Tags:InterviewPrimary SchoolSLPPPrincipal

4 min read

Auditing the white spaces at Bledisloe School

Does my school make Māori learners and whānau feel welcome? 

It’s a question at the heart of several ongoing projects for Carol Bevis, principal at Bledisloe School in Taradale. With a vested interest in tackling issues of race, class and equity in the community, she has been putting into practice some key critical ideas. 

“It’s not my job to tell people how to run their spaces – but we all have such a big opportunity to think more critically about what we offer our students, what world we want them to grow up in and what kind of leaders we want them to be.” 

This year, that means – in addition to working through our Strategic Leadership for Principals Programme – Carol is auditing the entire look and feel of her school.

Image courtesy of Bledisloe School

A means to change the view

Carol has long been interested in tackling the white spaces in New Zealand education. Having discovered Dr Ann Milne’s work with her Travelling Fellowship research, she has done extensive research and work in this area. 

That includes working with Hoana Pearson on Māori Achievement Collaboratives, Associate Professor Melinda Webber at UoA on how Māori learners can thrive in education, and a recent sabbatical based on “Cultural relationships for responsive pedagogy: a bicultural mana ōrite perspective”,  Research Information for Teachers; SET, no.1, pp3-9.  Professor Mere Berryman ONZM, M., Lawrence, D., & Lamont, R. (2018).

All of this has fed into Carol’s practice, and resulted in some challenging, critical and absolutely necessary work in her school. 

“This year we’re working through Dr Milne’s White Spaces Audit - thinking really hard about what our school environment reflects. Asking questions like what our space says to Māori learners and whānau, whose voices are represented on the face of our school.” 

A seven-step process, the White Spaces Audit is designed to help schools consider the environment they create from a Māori perspective – effectively, evaluating to what extent students can learn as themselves

That means consulting with staff, whānau and students. With a roll comprising nearly 45% Māori students, Carol understands how critical it is to empower everyone in the school. 

“The audit starts with the physical spaces: for example, we’re considering adding a Māori name to our school. But we have to go deeper, moving beyond the ‘lovely’ but sometimes tokenistic knowledge; developing Matauranga Māori, redesigning our localised curriculum to have a true bicultural lens and increasing our capability in using  Te Reo.” 

“We can’t do that without input from everyone – which becomes a balancing act, but a challenge we’re excited to take on.”

Creating the culture for change

For many, the idea of identifying and addressing whiteness – even recognising it as a distinct concept – can be a challenge to the way they view the world. As Carol explains, schools have to take the right steps before they move into these critical conversions. 

“Before any critique of the white spaces happened, I had to make sure the school culture would allow it to happen. You have to develop respect, trust and distributed leadership with your whole team – people have to know their views will be valued, even if they are dissenting. Driving that conflict underground just creates more problems.” 

It’s an approach that has expanded beyond the school – taking the focus on representing all voices and making it happen from the outset. 

“You have to be authentic and honest in who you are, what you know and what you don’t. I’m originally from Australia – I can’t speak for the Māori community in terms of how they are represented in our school.”

“You have to look to experts, those in the community who have the mana to support and challenge you. Listen to their voices, balance everyone’s perspectives – above everything, you’re empowering people, students included, to think critically about their environment. That’s what’s going to bring real change in the future.”

A school leaders’ job is to be the Treaty partner that Māori thought they were signing up for.

The partners Māori deserve

With an increasing Māori roll in a region that often looks starkly different, Carol is keenly aware of the challenges that the white spaces audit will introduce for many. 

“You’re dancing on the precipice a lot, trying to ensure everyone has their voice heard. You just have to be balanced, steady, careful and kind. Have a clear sense of what you’re doing and why you’re doing it – and don’t let anyone involved in something like a white spaces audit be taken by surprise.”

For Carol, that purpose was distilled into something incredibly simple but profound by a colleague, Liz Eley of Poutama Pounamu (Waikato University). 

“She told me that a school leaders’ job is to be the Treaty partner that Māori thought they were signing up for. That comment has stuck with me – it's so clear in its identification of why this work is so important.” 

“Challenging and critiquing the spaces in our school that don’t give every learner a place of their own – that's making good on our promise to students. We have to be courageous, but the challenge is what makes it all worthwhile.”

