In 2016 Homai, Weymouth and Rowandale School from Manurewa, Auckland embarked on a PLD model that would change teaching and learning as they knew it. This group became the inaugural users of the Relationships First programme

Over the last 5 years these schools have seen shifts in leaders’ and teachers’ mindsets – moving from a blame culture to more agentic approaches, as well as improvements in attendance, retention, engagement and achievement. Outstanding outcomes continue to role model the possibilities for schools across New Zealand.



These primary schools have high percentages of Māori ākonga (ranging from 35 – 42%). The Principal of Homai, Rosina Wikaira, commented “As Māori and Pasifika principals, we were quite horrified that our Māori learners were underachieving. We come with te reo, the practices of what we do best for Māori, but it still didn’t transfer into their learning outcomes”.

 The Principals decided to explore what success looks like for Māori learners and understand how existing practices might be contributing to the underachievement that they were seeing.



Relationships First focuses on accelerating and sustaining achievement outcomes of indigenous and other marginalised students, to maximise achievement for all learners. Leaders and teachers are guided through iterative cycles of development, with an ultimate focus on building teaching and learning capabilities. Key principles which underpin our philosophy include the importance of relationships and whanaungatanga to enable teachers to use highly impactful practices like high expectations and formative assessment strategies.

For Homai, Weymouth and Rowandale, two key features of the programme have been:

Collecting Voices

‘Our voices gave us new places to look for opportunities to make changes to our discourses, where deficit explanations were prominent. Our voices are narratives from students, their whanau, teachers, teacher aides and leaders. Responses over the years have moved from social relationship responses to relationships based on learning.’ Rosina Wikaira

Facilitated meetings

‘The Manurewa Guiding Coalition monitors the effectiveness of our efforts on improving teaching and student outcomes. Our three schools collaborate twice a term to share impact stories. Each school has their individual strengths and different levels of accreditation but between us, we use our collective expertise to improve practices.’ Rosina Wikaira



Data collected from all schools shows shift in Māori achievement data.

For example, at Homai there was a significant shift for Māori student writing data, from 30.5% achieving at or above the expected level in 2015 (before Relationships First), to 60.8% in 2017.

Through voice collection, we also see a number of other significant shifts including:

Teacher attitudes changing

‘Teachers are much more agentic in their thinking and in how they talk about learners’.

Deputy Principal, Weymouth

‘Using the research has empowered me to confront issues and confidently have challenging conversations – and reject deficit thinking’.

Teacher, Homai

Students continue to be empowered

“Relationships First is about being able to stop, listen and change what isn’t working – empowering our students so they become agents of learning in their classroom.”

Leader, Homai

“Students see school as an important opportunity for learning and they love their teachers. They specifically talk about where and how they like to learn, and this includes learning values like love, service, and respect….Students talked about the opportunities to support others in their learning…and how they felt empowered to share their learning with their friends.”

Student voice summary

Schools are experiencing sustainability of practice.

Teachers and leaders have built the capability to allow for continual and sustained changes to learning.

Homai, Weymouth and Rowandale have paved the way for other schools to improve outcomes for marginalised learners.