Te Tiriti o Waitangi in our schools

By Editor on November 23, 2020 in Te-Tiriti o Waitangi

Was that Participation? Partnership? Protection? Or… Consultation?

School Leaders, Principals and Boards of Trustees, have an obligation to honouring Te Tiriti o Waitangi.

Often, we hear the term ‘consultation’ in Aotearoa New Zealand. This term is used for interactions where iwi are invited to take part – by local and regional councils; government departments; and our education system.

And then what happens?

School principals have an opportunity and obligation to change the narrow view of ‘consultation’ and instead utilise a wider genuine Te Tiriti o Waitangi view – engaging with Te Tiriti o Waitangi principles of participation, partnership, and protection.

The positioning of and language used by the school principal and Board of Trustees sends out clear indicators as to their commitment to advancing the principles of Te Tiriti o Waitangi. As the school principal, the opportunity to influence and guide the Board of Trustees, through education and knowledge of Aotearoa’s history, both pre and post Te Tiriti o Waitangi, has the potential to create a deep and lasting impact on both the individual members of the Board of Trustees and the wider community. The education balance for all students should be based on well informed histories which can only increase the potential for our society in the long term. In aligning Ka Hikitia – Ka Hāpaitia 2020 objectives for education with the school vision, purpose, and action will develop our education system to better support Māori to enjoy and achieve education success as Māori.

Through genuine participation and partnerships with whānau, iwi and hapū, the richness of what our schools offer to our learners is infinite. We have some school principals and Boards of Trustees entering highly valued trusting partnerships with local iwi and hapū. The influence on the students in the school is wide and gives all learners and their whānau a sense of personal identity, wherever their whakapapa connects them to. An example of making a start is to build trusting relationships with parents and whānau of tamariki entering the school every day. You could start within. Consider how to ensure your school is a welcoming and inclusive environment for Māori learners and their whānau, that the school is free from racism, discrimination and stigma in education – as per outcome domains for Te Whānau and Te Tangata.

Cultural capability

Maybe a next step could be to form a small steering group of five or so that can bridge the gap between school and local marae.  Develop a shared understanding and include staff members in the relationship growth. These actions align with Ka Hikitia – Ka Hāpaitia Outcome Domains “Te Whānau” and “Te Tangata.”

Opportunities to engage with kaumātua in the protection of the past and the planning for the future are patiently waiting for our education system to open its ears and listen; open its eyes and see; open its heart and do; open its minds and improve. Examples of how you can demonstrate your commitment as a school community to Te Tiriti o Waitangi include the Board of Trustees (BOT) holding meetings at local marae; mandating iwi representation on the board through explicit BOT policies; and all the way through to a Memorandum of Understanding signed for future protection of the on-going relationship between iwi and the BOT. These actions align with Ka Hikitia – Ka Hāpaitia Outcome Domains “Te Tuakiritanga” – Future of Learning and Working; and “Te Rangitiratanga” – World class inclusive Public Education.

As the school principal, you are in an integral position to shift the current power dynamics within the education system. You can take action and be an effective participant in improvement that is needed for our society and country, living Te Tiriti o Waitangi daily. Schools and education in Aotearoa New Zealand are richly resourced with real and relevant information on what could be done to improve the current picture. I’d really encourage you to read, understand, and implement Ka Hikitia – Ka Hāpaitia with your staff, Board of Trustees and community. All learners benefit from an environment that honours Te Tiriti o Waitangi daily, and they then share the learning both in school and at home to grow a wider understanding, partnership and participation for the protection of our future Aotearoa New Zealand. These actions align with Ka Hikitia – Ka Hāpaitia Outcome Domains “Te Kanorautanga” – Quality Teaching and Leadership.

Te Tiriti o Waitangi as a lived experience, benefits all of our future citizens, influenced by you as our leaders in schools.

Start somewhere. Start with people in your school community and a listening conversation…but be sure you start.


Ka Hikitia – Ka Hāpaitia: https://www.education.govt.nz/our-work/overall-strategies-and-policies/ka-hikitia-ka-hapaitia/ka-hikitia-ka-hapaitia-the-maori-education-strategy/

Further reading:

Education and  Training Act 2020 Te Tiriti o Waitangi objective:

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