Middle Leaders Supporting Teachers to Engage Māori Learners
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The role of middle leaders in New Zealand primary schools is fundamental in leading the teaching and learning for all learners. The Ministry of Education has targeted or labelled Māori as priority learners. Middle leaders and teachers are the voices of these learners. There are significant factors as to why Māori learners are not achieving alongside others. Some of these factors correlate with socio economics, poverty, barriers to learning, and a school environment not being conducive to Te Ao Māori tikanga. However, it does remain clear in all schools that middle leaders have the accountability to question the engagement and progression of teachers and learners in the classroom. The responsibility encapsulates the enormity of the demanding role of middle leaders in New Zealand primary schools have today. Middle leaders must demonstrate the skills to support and establish culturally responsive environments where teachers are promoting engagement and achievement for Māori learners in the classroom. This qualitative study explored the role middle leaders have in supporting teachers to engage Māori learners. The study explored the perceptions from middle leaders and teachers in two state primary schools in Auckland, New Zealand. A semi-structured interview with each middle leader and an online survey with teachers provided my research with data about current enablers and barriers associated with cultural responsiveness in two primary schools. In shaping the research I adopted the Kāupapa Māori approach which substantiated my understanding of the knowledge of others’ through their experiences. My research required further understanding of the experiences of, and actions taken by, current middle leaders in interpreting their role, and the numerous skills they demonstrate in order to be effective in supporting teachers engaging Māori learners. Some major findings included that both middle leaders considered their role had ambiguity. Their understanding was shared, as both middle leaders expressed similarities about how they were leading the teaching and learning in their school. The teachers outlined the mahi (work) that middle leaders demonstrate and the relationships they have established with teachers, students and whānau. The findings of this study also showed common barriers that exist for middle leaders and teachers to engage Māori learners in the classroom. The recommendations encourage educators to reflect on these findings as they have the potential to provide clarity and understanding of the role middle leaders have to influence, transform and improve Māori engagement in New Zealand primary schools. All learners, especially those identified as Māori in New Zealand schools, must maintain their culture, identity and language in order to be empowered and successful.