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Voices from Early Learning and Schools

Early learning

It was great to hear how many early learning services stayed connected with parents/whānau/caregivers to support learning at home during last year’s lockdowns. Here are some examples of the different ways services achieved this.

Tamariki Ataahua Early Learning Centre, Auckland:

“Things we are doing … include regular cooking videos from kaiako for tamariki and whānau to try at home, sharing waiata through video, and a daily bedtime story video.”

Kids 1st Childcare & Learning Centre, Waipu, Northland:

"Our centre set up Seesaw as a platform for sharing photos, videos, learning provocations and communication. Our parents have been posting what their children have been up to at home, including great photos and video clips. Using Notice – Recognise – Respond teachers are responding to the posts. We have set up a roster so one teacher is responsible for a post each day of the week to check in on families and provide provocations or ideas for families to do. Additionally teachers are responding any day they like. We are also posting photos of ourselves at home.

Many of the children are missing us, and like to see photos of us and hear our voices. Teachers are coming up with great provocations. One teacher did a puppet show with all the characters from Wombat Stew. It was amazing. It has been a great way to get to know our whānau more deeply.”

He Whānau Manaaki o Tararua Kindergartens:

“At He Whānau Manaaki kindergartens our teaching teams have been staying in contact with families through Facebook and Storypark. We have been reading stories, holding whāriki time and sharing activities… such as setting up a tent in the backyard, making a fort in the lounge, or cooking ideas. We have been reaching out to families so that people who need it can get individual practical support, including access to food parcels, information about the virus in different languages, and information about pharmacies offering the flu vaccine.

Waikanae Kindergarten has one of our most watched Facebook pages, where they provide a story a day – some families even keep the story for a bedtime routine. Our homebased service, Etu Ao, caters for many younger, mainly Pacific children and we are using Facebook to keep in touch.”


"Our kaiako have been sharing ideas on daily activities that whānau can do together with their tamariki, connecting via our BestStart@Home initiative through digital medium, phone, text or email. Ideas include yoga, obstacle courses in the garden, scavenger hunts, science experiments and making paint. Kaiako take virtual group times, sing waiata that are familiar to tamariki, giving whānau a great opportunity to join in too. 

Our Kaiako are connecting with whānau and tamariki individually on digital platforms, talking together about their child’s learning, development and interests, and how this can be supported at home. This is an incredible opportunity to share as a community, and we have celebration days where the whole centre team and family community can get involved with such a sense of togetherness. Through the challenges of COVID19 we have gained the opportunity to share and gain new learning from our children and whānau, and from each other as kaiako, and as a result our relationships are richer for us as a whole community".

 Te Kōhanga Reo National Trust:

“Te Rohe o Mataatua/Tauranga Moana are currently running a Kōhanga Reo kaupapa that aligns to Te Whāriki a Te Kōhanga Reo about COVID-19.  They started with 31 whānau (bubbles) most of whom are in rural/isolated areas and no/limited internet connection/devices. Supported through their local District Office they have set up networks to keep in contact. The kaupapa covered:

Ko te ‘Mana Atua’ te mana whakaako mai i āhau ki te manaaki, kit e tiaki i āhau, i tōku whānau, i ōku hoa, me ngā mea katoa o tōku taiao, o te ao hoki. “Ka ora pea au ki a koe, ka ora koe i au”  “Perhaps I survive because of you and you survive because of me” (The performance of each member is important to its success).

He aha te Mate Māuiui nei? He aha ngā rongoa tiaki ia tātou te tangata? Te Mana o te WAI, hei whakaora. Whānau were given a simple plan, teaching mokopuna about keeping safe and the values of hygiene in the home… Through the network they have been able to add and share their own ideas to the plan, including budgeting and simple recipe ideas – supporting each other with basic supplies and needs. They have even found an expert rewena maker amongst them that has now shared her recipe."


Kaiako from a range of schools and kura share their different approaches to planning their students’ learning during last year’s lockdowns.

Coralie Walters, tumuaki — Ruakituri school

Coralie Walters is tumuaki at Ruakituri school, a small rural kura 45 kilometres north of Wairoa.

Voices from schools

Coralie Walters

Craig McDonald, kaiako — Cornerstone Christian School

Craig McDonald is a year 9 teacher from Cornerstone Christian school which is an integrated co-educational Area School for Years 1–13 in Palmerston North. Craig talks about how planning for distance learning has led to a shift in focus from teacher led to student led learning.

Voices from schools

Craig McDonald

David Henderson, kaiako — Cornerstone Christian school

David Henderson is the year 5 / 6 team leader at Cornerstone Christian School which is an integrated co-educational area school for Years 1–13 in Palmerston North. David talks about the routines and expectations he has put in place and his focus on the wellbeing of his students.

Voices from schools

David Henderson

Kim Basse, tumuaki — Ruapehu College

Kim Basse is tumuaki at Ruapehu College, which sits at the foot of Ruapehu in Tongariro National Park. Kim talks about how the school and the community have met the technical challenges of providing learning from a distance in a rural area.

