A plan, a workforce, and a way of doing things

August 2015


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Gisborne Boys’ High School was awarded the Prime Minister’s Supreme Award for Education Excellence this year. Principal GREG MACKLE discusses how the Tu Tane and Whakairo programmes have helped contribute to the school’s success.

GBHS 01“Te toia, te haumati – nothing can be achieved without a plan, a workforce and a way of doing things.”

Good ideas and aptly titled strategies/programmes abound in education. At Gisborne Boys’ High School, whether our Tu Tane and Whakairo programmes actually produced outcomes that positively impacted on teaching and learning depended on a few absolute factors.

First of all – a plan

Tu Tane, celebrating manhoodand growing good boys into good men, was planned in response to the need to enhance the culture of the school. It was aimed at our year 10 cohort. It is a values-based programme, delivered through the PE/Health curriculum.

Most teachers of young men would agree that a year 10 young man can be a major headache at the best of times.What they need is set of values – co-constructed with them, continually put in front of them, and always much more than words – role modelled by other ‘blokes’. This was our plan for Tu Tane.

Similarly, the Whakairo programme, teaching the art of carving, required a structured, creditable plan, initiated in stages. Engagement of young Māori men in a culturally relevant programme was the focus. Transferring success to other curriculum areas was the future focus.

For both Tu Tane and Whakairo, we needed to recognise and work with our young men in order for each one of them to engage with us in teaching and learning that they saw as relevant and appropriate to their lives.

Our local community had to add their rich understanding and knowledge to both programmes. Being flexible and responding to co-constructed problems as they occurred was an absolute requirement. The plan was not set in concrete.

Significantly, the ongoing success of both Tu Tane and Whakairo has resulted from solving problems together – teachers, young men, and parents/whānau.

Secondly – a workforce

It would be true to say that behind or at the front of any plan, there has to be a person or a team prepared to commit time and energy into actions.

For Tu Tane, this workforce was our PE/Health staff led by Tom Cairns, the assistant principal responsible for students. The workforce grew quickly with the addition of young men, community wisdom and knowledge, and a truly committed group from our local police force. Together, this energised the “never give up on the kaupapa” group and guided the actions required to implement the plan.

For Tu Tane, there were few problems. Resourcing was of course a major problem. But if any plan is to be actioned then it simply needs to resourced, somehow!

Because Tu Tane was integrated into the PE/Health curriculum, issues such as timetabling, staffing and financial resourcing simply became a part of the overall school resourcing.

The Whakairo programme was different. Specific knowledge and skills were required in the workforce.
Thankfully, Craig Callaghan was the totally professional staff member who stepped forward. What the school needed to do was to ensure that he was supported in every aspect of initiating the plan. Significant consultation and support was provided by community experts whose cultural knowledge and skills were freely given.
The major problem was overcoming sceptics who considered that achievement in NCEA Level 1–3 Whakairo was “irrelevant credit attainment”.

Over time, through community communication, exhibitions/displays of Whakairo work, and most importantly the transference of knowledge, skills, and attitudes into other curriculum areas, these sceptics have seen the huge benefits of a culturally engaging teaching and learning programme.

Another problem to address was the “strait-jacketed” code imposed by central government for building or teaching spaces. It is almost impossible to have a Whakairo facility adjacent to any other teaching space. The small problem of carving a totara log in a confined spacewas not one which fitted this code – let alone four or five totara logs! Thankfully, our Board of Trustees knew that a board-funded specialist facility was required. $150,000 solved the problem!

Lastly – a way of doing things

Slowly, with constant and thoughtful monitoring, data-based achievement, target setting, co-constructed review and forward planning, recognition of success, pride with humility, and a determined focus on what the plan was aiming to do, a way of doing things was developed.

Both Tu Tane and Whakairo are models in progress. Tu Tane has led to our Tu Whānau programme – raising boys’ achievement by involving parents. Whakairo has made our school consider and plan for 2016 a school curriculum that addresses both the needs of our young men and the aspirations of our school community.

Tu Tane

The programme, which runs in line with the New Zealand PE/Health curriculum, is based around celebrating manhood and the process of becoming a good/great man. It is run with the support of the Gisborne Police. In addition to their teacher, each class has a policeman as a mentor throughout the year.

The programme offers boys the values, beliefs and personal growth they need and lack but which we (as a community, country) do little to address. It is telling them that it is okay to celebrate being a man and that there are a lot of positive ways to explore masculinity.


The Whakairo Unit is a facility that has been catering for the demand of Gisborne Boys’ Māori youth for the art of traditional carving and the modern contemporary methods.

There are three levels of Nga Toi Whakairo classes working from Level 1 unit standards in year 11 up to Level 3 unit standards in year 13. As the course has developed, extra unit standards have been added to complement the skills that are being achieved.

The course enables students to experience, to explore and finally to develop their ability in Māori art. 

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