Bruce Ritchie - Part 1
Bruce maps the progress of Te Kotahitanga at Massey High School and reflects on its significance in the landscape of this innovative Auckland school.
Bruce Ritchie: “Kia ora tātou, ngā mihi ki te Kīngi Tu Heitia me te Kāhui Ariki and, ah, haere mai te whānau of Te Kotahitanga. My name’s Bruce Ritchie. I’m the principal of Massey High School and have been for seventeen years. We have been in Kotahitanga for seven. We’re looking at our journey, our journey in the seven years of Kotahitanga. First of all the beginning, and it happened one day back in 2003 when Lisa Maddox from the Ministry of Education gave me a phone call and said, ‘We have this fantastic programme to raise Māori achievement and we’re offering it to your school and you have to tell me in two days whether you want to be in it.’ We knew nothing about it, I just went to a staff briefing in the morning, told them we’ve got this offer, should we go with it and three quarters of the staff put their hand up and said, ‘Go with it,’ and we didn’t have a clue what it was about. So that’s the story of our life in many ways, so that was the beginning.
“First three years were three quite difficult years in some ways because it was a very much an experimental phase, as I said we didn’t quite know what we were doing, we attended all the huis that were held in, ah, Hamilton and, ah, we started to learn. So very much experimental. We had three lead facilitators in the first three years. Now that’s not good for sustainability. The first lead facilitator decided at the end of the year he’d rather sell real estate, so he left teaching and sold real estate, and I believe he’s very, very successful. The second lead facilitator was somebody we brought into the school from outside the school to be our lead facilitator. I have to say it didn’t work and that’s one of the lessons we’ve learned. I think it’s best to grow your facilitators from within your own school, because the relationships that they have already established with their colleagues and their students are so strong and it’s so important to this particular programme. In our third year we had another lead facilitator who unfortunately became very, very ill and had to actually leave teaching, and so three lead facilitators in three years, all different.
“Now I’ve put here the lack of critical mass because at that time, we’re quite a large school of 2,400, at that time we were over 2,500 students, we had quite a few international students so we employed a lot of extra teachers, we had about twenty extra teachers, so we had a hundred and seventy teachers or so, and we were starting to train thirty per year. And then with the turnover we felt we were treading water, we were getting nowhere, we, we did not have a critical mass in our school so we weren’t making enough progress. So that was one of our problems, but we were getting really positive feedback from the teachers associated with Kotahitanga. In fact some of the teachers were saying, ‘This is the best professional development that I have ever had.’ So the feedback was really, really positive. The awakening, people actually woke up and started to see there is a problem with Māori achievement in New Zealand and we have to do something about it and so it started to grow legs, and we continually reinforced all the time in all forums about Kotahitanga and how important it is for our school, and encouraged people to get involved.
“So we moved into a new era from 2007 to 2010 and that’s when Robyn Knox came on board so she’s been our lead facilitator for four years and that’s made a huge difference, and also the team itself became very stable. And so things started to really move at that time. Our Board of Trustees said, ‘We will continue, we will support this, we will underwrite this no matter what happens.’ And it was great to have that support from our Board of Trustees, and as I said that was when Robyn started as our lead facilitator.”