A multi-agency panel has been set up to help youngsters struggling at school.
Te Kāhui Ako o Te Puke is a community of learning that has brought together the district's 12 schools to share teaching and learning experiences to the benefit of students.
One of its initiatives has been the creation of a learning support panel.
In her role as across school learning support lead, Te Puke Primary school deputy principal Aneta Smith has worked hard to create and strengthen relationships between the area's various health and social service providers and this has formed the basis of the initiative.
''My learning support role started in 2019, term 2,'' she says.
''At the beginning it was about strengthening relationships with other principals and Special Education Needs co-ordinators across our Kāhui Ako.''
In term 4 of 2019, the Ministry of Education rolled out learning support co-ordinator roles with six positions across the Te Puke district.
While five schools each had their own learning support co-ordinator, through the Kāhui Ako network all schools were able to be involved in the process of working towards a structure to assist students through the community of learning.
''Aneta has worked really hard at establishing relationships with all our health providers in the community, especially focusing on our Māori health service providers, and people that provide social services for youth and tamariki,'' says Kāhui Ako lead principal Vicki Hiini.
''In establishing those relationships, we have been able to have communication with schools around how we cater for all of the students in our schools because there's such a diversity, whether it's through learning, behaviour, mental health or different hauora needs that affect the children's ability to learn and succeed.''
The upshot was the creation of the learning support panel that meets every other week and includes teachers, social services, health providers, police, Ministry of Education, Youth Encounter, the DHB as well as a clinician that was appointed over the Christmas period, with a second clinician in the pipeline.
''What happens now is the schools have the ability to make a referral to our Kāhui Ako clinician and she triages our referrals,'' says Vicki. ''Through that process she is able to see if she can manage that case on her own through her experiences and skills.
''If she is unable to, then we bring the case to our panel and from there we talk about who's going to manage the case. We appoint a lead worker, whether it's in the health sector or the education sector, then that agency will liaise with the whānau and the student and work with them to cater for the student's hauora, their wellbeing and also to get them re-engaged in a positive space.''
Vicki says early intervention is key to the initiative's success.
''It's trying to get to the top of the cliff rather than be at the bottom. It's new, the need has always been there, but this is a new approach to managing that and trying to also have a bigger community approach, rather than just the school trying to put on band aids.''
Aneta says the local Kāhui Ako is leading the way nationally with the initiative.
''We've had quite a few other Kāhui Ako who have attended our hui or who have been in contact with us to see how it works here because they are wanting to adopt the same approach.''
Vicki says the issue needed an approach that was more than schools trying to tackle it alone.
''The big thing about this is, it's a community approach. The needs are so wide and varied - children might have learning needs, a speech difficulty, a hearing difficulty, sight issues, a mental health issue or be exposed to trauma or stress. All these things can impact on a child as a learner. As we are becoming more knowledgeable in this area, we are able to provide more of a wraparound support for children.''
Deputy secretary for Sector Enablement and Support, Katrina Casey, says the Kahui Ako is doing a great job to improve the way it supports all children and young people in their area who have learning support needs.
''Its Learning Support Cluster has gathered all the providers across its rohe to feed into discussions at panel meetings, and decide how to best support ākonga in a way that suits them and their whānau,'' she says.