Voices from schools

Kim Basse

Natasha Teinakore, assistant principal — Rowandale School

Natasha Teinakore is the assistant principal at Rowandale School, which is a Decile 1 multicultural school in the heart of Manurewa, Auckland. Natasha talks about how relationships have been strengthened as teachers and whānau have connected to learn together.

Voices from schools

Natasha Teinakore

We heard from a range of schools and kura that took different approaches to planning their students’ learning during last year’s lockdowns. Many kindly shared their planning to help others.

Most involved staff in planning discussions and reflecting on what would work best for them. That could mean focusing initially on supporting student wellbeing and engagement in learning by developing routines. And/or it could be recognising that some students and staff prefer a structured, timetabled programme of learning.

Remember, there is no one size fits all. What matters is finding what works for you, your staff, your learners, and parents and whānau.

James Morris, Darfield High School

"Our key focus is to support student wellbeing by supporting student engagement in learning and interacting with a community of learners. Rather than the expectation that we will provide the full curriculum opportunities that students usually experience at school we are aiming to develop learning routines than successfully engage students at home. As such, sticking to a fixed timetable is not a requirement. A higher priority is to regularly be posting work, providing regular feedback, and responding to questions in a timely manner.

We have been connecting with parents via email but using our website and the key point to go to for updates and links. Parents are also able to be 'invited' to classes in a caregiver roll to support their child".

Nic Richards, Naenae College

"Students want some structure and expectations around their learning once the new term commences. Staff have also requested this so that they can manage the support of students in a more structured way. With this in mind, we intend that our students follow their existing timetabled programme of learning… during the day they will be expected to connect with the online learning provided by teachers and their timetabled classes teachers will be available to deliver support on a number of platforms including Google Meet, Zoom, Google classroom.

For our teachers, Term 2 will start with our usual 8.30 am staff meeting via Google Meet and the timetable will commence from there. Student leaders are preparing a virtual assembly to start the term and we will be celebrating student success in all facets of student life as well as providing some key successes experienced in the move to online learning. Motivation and engagement are our two key challenges as we create expectations that learning is to continue into the term despite the ongoing lockdown".

Principal Kevin Carter, Rongotai College

"Focus on keeping up connections and relationships - that's what actually matters most. Communicate with your students – for instance, make a simple video once a week to maintain that face-to-face connection and set the class up well.

Keep the way you work simple and consistent – use one consistent platform (eg Google Classrooms) for sharing learning activities, one consistent platform for meeting up/interacting with students (eg Google Meet, zoom) and one for communicating with students (eg email). Keep the work that students do at a level that is easily understood - what's absolutely essential for students to know and do at this time? Don’t overcomplicate things.

Focus on providing really good learning opportunities and engaging activities so that students remain connected and engaged in their learning. Many will use school as a way to escape their lockdown boredom; some may surprise you with their engagement".

Laura Alice, The Touring Teacher

"My name is Laura, and I am a Primary School Teacher based in New Zealand. During these challenging times, I am making lesson videos for parents, caregivers, teachers, and kids to use with school closures.

My aim is to help during this time, and this is the best way I know how. I am making these videos to keep up some normal classroom experiences, and make sure our bright young students continue to receive a well rounded education.

I have already set up a collaborative Youtube playlist, all to do with Learning From Home, over on my channel The Touring Teacher. With this collaborative playlist, you can add your own educational videos as well.

This playlist is all about working together to make the lives of parents, caregivers, teachers, and kids easier, during this time.

Browse videos available on The Touring Teacher Channel on YouTube

Add videos to The Touring Teacher Channel on YouTube

Kia kaha."

Natasha Teinakore, Rowandale School

"I'm the assistant principal at Rowandale School in Auckland, and we have a simple site for our whānau. We have many students who only have access to one device at home.

The platform we designed needed to be easy for parents to quickly see what needed to be done and then their child could go away (to some degree) and work on it.

Some activities do have links and internet requirements but the platform is a Google site that anyone can access on phone (often the only device in our homes) or laptop.

Explore the Rowandale School Learn at Home platform

I don't mind sharing the template so schools can make a duplicate and fill in their own activities. Let me know!"

Sose Annandale, Russell School

"We have been meeting as a leadership team since this all began. After searching online for examples, we designed a simple document to help teachers. It was shared in our staff meeting earlier and received well, but time will tell as we enter the real thing next week.

Explore Russell School's Guidelines for online learning [Word, 127KB]

There is so much going on out there in communities and we need to try and keep it simple for our families that will struggle with this online environment. Our teachers have been tasked with contacting all families. We divided the school into family groups rather than a teacher and their own class, that was one way to reduce stress on parents being rung by multiple teachers asking them the same set of questions.

We just all have to be smarter about this and bring out the good old Number 8 wire mentality - simple is best."