Hato Pāora College, near Feilding and surrounded by farmlands, won a National School of Character Award last year recognising its efforts for encouraging positive results for student behaviour, citizenship, culture and academic achievement. Among its many other accomplishments, the College has taken out top spots in secondary school speech contests, Kapa Haka competitions, on the sports field, and academic performance.
Wel-Com visited this whānau values-based school to learn more about their approach to leading and developing boys into educated young men of outstanding character.
The Māori boys’ Catholic boarding school, founded by the Society of Mary in 1948, centres its culture on the principles that ‘respect plus responsibility equals results’.
Principal Debra Marshall-Lobb says students are taught four simple rights – to be in the right place, at the right time, doing the right thing with the right attitude. ‘Our educational ‘r’s are respect, results, rewards, responsibilities, which lead to qualifications, jobs and responsibilities.’
Hato Pāora has students from throughout the country. The College’s core purpose is education that enables excellence individually and collectively.
Its success with young Māori students is connected to very high expectations reinforced in every activity. ‘Our philosophy is to take good boys and grow them into great young men. We talk the talk here and reinforce our principles and values every day to say “this is what respect looks like…this is what responsibility looks like”. We have high standards and the boys learn those knowing the right behaviours for the appropriate times, for example ōkawa for formal times such as at Mass or funerals and ōpaki for informal times. We want the boys to know and apply the difference and present themselves with pride in appropriate ways so people know they are from Hato Pāora.
The College integrates Christ’s Gospel teachings with Māori language, culture and traditions, which provide students a clear direction in their lives. There is a close connection between both curriculum and hostel staff to enable students to live and learn in a whanāu setting, aligned to Catholic character and Māori values.
‘We give them every opportunity to learn and show leadership. Leadership here is pushed beyond what is expected of students in other schools and it’s a breeding ground for young Māori leaders. Every morning the boys lead karakia, and they lead waiata and kapa haka. They take charge of athletics and sports days. Eventually, they grow up to provide leadership in their own families.
‘I’m sure whānau send their boys here to have deep appreciation of karakia and services to others. That’s the Marist way – service to others and putting needs of others ahead of their own.’
Hato Pāora has a rich history and tradition. More recently it has become a living environment as well as a wider learning and academic environment. The code of conduct is constantly applied – morning, noon and night. Students are nurtured spiritually, intellectually, physically, artistically, socially and emotionally. The boys are surrounded by people who care for them and they are pushed in the class, on the sports field, cultural performances and in the wider community.
We want what’s best for them says Debra. ‘We let them know whānau and parents have entrusted them to our care and we don’t want to waste that sacrifice for their hopes and dreams that stand for excellence. The relationship with whānau is crucial. When they enrol, students and their whānau have an interview with senior leadership. It aligns the school’s standards, values and expectations with the individual student’s goals and targets.
These goals are given to the deans and teachers and are revisited at a conference between whānua, teachers and students at the end of each term. Attendance by whānau is very high.‘The difference at Hato Pāora is we are not just a school but a home. Our community is whanau-based. It involves old boys who keep in touch, staff, friends, families, as well as the boys here. We have a deep and wide community with strong roots that are 67 years old.
‘A lot of old boys come back and are moved to tears when they look at the memorial board, “He kura ukaio – the breath that nourishes you: our school that nourishes us”. When people come back they still feel wairua – we see it in the boys’ faces.’
As the boys themselves say, ‘It’s good to hear comments from other schools and other teachers, we are proud of our uniform and our school. It’s not what the school gives us, but what we give the school’.