For more than ten years a programme has been developed, implemented and monitored that has a proven ability to help teachers work effectively with all students.
Te Kotahitanga was developed by Russel Bishop, Mere Berryman and a team at Waikato University to help teachers become culturally responsive and inclusive. More than 40 schools have used the programme and for those who have sustained it the results have been remarkable. A crude measure is the NCEA results and for some schools student achievement for Level Two NCEA has jumped from around 30 percent to 70 percent success.
The programme is based on an intense and positive process which helps teachers reflect on their practice and listens to student feedback to build constructive classroom relationships. The key has been a schools based facilitator to help sustain the programme in the schools. Some teachers have discovered that their monocultural bias has been invisible to them and that even with the best will in the world they have been marginalising some students.
Te Kotahitanga has been transformative for all parties, so the Government has cut it and is introducing a new programme called “Building on Success” which does include some of the core ideas of Te Kotahitanga but misses out the costly but essential element of a facilitator based in the school. It will be cheaper but less effective, which is false economy given the Government’s supposed commitment to Maori and Pasifika students who benefit the most from the programme.
I have visited the initiators of Te Kotahitanga and read their research. The Greens support this critical intervention. We think investing in kura kaupapa Maori and Te Kotahitanga are two vital ways to really build on success, not Charter Schools or cuts to the key elements of a programme that works.