Part 3: Putting Ka Hikitia into effect

Education for Māori: Implementing Ka Hikitia – Managing for Success.

In this Part, we discuss how the Ministry put Ka Hikitia into effect. We cover:

When I got to college I decided to not to go into the [Māori immersion] so I could prove myself in the Pākehā world. But being Māori is very important to me and I plan to be a lawyer and advocate for Māori.
Year 13 - Head boy

The Ministry's introduction of Ka Hikitia has not been as effective as it could have been in translating Ka Hikitia into widespread and successful action. Confused communication and roles and responsibilities in the Ministry, inadequate planning and programme and project management, and ineffective communication with schools have stalled the effort and caused difficulties.

Some aspects of putting Ka Hikitia into effect have gone better, and the Ministry has made improvements along the way. The Ministry is "refreshing" Ka Hikitia with a further five-year phase, Ka Hikitia – Accelerating Success 2013-2017. This is an important opportunity to improve effectiveness and results.

We make two recommendations in this Part.

Communicating the high priority of Ka Hikitia

The Ministry told staff clearly that Ka Hikitia was high priority

We heard and saw evidence of repeated communication in the Ministry about the strategic importance of Ka Hikitia. The then Secretary of Education (Chief Executive of the Ministry) was supportive of Ka Hikitia and set clear expectations for staff about Ka Hikitia's priority.

When Ka Hikitia was published, the Ministry issued an accompanying document to staff outlining the evidence base for the strategy, Ka Hikitia – Key Evidence.15 The Ministry provided material to support the reasons for change and opportunities for learning. Messages in the main Ka Hikitia planning document, the Ministry's statement of intent, and business planning documents raised awareness of Ka Hikitia and its importance among Ministry staff.

Practice did not meet expectations

Ka Hikitia has not been put into effect with the intended priority

Staff were unprepared and unclear about roles and responsibilities.

Changing attitudes and behaviours on a large scale takes time and careful and ongoing communication and support. In 2012, the Ministry's evaluation of how Ka Hikitia was put into effect found that a strong and focused internal and external communications strategy for Ka Hikitia was not clearly evident.

Ministry staff whom we interviewed had mixed reactions to the introduction of Ka Hikitia. Most noted an over-optimistic assumption by the senior leadership team about the level of understanding and commitment among staff to Ka Hikitia. This was despite efforts by the senior leadership team to draw attention to the importance of Ka Hikitia.

In 2009, an independent review found that some Ministry staff questioned the value of Ka Hikitia.16 Other staff told us that Ka Hikitia challenged a belief by some in the Ministry that the education system was suitable for everyone.

Managers were expected to effectively communicate the reasons for the change in approach and provide incentives for embracing new practices in the context of opportunities to learn. This was an extremely important part of the logic of putting Ka Hikitia into effect. Giving recipients the responsibility to work out how to put Ka Hikitia into effect was thought to be important for them to gain a necessary depth of understanding of Ka Hikitia. However, the Ministry did not invest enough time and resources in ensuring that staff roles and responsibilities for Ka Hikitia were clearly understood.

We received feedback that showed that Ministry staff needed more support. Some staff struggled to understand how to put Ka Hikitia into effect. Some found it difficult to integrate key messages from Ka Hikitia with their day-to-day activities. We also found that the connections between Ka Hikitia and the Ministry's various other strategies, including timing and priorities, were not clear to staff. This added to confusion.

Since Ka Hikitia was published, communication in the Ministry and other more directed changes, such as the introduction of the Tatai Pou cultural competencies, have had a cumulative positive effect on staff putting Ka Hikitia into effect.17 Several Ministry staff told us that they believe that there has been change in willingness and "buy-in" to putting Ka Hikitia into effect.

Planning and programme and project management was weak.

Accountability mechanisms within the Ministry for those responsible for putting Ka Hikitia into practice at different levels of the organisation were not strong enough. This meant that the Ministry's planning for introducing Ka Hikitia was weak. Ka Hikitia was expected to be embedded into existing initiatives and activities. However, Ministry staff were unclear about how those initiatives and activities were connected with Ka Hikitia.

