Kāhui Ako | Communities of Learning

Key ideas

Kāhui Ako | Communities of Learning are groups of education and training providers that come together, along with their communities, to raise achievement for all tamariki and young people – by supporting each other and sharing expertise in teaching and learning (ako).

Kaiako in early learning services (ELS) can support Kāhui Ako to:

  • better meet the needs of children transitioning to school
  • influence positive education outcomes from an early age.

Whānau can be confident their children are getting the best start to their education when ELS work closely with schools/kura and other services in a Kāhui Ako. This approach supports a focus on lifelong learning and enables a smoother transition to school.

Kāhui Ako collaboratively identify three to five achievement challenges using a range of data and evidence related to student achievement. ELS can contribute to the development of these challenges by considering the shared links between Te Whāriki, The New Zealand Curriculum and Te Marautanga o Aotearoa – and identifying what progress might look like across the child’s learning pathway.

ELS form an essential part of the learner pathway. When services and schools understand each other’s teaching practices and share expertise and resources, overall teaching quality improves, leading to better outcomes for children at every stage of their educational journey.


Stories of practice

Adult and children gardening.

Developing progressions for assessment and transition

Ngatea Kindergarten, in rural Waikato, is part of the regional Kāhui Ako / Community of Learners. The Kāhui Ako invited Ngatea when they decided to focus on transitions between educational settings as early childhood is an important part of this process. Three ECE services regularly attend.

The representative from Ngatea Kindergarten identifies the following advantages for early childhood services:

  • credibility for early childhood education – other members recognise and value kaiako professional knowledge and practice
  • building respectful relationships with other sectors focused on children’s learning
  • strengthened transition processes and resources
  • being able to support local educational aspirations.

One piece of work in particular has supported the kindergarten to strengthen their transition processes and practices. As part of their literacy and numeracy achievement challenge, the Kāhui Ako has developed local Kāhui Ako Progressions to support assessment and transitions, beginning at early childhood and continuing through to 15 years old. These progressions outline key milestone indicators for a student’s learning, in particular as they progress in their reading, writing, and mathematics. They are written in positive language and plain English so students and parents can easily understand.

Kaiako collaborated with other early learning services and early primary teachers to develop the indicators for the early stages of the progressions. They wrote the indicators using the child’s voice, for example: “I can draw a picture”, “I can tell you about my picture”, “I can re-tell a story”.

The indicators are based on the language and understandings of Te Whāriki, as well as progressions and curriculum objectives at primary and secondary levels. But the language used also incorporates a shared language established by the teachers (ELS and school) as they worked together. This shared (rather than sector-specific) language has facilitated a shared understanding within the group – and means that anyone can understand them, including parents, teacher aides, and outside agencies.

The kaiako use these progressions to identify the skills and knowledge children have when they are about to transition into the school environment. Kaiako are also going to add the indicators to children’s online portfolios.

Discussions about each child’s progressions will form part of transition meetings between the ELS kaiako and new entrant teacher. Children’s strengths and interests will be shared to help teachers engage the child in school.

The kindergarten’s advice to ECE kaiako who are considering joining the local Kāhui Ako is:

  • be brave and articulate about early learning practice without getting defensive
  • be willing and able to explain your beliefs and values in an open way
  • relate your beliefs and values to those of your schooling colleagues in ways that progress shared understanding and meaning
  • engage in “give and take” and possibility thinking to find ways forward that work well for all parties.

Adult and child looking at a plant.

Creating a place-based curriculum through a shared vision

Te Hiku Kāhui Ako has 19 schools and 19 early learning services. Its vision to increase the well being and engagement of the community is guided by the 38 members, the five local iwi, and its community – including whānau, students, health and social service providers, and the local business association. Mauri is a home-based early learning service within this Kāhui Ako, it has two networks, one full immersion and one bilingual. Their Kaihautū is one of two ECE leads on the Kaitiāki roopu.

A key strategy for the Kāhui Ako is promoting a local curriculum by ensuring all of its kaiako will be proficient in te reo o te kainga (local reo Māori) by 2030. This goal embodies the hopes and aspirations of whānau, kaiako, and te hau kainga by empowering practice through local tikanga. The idea is that through their reo, their unique values and worldview can be properly realised.

The leadership of Mauri believe that active collaboration is key to a collective change in attitudes and practice. The connections made within the Kāhui Ako have enabled siloed groups to break through perceived competitiveness, see their shared vision, and recognise that it can only be achieved by intentionally developing relationships with one another. Kaiako across the early learning cluster now support each other to attend weekly te reo classes in line with their vision.

Within the Kāhui Ako vision, Mauri kaiako can see the value in their mohioranga of local reo, local tikanga, and local practices. The participation of Mauri whānau has increased in the curriculum because it reflects learning that is of worth to them. Examples include:

  • Tikanga – karakia with the tamariki before they go fishing and returning the first ngohi (fish) to Tangaroa
  • Kaitiākitanga – respectfully preparing the ngohi for gutting and scaling
  • Manaakitanga – delivering the fish heads to kaumatua

Genuine collaborations have allowed for true ako to take place as learning that matters here has become the priority for this kāhui.


