc.blogspot.com.au/2014/03/a-peak-inside-hpps.html

Watch this space as we continue to ensure powerful partnerships with whānau at HPSS…

The teacher is of course an artist, but being an artist does not mean that he or she can make the profile…

“The teacher is of course an artist, but being an artist does not mean that he or she can make the profile, can shape the students. What the educator does in teaching is to make it possible for the students to become themselves.”
― Paulo Freire, We Make the Road by Walking: Conversations on Education and Social Change

Paulo Freire

With this in mind, it is important that we (teachers at HPSS), in our focus on student-centric learning and personalisation, use creativity in our use of the learning design model. We do so collaboratively, exploring natural connections found across key concepts. The quote from Freire holds a very important message around guiding, not dictating, not filling empty vessels, but allowing the learner to become themselves. Across the last term, our very first one at HPSS, we have attempted to do this by exploring the key concept of “identity” across the Specialised Learning Modules. I would like to reflect on the learning and guiding that I was involved in across the term. From here, I would like to look forward to the new natural connections we are exploring in the Term Two key concept of “space and place”.

During term one as well as my role as a hub coach and big project guide, I have been involved in two learning modules. The first is a “big module” that I worked alongside SOLO and assessment guru, Megan-see her blog here… http://mrsmeganpeterson.wordpress.com/ and also the Specialised Learning Leader, creativity and inquiry expert Steve-see his blog here… http://stevemouldey.wordpress.com/. Our module was called the Museum of Mihi and the intent of this module was to…explore how people represent themselves and their identity through the artefacts that can represent you.

Key Concept: Identity
Threshold concepts: Identity, Heritage, Creativity, Culture, Engagement
Key Learning Areas: Social sciences, arts, health & physical education
Skills: Movement Skills, Curation, Analysis of Text, Resource Interpretation, Digital Citizenship, Exploring and Interpreting elements, conventions, techniques.

Our development of the module could have been possibly been considered by Friere as being created by artists…but the focus was on guiding through exploration and making sense, then allowing learners to generate and share “themselves” through their “Museum” in their own autonomous way. Learners explored some generic aspects, including their Pepeha, family tree, connections to whenua, own timeline of life events, passions and interests, pathways and possibilities from past, to present and on to future self. They then experienced an awesome day of provocation of possibilities. A day trip to the Auckland Maritime Museum, Auckland Art Gallery and onto the War Memorial Museum. The focus for learners was on the artefacts, the stories, the exhibitions, the curation and was set to provoke and inspire learners on where they could take their own museums. A picture tells a thousand words, so here are some to show the day…

Auckland Maritime Museum

Intro to artefacts and exhibitions at the Maritime Museum
Intro to artefacts and exhibitions at the Maritime Museum
Interactive exhibitions
Interactive exhibitions
Sir Peter Blake, the story from his daughter
Sir Peter Blake, the story from his daughter
Lighting and artefacts
Lighting and artefacts
Voyages, stories to be told
Voyages, stories to be told

Auckland Art Gallery





War Memorial Museum







The day was a great success and provided food for thought in the next phase of the learning journey. Learners set about generating, refining and sharing their “museum of mihi” and many of them put into action aspects of curation, story telling and exhibiting they had learned about on this day. Here are some of the final exhibitions…

Aubrie and her Cultural Heritage Tree
Aubrie and her Cultural Heritage Tree
Antonia and her story of her...
Antonia and her story of her…
Tia and her netball story
Tia and her netball story
Connor and his story through soccer and magnetism
Connor and his story through soccer and magnetism
James and Hamish and their focus on technology
James and Hamish and their focus on technology
Paige, swimming and olympic aspirations
Paige, swimming and olympic aspirations
Paton and her artwork of present, past and future self..
Paton and her artwork of present, past and future self..
Tyalr, Whanagamata, surfing, home and me
Tyalr, Whanagamata, surfing, home and me
Petra and her explore the locker to find my identity exhibition
Petra and her explore the locker to find my identity exhibition
Lola and her environmental focus on trash to fashion
Lola and her environmental focus on trash to fashion
Katherine and her exploration of whenua and whanau
Katherine and her exploration of whenua and whanau
Sheena and her story of butterflies and identity
Sheena and her story of butterflies and identity

