Ako Panuku: An evaluation of the programme’s effectiveness

Māori teachers often undertake additional formal and informal responsibilities beyond their immediate teaching work. This includes the support of Māori students and assistance with the cultural life of the school. Ako Panuku is a programme funded by the Ministry of Education (the Ministry) for Māori secondary/kura teachers, and implemented by Haemata Ltd. It "supports and builds on the expertise and professionalism of Māori teachers, acknowledging and valuing their contributions to improving outcomes for students."  Translated, Ako Panuku means ‘to learn and teach to the very best of one’s abilities’.

In 2011, the Ministry asked the Education Review Office (ERO) to carry out an evaluation of the current design and implementation of the Ako Panuku programme, outcomes and impacts for Māori teachers and schools, and the strengths and weaknesses of this provision. During August and September 2011 ERO conducted a national online survey for all teachers involved in Ako Panuku. Fifty-three percent of survey respondents said Ako Panuku was highly effective for them. A further 31 percent considered it to be effective. The main findings from the survey included:

  • 84 percent of teachers surveyed believed that participation in Ako Panuku had helped them positively influence Māri student achievement
  • 82 percent of leadership teams were either very supportive or supportive of their participation in Ako Panuku. School leadership teams were not supportive in only three percent of schools
  • 67 percent of those surveyed said that Ako Panuku had helped lower their workload related stress by assisting with planning and prioritising strategies.

In February 2012, as part of this investigation, ERO visited 11 mainstream schools and two kura Māori. ERO spoke to teachers who were Māori and to school leaders, and observed classes taught by teachers who had participated in Ako Panuku. Māori teachers were very positive about their participation in Ako Panuku.

Teachers at the schools/kura ERO visited valued the opportunity to learn in a Māori environment and spoke positively of the quality of facilitators’ pedagogy across all courses. They said that participation in Ako Panuku had strengthened their sense of identity as Māori teachers. It had increased their understanding of the special contribution they could make to raising Māori student achievement and raised their confidence as teachers.

Many teachers identified an increased and improved range of teaching strategies, tools and practices through their participation. While there was some variation in the quality of teaching practice, ERO observed most of the teachers used teaching and learning strategies that were culturally responsive to Māri students and reflected pedagogy currently recognised as effective for all students.

Teachers surveyed and spoken to by ERO were enthusiastic about the useful teaching and learning resources provided by Ako Panuku and their accessibility via the website. ERO observed teachers using these resources in classrooms. Provisionally registered teachers (PRTs) felt very well supported by the PRT programme provided by Ako Panuku.

ERO’s discussions with school leaders indicated that, while they were supportive, there was considerable variability in their understanding of the value and purpose of Ako Panuku. Leaders in schools ERO visited, that already had initiatives in place for raising Māri student achievement, were more likely to demonstrate an understanding of the potential strengths and leadership that Māori staff were able to bring to the whole-school focus. Where there was a large number of Māori staff in a school, they had a much greater impact on the school’s approach to raising Māori student achievement than in schools where there were few. These teachers were confident to share their good practice with all staff, and leaders provided them with opportunities to do so.

Ako Panuku has had positive outcomes for participants and their students. It reflects a kaupapa Māori ethos while providing participants with learning that is firmly anchored in best practice pedagogy. Its impact is evident in teachers’ classrooms. Teachers demonstrate a growth in confidence and empowerment in providing leadership on issues related to Māri students and developing an understanding of tikanga Māri by all staff and students. While ERO acknowledges that the achievement of Māori students is the responsibility of all teachers in a school, such ongoing support for Māori teachers has the potential to have a significant impact on raising student achievement.

Neither teachers nor school leaders were able to identify a specific correlation between improvements in Māori achievement and participation in Ako Panuku. Schools sometimes had data that showed improvement in Māori student achievement, but Ako Panuku was just one of a number of initiatives targeting this goal. School leaders were also generally unable to quantify the impact of Ako Panuku on teaching practice. While they might acknowledge growth in teacher knowledge and skills, they were not able to directly attribute this to Ako Panuku as other teacher development initiatives were also seen as being a factor in this.

Funding for relief teachers to release teachers to attend courses was a significant strength. Without this many teachers believed that school budgetary considerations would have meant that their opportunities for participation would have been limited. However, some teachers saw a tension between participation in the programme and the time required for them to be out of school and away from their students.

While all teachers spoken to valued their participation in Ako Panuku, some also identified barriers to participation and areas that could be considered for further development of the programme. More opportunities for in-classroom support as part of the Ako Panuku programme was seen as one way of addressing this issue. Intermediate teachers, in particular, suggested extending Ako Panuku to primary teachers and tailoring courses to more specifically meet the needs of intermediate and primary Māori teachers. Haemata Ltd have identified working in partnership with iwi as an area they would like to develop further.

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