Kaikohekohe cluster principals, Tracey Simeon and Lee Whitelaw, explain the keys for successful collaboration.
Tracey Simeon: I think the key success for collaboration is letting go of this is my school, this is what I want for my students. If you can’t let that go, you’ll never be successful in collaborating with others. You’ve actually got to see this as a community effort in trying to support every child in the community. I look at it as in a Māori sense, and I think in the sense of Māori-dom, a cluster has the same practices. We’ve got an iwi, we’ve got hapū, and we’ve got whānau hapu and this is what a collaboration looks like. You’ve got the head iwi, you’ve got the head hapu, and the whānau, and if we look at the schools being the whānau group, you can see that an iwi is stronger than a whānau group so I think it’s about looking beyond your school fence and thinking about how could we best equip our community or our iwi.
A cluster just opens the borders and it develops more relationships and through that, it develops trust.
Lee Whitelaw: I think one of the reasons that our cluster has been successful is it was really based on involvement of everybody. What children said, what, that real student whānau commitment and voice.
Tracey Simeon: I think the success of this programme is that no one is sitting there by themselves thinking what do I do next? Everyone is able to share in the pool of ideas and support the principals in making the next step because having that first step into unknown territory is very daunting for someone because when you think of the money resources that go into PD, you’re not sure, am I doing the right thing? But with the collaboration of all the principals in our cluster, I’ve been able to set certain research steps in my school, but also share these, this journey with the other schools by delivering PLGs on what we did to accelerate writing in our school. So it’s a case of you feel like even though you’re the principal, you’re not alone.
Lee Whitelaw: People talk about collaboration but I think sometimes it’s cooperation not collaboration. So this is real collaboration and challenge.
Tracey Simeon: It’s a cluster that has evolved from building relationships and to understand our common goals. It’s a cluster that also, thankfully, can actually ask those hard questions. Are we making a difference?