Kāhui Ako o Kaipara

Vanessa Paki rāua kō Ngawai Haitana-Tuhoro, Tātai Angitu, Massey University

This article reports on the initial findings from four early childhood services and six primary schools participating in Kāhui Ako o Kaipara. The aim of Kāhui Ako o Kaipara is to support and strengthen early learning practice through the provision of professional learning, development, and design of their local curriculum, including common languages and approaches which recognise tamariki transitions between early childhood and primary. Qualitative data through online cluster wānanga is analysed to highlight the emerging developments undertaken by early childhood and primary school teachers in developing a shared vision for cross-sector transitional pathways.

In 2021, Tātai Angitu secured the contract to work with Kāhui Ako o Kaipara (2021-2022) which is a SELO 3 (Strengthening Early Learning Opportunities) programme funded by the Ministry of Education. Kāhui Ako is the partnership between a group of education services and training providers that form around tamariki learning pathways and work together to help tamariki achieve their potential.  The aim of Kāhui Ako o Kaipara is to support early childhood and primary schools to play an active role in their local Kāhui Ako, identifying and working towards achievement objectives that supports enhanced outcomes for tamariki, whānau, and their communities.

The delivery of Kāhui Ako o Kaipara is a Hybrid model to include in-service individual visits and cluster wānanga. The delivery model can also be fully online to meet the needs of our communities as a response to the COVID pandemic. There is an online platform used to share and collaborate across sectors and within each service throughout the duration of the programme for ongoing support. 

Phases of Kāhui Ako o Kaipara PLD

Phase One: Shared vision for learner transitionPhase Two: Effective Curriculum PracticesPhase Three: Local curriculum
This phase begins with the collaboration of a shared vision for learner transitions through a whānau lens. Kāhui Ako o Kaipara will collaborate, collect, and collate whānau, hapū, iwi and community voice within the Kāhui o Kaipara as an inquiry approach, which will support the co-construction of transitional pathways for learners in Kāhui o Kaipara.In this phase of work, we examine our pedagogy and how we model and interpret our foundational curriculum documents Te Whāriki and New Zealand Curriculum and where our interpretations connect and the relationship between them.

The last phase moves into the importance of relationships with mana whenua transitioning through a tangata whenua lens and how they can be interpreted into local curriculum planning, teaching, and learning. The journey into cultural capabilities in this phase sets out the foundation for sustained opportunities for Kāhui Ako o Kaipara into the future.


Research tells us that a successful start to school is linked to later positive educational and social outcomes, recognising the complex interplay of personal and environmental features that help to shape transition experiences (Bronfenbrenner & Morris, 1997; Sameroff, 1975; Peters, 2010). We all benefit when tamariki and whānau view transition as a positive encounter where their stories and aspirations for education is regarded as valuable, relevant, and attainable. We also know that the transition to school is successful when tamariki and whānau report a sense of belonging.​ But sometimes making a transition often involves meeting difference and unfamiliar territory (Ackesjö, 2013). This difference is not necessarily problematic as some discontinuity is a basis for learning; some what the next situation to be different and look forward to new achievements and where this difference of learning can be seen as a transition to manage change and build resilience. However, difficulties arise when the challenges can be disconnected, where opportunities for partnership and understanding into the new setting of possibilities are not taken up.

The focused on developing a shared vision for learner transitions and the engagement from each setting to share their current ‘state of play’ around transitions in Kāhui Ako o Kaipara reinforced the importance that “…almost any child is at risk of making a poor or less successful transition if their individual characteristics are incompatible with features of the environment they encounter” (Peter, 2004, p.2).     Teacher’s experiences and knowledge of time, place, and culture positioned the diverse richness in context and histories from each individual setting to hearing about their current social realties, educational practices and challenges, and future possibilities. Teachers also spoke about a shift in discourse to a whānau lens for transitional pathways in particularly on the significance of Māori values, practices and ‘culturally constructed’ lived eperiences’ (Hohepa & Paki, 2017). Even though similar transitional practices between both sectors were highlighted, more work and understanding between the two curriculums, assessments and pedagogies for sustained transitions emerged. Another key finding from this phase reinforced the importance for building sustained relationships with whanau, hapū, iwi and their communities to include in their shared vision. The koha (gift) here is that adjustments to context and strategies that draw from cross-sector and cross-cultural understandings to support more positive experiences will play a critical component to developing a shared vision.

From the discussion of shared vision, the next part of this phase moved to how Kāhui Ako o Kaipara will collaborate, collect, and collate whānau, hapū, iwi and community voices into an inquiry approach, and to support the co-construction of transitional pathways for learners throughout the duration of the programme. In mixed sector discussion groups, teachers were asked to discuss what key aspects are important for effective transition to take place? Teachers highlighted the following key points:

The final work for this phase asked teachers to identify which key aspects about transition will their service further develop as an inquiry? For this exercise, each early childhood service was put into their own focus group with one group to include all primary school teachers (smaller group) as a funnel to capturing the bigger picture from the collective discussions to now bringing it back to their own service and making a difference. In this exercise, transitional pathways for Kāhui Ako o Kaipara highlighted a reflective nature in understanding each context and knowing their stories to developing their initial inquiry. Below are some of their initial focus areas and feedback from each service that will be further explored in phase two to their designing of a culturally responsive and local curriculum based on learning priorities and aspirations for tamariki and whānau in their unique setting.

