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Te Kauhua: Tutor groups and student voice

Filed under: Effective leaders

Tags: Te Kauhua



Anne Brokenshire – Principal, Hillmorton High School

There is a belief that for many students, and particularly students at risk – those who are at risk of not achieving – that they need a significant adult. In order to try and make sure that every student was at least well know by somebody, we'd looked quite a number of years ago at a vertical form. And there are a number of believers of that in the staff.

Ross Paniora – Teacher, Hillmorton High School

We felt that despite all of our intentions, as a whole school there were still some students who weren't engaging, or who were slipping through the cracks. So one of the things that we wanted to do was offer opportunities at a smaller group level. So the four whanau house groups came out of that. And then we moved from forms, form levels, form classes, to our vertical tutor group – and those come directly from those whanau house groups.

Kylie Coulbeck – Te Kauhua Facilitator

The aim of setting up whanau houses and tutor groups were fostering better relationships between staff and students, between school and home. And opportunity for staff to work together in small groups as well. Support one another in terms of pastoral care.

Andrea Kendrew

I think the whole house system has been awesome. I think its been wonderful because, for our oldest girl, she was a Year 13, she was at the end of her school years. And she was having to meet, and associate, and get to know, and build a relationship, with not just her peer group, but Year 9s, Year 10s, Year 11s, Year 12s. And for our Year 9 girl this year, she’s at the other end of the spectrum – she is a Year 9 coming in. And, oh my goodness, there is these big Year 12's and 13's – but is loving it. It feels like she knows someone in the upper end of the school, the older ones. Doesn't feel like she is looked down on; feels like she can go and talk to someone if she needs to, you know. Doesn't want to talk to a teacher, but can go and talk to a Year 12, Year 13.

Ross Paniora

Because there is a small group, and because there is only one or two from the very senior school in each group, you will find that they will step up and take that leadership role. And the best thing about it for me is, a whole lot of Year 9s have a relationship with a wide variety right across the form levels, with the people in their tutor group and vice versa. They are not living in a cocoon, if you like, which is based around their form level.

Patrick Harding – Ngāti Wai / Ngātipuni / Ngāti Porou

I see it as a form of identity. Each student is looking for something when they come to school, there is no question about that. Māori students are no different. It gives them not only options, it gives them the understanding, “If you're Māori, this is what you can do”, “If you are a student, this is what you can do”. This class - the humbleness, and the humility, and the respect that is demanded, is carried on outside of this room, and it’s shown to the teachers.

Anne Brokenshire

One of our goals is around developing leadership and independence. How do you make sure that all of your senior students have leadership opportunities? Well we are giving them the responsibility to care for juniors, and to care for each other. So to me, ethic of care is more than just about teachers – it’s about something that eventually should permeate through the whole school. So it’s about students also caring for students.


There is, like, a good Māori community base in this school, so you kind of know where to go if you want to ask any questions, or need any help with anything. You definitely feel safe in part of that community. We needed something to bring this school closer together, and the whanau houses, on top of the tutor groups, definitely worked. It got everyone more motivated and more involved

When I was Year 9 I used to talk to some Year 13s, and asked how they were doing when they were Year 9, and yeah, just how they were doing. Kind of helped me want to do like they were doing and stuff.

Student Perception of Teachers

If they are passionate about the subject that they are teaching, it just comes... easy to them, and it’s much easier for us.

I guess everyone's perception of a good teacher is they teach you individually I guess, like one on one.

And they care for everyone, not just a couple of top students. They just care for everyone in the class and they want everyone to pass, they want people to do well.

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