Te Mana Raupō Kāhui Ako

Kindercare Strickland Street based in Christchurch is one of 21 early learning services (ELS) participating in Te Mana Raupō Communities of Learning | Kāhui Ako with six primary and one secondary school.

Achievement challenges set in Kāhui Ako are based on student achievement data, which is a different approach to assessment than is traditionally used in ELS. It created an opportunity for the services to think creatively about how they might contribute useful and relevant information to the achievement challenge.

The ELS approached the primary schools in the Kāhui Ako with two questions:

  • What are the major challenges limiting ākonga success?
  • How many children achieved a successful transition into school?

The analysis of the information gathered identified a shared challenge for all – the consistent, successful, and positive transition of children to school.

As an early learning sector and working in partnership with the schools, we developed a specific achievement challenge for ELS. Te Whāriki is providing the framework for the inquiry – with the objective being to develop an ELS-based strategy to enhance transitions to school and kura.

Te Mana Raupō Kāhui Ako is committed to this shared achievement challenge and have recently made the strategic appointment of an Across Service ECE Coordinator. This coordinator will oversee the development and implementation of this achievement challenge. They will also support the place of ELS as applicable within the additional four achievement challenges in the Kāhui Ako. Having this resource allows the time for a designated person to facilitate changes for success that will benefit all tamariki within Te Mana Raupō.

For more information about Te Mana Raupō Kāhui Ako, go to Education Counts: Te Mana Raupō community of learning | Kāhui Ako – Profile and Contact Details


Tokomairiro Kāhui Ako

Tokomairiro Early Learning Centres are two of the four ELS participating in the Tokomairiro Kāhui Ako | Communities of Learning, along with four primary schools and one high school. A collaborative approach was taken to developing the achievement challenges for this Kāhui Ako and consideration was given to the role the ELS would take in contributing to this shared direction.

Three shared goals were set for the achievement challenge: these related to writing, mathematics, and fluency with digital technologies.

Initially, the Kāhui Ako has been focused on improving the mathematical ability of students. This work began with a professional development provider. Facilitating workshops focused on mathematics for ELS, primary, and secondary sector groups represented in the Kāhui Ako.

In the early childhood workshop there was a strong focus on learning about the five key skills indicative of children’s future mathematical success. Kaiako were also encouraged to consider a range of teaching strategies that can be used to teach these key skills in a play-based environment. This has positively influenced teachers' pedagogical practice.

A workshop between ELS and schools was successful in helping teachers to further develop their knowledge of how children progress in their mathematical learning. It has also encouraged early childhood kaiako to be proactive in teaching mathematics in everyday situations, rather than just through teacher-led mathematical experiences.

For more information about Tokomairiro Community of Learning, go to: Tokomairiro Community of Learning – Profile and Contact Details


Kāhui Ako o te Kōhanga Moa – Kōhanga Moa Playcentre

Kōhanga Moa Playcentre (Inglewood Playcentre) has been invited and included in the development of Kāhui Ako o te Kōhanga Moa – as one of the five ELS included within the community.

The ELS involved in this Kāhui Ako embrace Te Whāriki and the value it puts on empowering children. One approach is to focus on seeking children’s views and listening and responding appropriately. ELS involved in this Kāhui Ako agreed that this would be a positive way to draw on relevant information to shape the achievement challenge plan.

At Kōhanga Moa Playcentre this meant that some work was undertaken to support parents’ understanding of the purpose and value of seeking children’s perspectives. Parents were encouraged to ask their children two questions: what children believed they needed to learn well to go to school and what they wanted to be when they grew up.

The children’s responses were collated across the Kāhui Ako, and alongside other data they supported the development of the achievement challenges.

The achievement challenge plan for this Kāhui Ako has four major goals. The data ELS collected particularly informed the goal around enhancing transitions. The Kāhui Ako will be developing key strategies to ensure successful transitions into, between, and within ECE, Primary, Secondary, Tertiary, and workforce.

What has been exciting through this process is that the Kāhui Ako has considered both Te Whāriki and The New Zealand Curriculum equally as the achievement challenge plan has been developed. As a result, the ELS in the Kāhui Ako are engaged in all aspects of the planned work.

For more information about Kāhui Ako o te Kōhanga Moa, go to Education Counts: Kāhui Ako o te Kōhanga Moa – Inglewood Community of Learning – Profile and Contact Details


Kāhui Ako o te Kōhanga Moa – Inglewood Kindergarten

Inglewood Kindergarten is a member of Kāhui Ako o te Kōhanga Moa – Inglewood Community of Learning. All early learning centres, primary schools, and the secondary school in the Inglewood area belong to the Kāhui Ako, along with tertiary provider the Western Institute of Technology (WITT). With a population of approximately 3500, the community has a distinctly rural context.

This Kāhui Ako has been proactive in thinking about how all early learning services (ELS) can be involved. A leadership team has been established which includes members from each area of the education sector. The Head Teacher of Inglewood Kindergarten is part of this leadership group.

This strategy of having representation in the leadership team from early childhood through to tertiary has ensured that decisions are formed with consideration of the diverse and varying strengths of each sector.