Early Childhood Service #1
“Be more connected with schools due to COVID. To play with a range of different resources from school to become familiar with their new place.”

Early Childhood Service #2
“More visits with children, more telephone and zooms with tamariki and whānau to connect. We thought about portfolios for tamariki to take to schools to understand the child’s connection. We talked about getting back into school visits and to invite teachers into our centres.”

Early Childhood Service #3
“We feed into a lot of schools with new staff and what we know about the schools and what they know about us is something we would like to capitalise on. A key point was, to let schools know who we are and what the schools are like for each school to support tamariki and whānau. Story Park and Educare could be another way of sharing information to schools.”

All Primary Schools
“We talked about building and maintained relationships, realising that staff changes are happening. We also talked about anxiety with transition and so reciprocal understand between the two sectors is critical and wanting to know more about Te Whāriki and vice versa for ECE settings. Social competence is another aspect of importance for continuity. It’s all about reciprocal understandings. Portfolios would be better if shared before their transition but also including a whānau story.”

Further data captured in their online chat rooms for this exercise identified that their inquiry would also consider and:

  • Affirm the whānau and their language, culture, and identity.
  • Build on the learning and learning experiences that the child brings with them.
  • Foster a child’ relationship with kaiako and other tamariki.
  • Consider the ‘whole’ child, their family, whānau and wider community.
  • Enable kaiako in early childhood and primary to ‘speak the same language’ in relation to each child and cross sector partnership.
  • Teachers to be supported of each other in each sector and across each sector.
  • Explore relevant and similar approaches to meet the needs of each child and their whānau.
  • Minimise tamariki and whānau stress related to transition through respectful and trusting relationships.

How to, who will and what for in this last exercise highlighted for the group that learning is a journey that begins before birth and continues throughout life. The exploration and discussion between curriculums (see below) provided opportunities for teachers to think about and consider the relationships at play between the curriculums. Teachers spoke about the importance of supporting tamariki by affirming their identity and culture, connecting with, and building on their funds of knowledge and having positive expectations for their learning and wellbeing (Ardern, 2019; Cram, 2014). For Kāhui Ako o Kaipara, we will continue to work together and understand how Te Whāriki, the New Zealand Curriculum and Te Marautanga o Aotearoa all have a similar vision in this programme of our mahi as we move into Phase Two.

A Similar Vision

Te Whāriki aspires for children to be competent and confident learners and communicators, healthy in mind, body, and spirit, secure in their sense of belonging and in the knowledge that they make a valued contribution to society.

The New Zealand Curriculum, a curriculum for English-medium schooling has a vision for young people who are confident, connected, actively involved, lifelong learners and who in their school years will continue to develop the values knowledge and competencies that will enable them to live full and satisfying lives.

Te Marautanga o Aotearoa, aspires to develop successful learners, who will grow as competent and confident learners, effective communicators in the Māori world, healthy in mind, body, and soul and secure in their identity and sense of belonging. They will have the skills and knowledge to participant in and contribute to Māori society and the wider community.

Working across educational sectors has emphasised the importance of building a shared vision for learner transitions in Kāhui Ako o Kaipara. The collective understanding in this first phase of the programme identified diverse principles of educational entitlements where shared values, practices, aspirations, and opportunities is a dynamic process for continuity and change that also includes personal values, and values associated with professional and cultural bodies of knowledge. Phase two of this programme shifts to teaching practices, how we model and interpret our curriculum documents, and where our interpretations and the relationship between each curriculum connect.

On behalf of Tātai Angitu, we would like to acknowledge Kāhui Ako o Kaipara and thank all our teachers for their commitment and participation in this programme. Our photo below captures some of our wonderful teachers from Kāhui Ako o Kaipara where their consent was given.

Ackesjö, H. (2013). Transitions–times of reconstructions. International Journal of Transitions in Childhood, 6, 16-27.

Ardern, J. (2019). Child and youth wellbeing strategy – Interview. Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. Te Tari o Te Pirimia me te Komiti Matua. Retrieved from:

Bronfenbrenner, U. & Morris, P. A. (1997). The ecology of developmental processes. In W.Damon & R. M. Lerner (Eds.)  Handbook of child psychology: Vol. 1. Theoretical models of human development (5th ed.) (pp. 993-1029). New York: John Wiley.

Cram, F. (2014). Measuring Māori wellbeing: A commentary. MAI Journal, 3(1), Retrieved from: journal/mai-journal-2014-volume-3-issue-1

Hohepa, M., & Paki, V. (2017). Māori medium education and transition to school. In Pedagogies of Educational Transitions (pp. 95-111). Springer, Cham.

Peters, S. (2004). ” Crossing the border”: An interpretive study of children making the transition to school (Doctoral dissertation, The University of Waikato).

Peters, S. (2010). Literature review: Transition from early childhood education to school. Report commissioned by the Ministry of Education. Wellington: Ministry of Education.

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