After the exhibitions had been shared, learners and their peers, self and peer assessed using awesome SOLO rubrics that Megan had developed to consider and make visible their learning…

SOLO rubric, for self and peer assessment
SOLO rubric, for self and peer assessment

I look forward to using this type of assessment with the learners (as we are heading) next term and into the future. The learning was made visible and was quite easily married up with the levels, showing those who had gone deep with their learning and those whose museums could have been developed further. The rubric was used upfront with the learners and so allowed for development and refining to occur. I believe the module was a huge success and this was confirmed through learner feedback on reflections. Most got to a deep level of thinking, however, there were a few still working at a surface level also.

I also taught a SPIN this term on my own. This was called P.A.S.S (Physical Activity, Sport and Society). While the big module lasts a whole day each week, a SPIN class is 90 mins once a week. The description of the intent of the module was to…explore influences on identity for you, others and society through a variety of sports and physical activities.

Key Concept: Identity
Threshold concepts: Identity, Engagement, Influences
Key Learning Areas:Health & physical education
Skills: Movement Skills, Socio-critical skills, Interpersonal skills, Thinking Skills

In this module while wanting to explore identity, I did not want to take away from working in “the physical”. The start of sessions was used to “explore” influences on identity, then the session worked to “make sense” of the influenecs through practical contexts and finally the debrief set to “focus” the learning. The learning was through practical as opposed to generating an outcome as many other modules did, where creativity was a focus. Influences on identity explored included…passions, interests, inclusion, fair play, socio-economic factors, role models, media, stereotypes etc… On reflection I believe that the learning was surface learning rather than deep as with the big modules. This was caused two fold, time on SPINs and also the number of influences I explored. I do wonder if I did justice to the learning. However, it made more sense to me (my concerns), when Lisa taked to me about how she had similar thoughts and so had limited her focus and gone for more depth, on reflection I feel I should have done this. I believe that Bryce got to a deeper level with his module as his focus was in on “gender and sexuality” in sport so he went deeper. This is a good thing to note and I will definitely consider depth over breadth in the future. The other impact on the depth is that created by the tension in PE between practical and theory. I held firm to the fact I wanted learning through the physical. I could have spent more time on just the theory, however, this does not align with my philosophy and so I need to continue to explore how I keep this as practical as possible, but still allow for depth of learning to occur.

This is an example of some triggers in this module…


Term one was an amazing experience in a school breaking silos, connecting and personalising learning. Full on at times, the hard work involved in ongoing reflection, collaborative planning, responsiveness and student centric learning is so important to our vision and values. I feel proud in the steps we have made as a school community, engaging both learners and their whanau in education and look forward to the up and coming term.

I look forward to my Big Module next term called the MASTER behind the chef…MASTER standing for…
“Mountains, Arithmetic, Science, Through food, Exploration and Rotorua”

Learning objectives: Explore by deconstructing the processes and different perspectives in the nature of science.Focus by synthesising knowledge of maths and science through food.
Key Concept: Place and Space
Threshold concepts: Measurement, ratios, decimals and percentages, fit for purpose, rocks, soil, volcanoes, tectonic plates, water, nature of science
Key Areas of Learning: Mathematics, Science and Food.
Skills: Accurate measuring and estimation, carrying out scientific and mathematics investigations, involving, concepts, knowledge, nature and practice, design skills.

I am teaching this module with the infamous, creative and future focused Danielle from edchatnz-see her blog here… http://missdtheteacher.blogspot.co.nz/ and the amazing and inspiring Pete- see blog here… http://petefoodtech.wordpress.com/2013/11/27/d-is-for-dunce/ watch this space for on-going reflection on here…
I am also teaching a small module with awesome Specialised Learning Leader and another SOLO guru, Lisa. We are teaching “thought in sport”.

