Principals gather in Dunedin

A group of 95 school principals from around New Zealand spend time at Rongo Memorial Rock on the...
A group of 95 school principals from around New Zealand spend time at Rongo Memorial Rock on the first day of their visit to Otago to learn about Ngai Tahu history. PHOTO: LINDA ROBERTSON
School principals from around New Zealand are spending class time in the Dunedin area this week to learn about Ngai Tahu history.

The 95 primary and secondary principals are all part of a national collaboration called Te Ara Hou - a professional development collaboration to help support Maori achievement and cultural responsiveness in schools.

Te Ara Hou is a professional learning and development programme ``by principals for principals'' and focuses on changing education outcomes for Maori students. Its underlying premise is that ``schools won't change unless the principal does.''

Members of Te Ara Hou meet regularly in their local groups and also hold a national wananga once a year.

Waitati School principal Stacey Honeywill was at last year's wananga in the North Island, and decided it would be good to host one in the south.

``I put my hand up and can't believe how quickly the time has come round,'' Ms Honeywill - a member of the local organising committee - said yesterday.

It was ``a real coup'' to have so many principals from throughout New Zealand visiting the Dunedin area ``to learn our story'', she said.

The 95 visitors are spending two nights at Otakou marae, where they were welcomed yesterday with a powhiri before going on a Parihaka tour with Otakou kaumatua Edward Ellison.

Mr Ellison shared the history of the area with them, including Dunedin's connection with exiled Maori prisoners brought south in the 1860s and 1870s as a result of the Northern wars and land confiscation in Taranaki.

Rongo Memorial Rock beside the harbour at Andersons Bay commemorates the imprisonment of the political prisoners, exiled to Te Wai Pounamu to do hard labour.

Last night the principals heard about Ngai Tahu educational strategy from Ngai Tahu educator Nola Tipa before Tahu Potiki, former Ngai Tahu chief executive, shared local history with them.

Today's programme includes kapa haka performances by Broad Bay and Macandrew Bay School groups and a performance by the Bayfield kapa haka group at Otakou marae this evening.

A visit to the Puketeraki marae in Karitane this afternoon is an opportunity for the principals to learn about the Maori history of the Karitane area.

The wananga ends tomorrow with a visit to Toitu Otago Settlers Museum.

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