Our Chair shares the story of how Taitokerau Education Trust came to be, and the people and organisations that worked together to make a difference for Whangarei and Taitokerau.
How and why did you come to be involved with Taitokerau Education Trust?
I became involved with the Taitokerau Education Trust through my role as Chair of Northpower Fibre. We were rolling out Ultra Fast Broadband in Whangarei, which was the first city in NZ to be fully connected. While the company had done a fantastic job in the roll out, it became evident that there was an opportunity to use this to make a special difference for Whangarei and for Taitokerau.
The company decided to hold a seminar for the leaders of Whangarei and surrounding areas to canvas just how the community could work together to benefit from this opportunity. This was held in July 2012 and attended by a large number of community leaders. The outcomes sought were community leadership, agreed actions to stimulate demand, and commitment from the participants. The speakers were from a range of organisations in both Northland and from elsewhere, all of whom had been instrumental in using digital solutions to create better outcomes in education, health and commerce; for different age groups and cultures. The overwhelming agreement of the seminar participants was that, as a community, we should focus on education.
I had become aware, during my time in an earlier governance role, of the significant educational outcomes being achieved in Tamaki in Auckland, originating from Russell Burt, the Principal of Point England School, and his wife Dorothy. The Manaiakalani Trust was involved with the funding and support of all of the schools and its Executive Chair, Pat Snedden, with typical generosity of spirit, offered the Trust’s IP to assist us in any way.
We needed to do our own research to determine the relevance of the Manaiakalani Programme in Taitokerau, and Nikki and Peter Davies Colley generously came up with the funding for us to employ Rangimarie Price to undertake this research. Rangimarie then became the first Executive Officer for the Trust when it was formed in 2014. She is now our Deputy Chair, and Liz Cassidy-Nelson is our highly capable Executive Officer.
Darren Mason, the CE of Northpower Fibre, who had been supporting this process to date, had worked extensively with Leanne Otene, the Principal of Manaia View School. She and fellow Principals from six Whangarei schools arranged a visit to Point England to see the programme in action. In the subsequent year, 2015, the schools of the Te Puawai Cluster – Manaia View, Whangarei Intermediate, Whau Valley, Te Kura o Otangarei, Tikipunga High School and Hikurangi Primary – all ran their own pilot. This was so successful that the full digital programme was put into place in 2016.
The programme is now flourishing and we are looking to grow beyond the initial six schools. Manaiakalani is also in the north with an Outreach initiative with the Kaikohekohe cluster of schools in the central north and a further initiative in the Far North. The further growth will be reliant upon the willingness of school communities to get involved, together with the good will and support of the whole community and, of course, the people of talent and passion who support the programme. Hayley Reid, the Principal of Whangarei Intermediate, coordinates the cluster in its interaction with the Trust, and Beth Lamb, the PD guru, has been working with teachers in all of the schools to change the pedagogy and educate them in digital and flipped learning. This is where the real leaders are.
What is your role or relationship with the trust?
I am the Chair.
Are there any particular highlights or achievements of the trust that stand out to you?
The greatest highlight has been the significant increase in educational achievement in writing achieved by the children, and their accelerated learning capability in maths. This research, undertaken by the Woolf Fisher Research Centre at Auckland University is ongoing but the above achievements relate to the end of 2017.
The other highlight has been that this is a wonderful example of a community looking after its own. There are too many companies, organisations and individuals to name but we should do this at some stage. Together, the Whangarei community, its corporates and not for profits, the philanthropic organisations and, of course, the schools have supported and funded this initiative.
What would you say to parents who are considering enrolling their child in the Digital Immersion Programme?
Embrace the opportunity – you will see your children engaged with education in a way that they have not been before, and the outcomes are proven. Digital is the future.
Why do you think the programme is so successful?
There are many reasons but, for the children, it is relevant, engaging, allows personalised learning programmes, it is of their era and it is of their future. The programme enables whānau to be involved with their children’s learning.
Fun digital fact: What is the last thing you searched for online?
Apart from looking up relevant information and facts for this… accommodation in Poland and Slovakia… yay!!
Anything else you would like to add?
I would encourage everyone who has an interest in the future of Taitokerau to keep in touch with the programme. These digital programmes of Te Puawai and Manaiakalani have the capability of transforming the futures for a whole generation of Northland children.