The Kāhui Ako hold the child at the centre of decision making. We want children to know who they are, where they come from, to stand tall and be confident, and to be young people who actively contribute to our society. As the achievement challenge plan has been created, Te Whāriki has been woven throughout. The achievement challenges include raising student achievement through:

  • a shared pedagogy
  • enhanced transitions
  • fostering learning partnerships with whānau and iwi
  • supporting ākonga with additional learning needs.

As the Kāhui Ako work together to meet the achievement challenge, the role of the ELS representative in the leadership team is to ensure that Te Whāriki and its underpinning theories of how children learn are well considered by the wider group. Sharing this information helps to support the development of appropriate strategies to meet the achievement challenges.

For more information about Kāhui Ako o te Kōhanga, go to Education Counts: Kāhui Ako o te Kōhanga Moa – Inglewood Community of Learning – Profile and Contact Details

Reflective questions

  • How is the transition to school process being considered within your Kāhui Ako?

  • To what effect does the assessment information support children’s transition to school?

  • What role is the ELS taking in supporting the specific achievement challenges in your community?

  • What role is your service taking in sharing information about Te Whāriki and how it informs your curriculum?

  • How effectively does the ELS actively involve parents and whānau in the Kāhui Ako?

  • To what extent does your ELS draw on the expertise within the Kāhui Ako to support your learners?

  • To what extent is the ELS drawing on the wider pool of expertise in the Kāhui Ako to support them in meeting the shared achievement challenge?

  • To what extent are trust-based relationships enabling open communication, challenging professional conversations, and risk taking?

Implications for leadership

To support Kāhui Ako, ELS leaders:

  • prioritise time to meet as a team about the Kāhui Ako achievement challenge and the role the service plays in progressing it

  • support all team members to actively contribute to progressing the agreed actions of the achievement challenge

  • coordinate the implementation of the shared achievement challenge plan across the ELS by ensuring the PLD proposals are inclusive of this sector

  • lead and work with the team to plan, implement, and coordinate evidence-based cycles of inquiry that lead to improved outcomes for diverse learners

  • work collaboratively and responsively with colleagues across the Kāhui Ako.

Connections to principles

Empowerment – Whakamana

Kaiako have a role to play in ensuring all children experience equitable opportunities for learning. Kāhui Ako provide kaiako with opportunities to collaborate with other professionals and to learn about and collaboratively address the educational challenges reflected in the community.


Family and Community – Whānau Tangata

Children learn and develop best when people in their lives help them to make connections across settings. It is important that kaiako develop relationships with whānau and respect their aspirations and those of the wider community. Kāhui Ako provides another opportunity to collaborate with whānau and reflect their perspective and aspirations in the community’s vision, goals, and targets.


Holistic Development – Kotahitanga

A holistic approach sees the child as a person who wants to learn. Kāhui Ako is a change to the education system that encourages kaiako to network, collaborate, and communicate with other educators. The focus is shared and results in a targeted approach to supporting learners to reach their full potential.


Relationships – Ngā Hononga

It is through responsive and reciprocal relationships with people, places, and things that children have opportunities to try out their ideas and refine their working theories. For this reason, collaborative aspirations, ventures, and achievements are valued. Collaborative practice is strongly promoted within Kāhui Ako. This includes a sharing of specialist facilities and knowledge.

Further resources

Communities of Learning | Kāhui Ako: Collaboration to improve learner outcomes

This ERO publication is designed to support Communities of Learning | Kāhui Ako by bringing together research findings about effective collaboration in education communities. It is supported by the publication Communities of Learning | Kāhui Ako: Working towards collaborative practice.

Communities of Learning | Kāhui Ako in action

This Education Review Office (ERO) report is the first of a series of iterative reports which draw together what ERO knows about Communities of Learning | Kāhui Ako, as they move from establishment to implementation.

Communities of Learning | Kāhui Ako: Working towards collaborative practice

This resource is designed to support Communities of Learning | Kāhui Ako to work towards collaborative practice. It is framed around key questions in each of the seven effective practice areas and is able to be used both as evidence-based progressions and as a useful internal evaluation tool.

EDUCATION.govt.nz – Building a thriving Community of Learning

This resource focuses on how to establish and build a thriving Kāhui Ako.

EDUCATION.govt.nz – Communities of Learning | Kāhui Ako

Communities of Learning | Kāhui Ako is a group of education and training providers that form around children and young people's learning pathways, and work together to help them achieve their full potential.

EDUCATION.govt.nz – Early learning representation

Early learning services (ELS) can play an important role in Kāhui Ako. Ministry of Education staff can support discussion between services and Kāhui Ako and provide useful data to help inform achievement challenges.

EDUCATION.govt.nz – Pathways and transitions

Pathways and transitions are promoted through Kāhui Ako. This web page features a video showcasing the involvement of ELS.

New Zealand School Trustees Association – Communities of Learning | Kāhui Ako

The New Zealand School Trustees Association (NZSTA) recently launched its own Communities of Learning website, which is an excellent resource, both for ELS and schools considering forming a Kāhui Ako, and those who are well down the path of implementing their achievement challenges.