Learning objectives: To explore by investigating ‘Thought in Sport’ in a variety of contexts. To test the potential of your mind by applying a range of strategies to improve performance. To reflect on the effectiveness of your performance improvement.
Key Concept: Place and Space
Threshold concepts: Physical Activity, Making meaning, Communication
Key Areas of Learning: English and Helath and Physical Education
Skills: Critical Thinking, Evaluation, Paragraph Writing using PEE structure, motor skill learning

The most exciting thing that has occurred so far is as we began collborative planning our Hobsonville Habits naturally arose out of the planning. We are going to explore… “Purposeful, resilience, collaborative, adventurous and reflective” as habits used in the context of “thought in sport”. Again watch this space for where we proceed here…Back to the teacher as an artist…we need to use our school values and vision to continue to innovate, enagage and inspire…we can be a creative artist…however, we also need to continue placing the learner at the centre to co-construct what their “masterpeice” in life may be, as…

“If the structure does not permit dialogue the structure must be changed”
― Paulo Freire

Mā ngā huruhuru ka rere te manu … It is the feathers that enable the bird to fly


Mā ngā huruhuru ka rere te manu … It is the feathers that enable the bird to fly…

I feel like this is on the nose for our ongoing use of distributed leadership and teaching and learning at Hobsonville Point Secondary School. I also feel like this relates well to the building the plane metaphor that our leader and mentor uses, to describe our ongoing development of our “place” through reflection and action… http://principalpossum.blogspot.co.nz/2014/02/building-airplane-out-of-21st-century.html

We have not got everything right, but we are trying dam hard!!

I feel like we are practicing what we preach, we are shifting education pedagogically as is explicitly intended in our vision and values. This is not always easy, but we are all here to make a difference for our learners and the bigger cause which is … “to create a stimulating, inclusive learning environment which empowers learners to contribute confidently and responsibly in our changing world.” http://www.hobsonvillepoint.school.nz/

I see the whakatauki above really aligning to our school in a two-fold manner. The school can be seen as a “bird” and the feathers are belonging to all of us in the school community. This involves, learners, teachers (also learners), whanau and the wider community. It is how the feathers all align and work together that will allow the bird to fly. This is of course reciprocal as if our learners can fly then so too will the school. If the staff and the whanau can fly, then so too can the learners fly. We can all exemplify the feathers at some level and we can also support and awhi the bird to fly.

Allowing our learners to fly should be what I believe is our evidence that we gather in terms of accountability. This does not mean just the usual achievement in “high stakes assessment”. For learners to fly they must thrive mentally, emotionally, physically, spiritually. This is why their hauora of our learners and our “Hobsonville Habits” are a strong focus in our learning model.

Hobsonville habits

We are currently working through processes of conferencing and assessment that may measure some of these aspects for accountability purposes. This is a difficult thing to get your head around and truly work out why, what and how to measure. The reason this is tricky is that we are doing education differently, we want these processes to align to our school vision and values. Not just to revert to “what we have always done” because it is easy.

We are personalising learning, allowing and empowering student voice throughout our curriculum in three integrated aspects of our curriculum…


Specialised learning Modules

Projects (Big and passion)

This is very different and therefore alignment of curriculum, assessment and pedagogy is always an ongoing concern and point of reflection. We are lucky to have on board Megan http://t.co/9hihlBDiJ7
who has expertise in assessment, assessment for learning and more… she has helped to exemplify and scaffold out processes for gathering evidence of learning, goal setting and feedback. This involves new processes for all and we as staff are constantly learning and shifting what we are doing. With the end goal in sight. Always reflecting on positive student outcomes for all learners. We need to ensure this analogy does not come to fruition for our learners…


We are only in our first term and we do not proclaim to have all the answers and all the models. We are constantly modifying, tweaking through reflection and action. However, we should be happy that we are developing the cohesion, use and lift of our feathers always looking for the learners to fly and hopefully this will also allow the plane that we are building to stay in the air. Sometimes we may need to stop to refuel and pick up new passengers along the way. I hope that the nature of our reflection and action will allow for longevity of our vision and values for future learners. It would be wrong not to try…