Although the Ministry provided guidelines for managers on how to embed Ka Hikitia into business plans, our review of several business plans for groups in the Ministry indicated there was variable understanding of how existing initiatives and activities were effectively connected to Ka Hikitia.

The State Services Commission's Performance Information Framework report in 2011 noted the need for the Ministry to clarify roles and priorities when introducing new initiatives.18 This reflects comments made to us that the Ministry's approach to putting new strategies into effect was often poorly planned.

Programme management of Ka Hikitia, together with other initiatives and activities, was poor. In the same year as Ka Hikitia was launched (2008), the Ministry began several other significant strategic initiatives and actions (including the New Zealand Curriculum, the Pasifika Education Plan, the National Student Index, and National Standards).

Despite clear messages that Ka Hikitia was the highest priority, having several initiatives and actions happening at the same time contributed to Ka Hikitia being put into effect slowly. There was not enough focus throughout the Ministry on Ka Hikitia, and it became lost in the complexity of many other strategies and actions.

Teams managed project responsibilities poorly. Staff at the Ministry told us that strategic initiatives and actions would often be "thrown over the fence" in the Ministry: there was little following through as they were transferred from one team or group to another to ensure that the recipients were equipped to work with them, and then did so. There was often no effective project management of, and office support for, initiatives.

Inadequate accountability controls and consequences needed to be strengthened so that teams in the Ministry were effective in, and accountable for, reporting on their obligations for putting Ka Hikitia into effect.

Staff performance management did not link effectively to Ka Hikitia. In 2012, the Ministry introduced Tatai Pou to measure staff performance and cultural competence. The Ministry introduced the Measurable Gains Framework (MGF) for staff to use to monitor the progress of project management against the implementation actions of Ka Hikitia. However, the Ministry did not resource this tool effectively, and staff did not have access to enough support to ensure that it was used effectively. In 2012, an internal audit review of the MGF led to revisions. It is too early for us to comment on how effective the revised MGF is.

Ineffective communication left schools unsure how to respond to Ka Hikitia.

In our view, the Ministry was not ready to introduce Ka Hikitia to schools and did not build on the good will and work schools were doing to help raise education outcomes for their Māori students. The effort to engage schools did not match the aspirations of Ka Hikitia or take into account how many schools there are. This resulted in a mixed response from schools, with varying degrees of action to put Ka Hikitia into effect.

Most school principals reported receiving the Ka Hikitia strategy in the mail. Only a modest number of school leaders reported hearing about Ka Hikitia first hand. The Ministry did not explain clearly to schools what response it expected. Guidance to schools in the Ka Hikitia documents was not clear. Schools did not understand the relationships between Ka Hikitia and other Ministry strategies and initiatives.

Schools have a high degree of autonomy, and high trust and understanding between the Ministry and schools is needed to make sure that initiatives are accepted and acted on. In our view, the way Ka Hikitia was initially distributed and introduced to schools did not have enough support and guidance, and might have undermined the relationship between schools and the Ministry.

ERO reporting and our audit evidence indicates that schools are becoming more aware of Ka Hikitia and better at incorporating it into planning and daily business, with promising results.

Working through early difficulties

Some difficulties have been worked through and some aspects that have improved.

Agencies responded well to Ka Hikitia but the Ministry could co-ordinate contributions better.

The Ministry's communication with education agencies brought a positive response, with each agency identifying how it contributes to Ka Hikitia. Each agency that we visited showed us how it had responded to Ka Hikitia and how it was sustaining its efforts to improve Māori students' success. Some agencies responded more slowly than others, but all of the agencies we talked with had strategies in line with Ka Hikitia. In our view, the Ministry and education agencies can strengthen how they work together on improving education outcomes for Māori students through better understanding each other's respective contributions and better co-ordinating their resources.

Schools value the Ministry's regional support.

The Ministry's regional staff were carrying out a lot of work, including face-to-face work with principals, schools, and communities, to help schools to understand Ka Hikitia and to build school leaders' capability to put Ka Hikitia into effect.

It was clear from our interviews with schools that the support of the Ministry's regional staff to procure the right professional development and make best use of schools' internal resources is highly valued. We heard that there is not enough support at a regional level to meet schools' expectations and needs in regard to Ka Hikitia, particularly in semi-rural and rural areas.