Apply for our 2021 SLPP and SLRTP cohorts

Strategic Leadership for Principals Programme (SLPP)

A transformative 10-month leadership development programme for Aotearoa principals.  The Strategic Leadership for Principals Programme (SLPP) brings New Zealand principals together with strategic experts to develop your leadership and to support clear, insightful planning for schools.  Strategic leadership is a pivotal element for improved school performance. The ability to plan, manage and report as the fulcrum of your community ensures strong relationships and the right conditions for everyone to thrive.    Strategic Leadership for Principals Programme: Expression of interest How SLPP works for NZ principals  Over a series of workshops spanning 10 months, SLPP explores the core elements of strategic leadership for New Zealand principals – beginning the journey to creating better student outcomes.   This learning occurs with the support of a Capacity Partner – a dedicated expert volunteer, with whom principals will build a trusted, high-empathy relationship that delivers outstanding impact. This cross-sector model is unique to Springboard Trust, and ensures every principal who takes part has personalized support to meet their needs at both a personal and professional level.   Together, they work with a cohort of up to seven other principal-Capacity partner pairings, under the guidance of an experienced facilitator and Springboard’s own expert Programme Managers.   By the end of the programme, principals typically demonstrate significant progression in:  One- and three-year planning and outlook  Creating and communicating a vision and strategic plan Identifying, communicating with and gaining buy-in from key stakeholders Measuring the impacts of their changes Leading the same transformative change for their team  This forms the bedrock of the conditions for improved student outcomes, which we explore in more detail through our Alumni Services.   For more information on the direct impacts on school leadership that principals gain through SLPP, please check out our annual Impact Reports.   SLPP Requirements and Application Details   SLPP is open to principals who wish to enhance their strategic leadership. However, due to the high number of applicants we receive each year, we prefer to prioritise principals who meet the following criteria for our philanthropically funded places:   Have at least two years of experience as a principal  Have been at their current school for at least 12 months  Have no major PLD commitments in the coming year  Have no Commissioner or Limited Statutory Manager  Have the support of their Board of Trustees Uphold Te Tiriti o Waitangi principles through a particular focus on results for Māori young people and their whanau Are willing to lead others in change   SLPP workshops can be delivered either in person, virtually or through a combination of both – please note that depending on location, some travel may be required for the former.  Across the 10 months, it is expected that principals will spend around two hours per week engaging in this professional learning and working with others, in addition to the workshop times. Volunteers will be required to give around 40 hours of their time, while for facilitators about 50 hours of time is required. For PLD applications, we ask that principals apply for 100 PLD hours. For volunteers with leadership experience who want to find out more about becoming a Capacity Partner, you can find full details of the role here – or contact our Volunteer Manager Rebecca Brown to express your interest in the next programme.   

Strategic Leadership for Rural Teaching Principals (SLRTP)

Rural teaching principals face challenges that their metropolitan counterparts often do not.   Working as both teacher and principal, these leaders also have numerous other roles within their school. On top of this, in a rural context school leadership extends far into the community – to the extent that they are ‘always on’.   Finally, there are often significant hurdles for rural teaching principals in terms of accessing development opportunities, and finding relief teaching when those opportunities arise.   With some 20% of the country’s principals in this situation, Springboard Trust is thrilled to offer the opportunity to rural teaching principals to come together to support one another on their strategic leadership development journey.   Strategic Leadership for Rural Teaching Principals: Expression of interest Development for rural teaching principals  The Strategic Leadership for Rural Teaching Principals Programme (SLRTP) is the first of its kind in New Zealand bringing together principals with shared challenges and context.    SLRTP includes:  Regular online workshops and some face-to-face sessions where possible to support whakawhanaungatanga One-on-one support from cross-sector Impact Coaches  Debriefing sessions with Delivery Managers Cohort engagement through our Canvas LMS  Access to online ancillary resources   Taken over the course of a calendar year, principals will pair with Impact Coaches – volunteers from our network of experts – and learn the fundamentals of strategic leadership and planning, with a unique focus on rural teaching principal roles.   They will work together through our new blended learning model, combining the best of both virtual and in-person learning environments.   As with our other programmes, the relationship with your volunteer forms the cornerstone of your learning. A high-trust relationship forms, and helps you develop your skills as a leader within the parameters of the programme.  SLRTP eligibility requirements SLRTP is open to all rural teaching principals who wish to enhance their strategic leadership and who:    Have at least two years of experience as a principal Have been at their current school for at least 12 months Have no major PLD commitments in the coming year Have no Commissioner or Limited Statutory Manager Have the support of their Board of Trustees Uphold Te Tiriti o Waitangi principles through a particular focus on results for Māori young people and their whanau Are willing to lead others in change  Across the 10 months, it is expected that principals will spend around two hours per week engaging in this professional learning and working with others, in addition to the workshop times. Start your application by expressing your interest here! Becoming an SLRTP volunteer Volunteer Impact Coaches will be required to give around 40 hours of their time over the course of the 10 month programme. For volunteers interested in becoming an Impact Coach, please contact our Volunteer Manager, Rebecca Brown.  

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