Bay school to teach the world

By Anna Ferrick

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Principal Daniel Murfitt, who is off to Qatar on Saturday, says he is honoured to attend the World Innovation Summit for Education. Photo / Duncan Brown
Principal Daniel Murfitt, who is off to Qatar on Saturday, says he is honoured to attend the World Innovation Summit for Education. Photo / Duncan Brown

A local principal will be representing his school on the world stage next week after being selected from hundreds of educators across the country to attend the World Innovation Summit for Education in Qatar.

William Colenso College principal Daniel Murfitt has overseen the integration of Te Kotahitanga, a programme aimed at raising Maori student achievement, into the school since it was funded for the East Coast in 2009.

The programme has been selected as one of six winners for excellence in educational innovation with Mr Murfitt representing the schools that had made the initiative so successful.

It was the brainchild of two University of Waikato professors, Russell Bishop and Dr Mere Berryman, who came up with the idea in 2003. They developed Te Kotahitanga to try to erase the disparities between Maori and non-Maori achievement at school by focusing on interactions in the classroom.

The programme was funded by the Ministry of Education and rolled out in phases across the country, with East Coast schools being included in phase five.

William Colenso College is just one of eight schools that took up the opportunity to test out the programme and Mr Murfitt said it had been extremely successful.

"In the past teachers were never trained, or never told how, to have effective learning relationships, they'd been trained in how to deliver. This initiative focuses on relationship-based learning. If you think about Maori society it's all about connections, where you come from, how you connect. It's important to have dialogue and high expectations and to enable the students to bring who they are into the classroom."

William Colenso, with a roll of 420, comprises about 55 per cent Maori students.

Student Alana Rahui, 16, said teachers would often go above and beyond to make sure everyone was keeping up with the work load. "They want to help you. They encourage you to do well and if you need help they'll come and help you until you succeed. They often take time out of their free time to help us."

Mr Murfitt said the programme did not just benefit Maori students.

"Everybody's achievement has gone up. For us as a school our gap (between Maori and non-Maori achievement) has closed. It's virtually gone but it's not to the detriment of anyone else.

"We had our highest level one and level three results last year since NCEA began. That's because the approach is working for the students and especially the Maori kids."

Te Kotahitanga was nominated to be part of the World Innovation Summit for Education this year and was shortlisted.

Two judges visited the University of Waikato to speak to the programme's directors and developers before making a trip to Hawke's Bay to visit both William Colenso College and Flaxmere College, which also runs the programme.

They spoke to students and staff and observed how classes were run. Impressed by what they saw Te Kotahitanga eventually won one of six awards for excellence in education innovation and the Ministry of Education decided to send Mr Murfitt to the summit along with the programme's developers.

"I was a bit embarrassed when I got the call, it's such an honour," Mr Murfitt said yesterday.

He added it was an exciting opportunity to stand on the world stage with Te Kotahitanga, which also collects a $20,000 prize.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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