We were told that regional office workload is strained for several reasons, such as the complexity of the work and the low ratio of staff to schools, and that turnover and promotion of those with Māori capability has led to a lack of capacity to meet demand. These factors have resulted in slower uptake of Ka Hikitia in some schools. In our view, it is important for the Ministry to build capacity in the regions to support important outreach initiatives. The Ministry's current review of regional services and the regional allocation of professional learning and development to schools could provide opportunities for better engagement.

It is important to provide professional learning and development in a timely and equitable way. The Ministry is reviewing how it provides professional learning and development and has identified ways to improve. The review includes the professional learning and development provided to support Ka Hikitia, but is broader. We will continue to assess the Ministry's monitoring of professional learning and development services in our future work.

The Ministry engaged positively with iwi and whānau and can build on this.

The Ministry's work programme with iwi partners is an area of strength. The number of iwi education partnerships with the Ministry has increased from 13 when Ka Hikitia was launched to more than 60 in 2012. The Ministry has supported these partnerships with funding of $3.2 million for 2012/13.

Although the Ministry will need to continue to support the increasing number of partnerships, this shows a positive culture of engagement with iwi. This positive engagement helps ensure that Ministry initiatives and activities are culturally relevant to Māori. It will be important that the Ministry maintain these good relationships.

In our view, the Ministry should build on the positive engagement and continue to strengthen work with iwi and Māori. For example, we found that education sector agencies (such as ERO and NZQA) were working collaboratively with iwi. However, in our view, these agencies could work more collaboratively with each other and with wider education entities. This would result in reduced duplication of effort and confusion for iwi and therefore better quality engagement. A more co-ordinated and focused approach to engagement and partnership would also use the capacity of iwi better.

Iwi sharing knowledge and insight better would also help to make the work of education agencies more effective. A positive example we identified was a suggestion at a meeting with iwi representatives that ERO review teams could draw more on the expertise and knowledge of local iwi groups to share information about "Māori capability" in the schools being reviewed.

It is also important for the Ministry to honour agreements it has made with iwi. One iwi expressed concerns to us about the amount of bureaucracy involved and the Ministry not keeping to the terms of agreements. These are issues both the Ministry and iwi will need to monitor.

Whānau we interviewed, although not all familiar with the Ka Hikitia document, were mostly aware of the efforts that their school or community was making (or not) to enhance Māori students' educational success. In our view, schools or clusters of schools need to continue to seek opportunities to work directly with whānau and iwi. Drawing on the expertise in identity, language, and culture of Māori and iwi in the community can only help more Māori students to "succeed as Māori".

One way of doing this is to provide information to whānau and iwi to help them support their children. Although information on the outcomes of Ka Hikitia is available, this could be improved. In our view, some simplification would improve accessibility, together with better direct communication to help whānau and iwi focus on what they can do to support their children.

How the Ministry of Education works to improve Ka Hikitia in practice

The Ministry recognises that it did not introduce Ka Hikitia well and has acted to address problems.

A Ministry review of Ka Hikitia in 2010 (the mid-term review) took stock of how widely Ka Hikitia had been embedded into the Ministry's day-to-day business. The main outcome of the review was the Ministry's agreeing to a more vigorous approach to putting Ka Hikitia into effect, through:

  • integrating Ka Hikitia into national flagship initiatives and programmes;
  • improving coherence and co-ordination throughout schools;
  • consolidating primary initiatives;
  • productive education relationships with iwi; and
  • co-ordinated action planning.19

Steps to strengthen management and accountability

In early 2009, the Ka Hikitia Implementation Unit and Programme of Action was set up to increase business and group accountability within the Ministry to put Ka Hikitia into effect. In July 2010, it became the Action and Accountability for Māori Education Strategy (AAMES) unit. AAMES, together with the introduction of the Tatai Pou competencies as part of staff performance management, has strengthened accountability for putting Ka Hikitia into effect.

In our view, it is important that the AAMES unit focus strategically on where the Ka Hikitia effort will be most effective, and be seen as a unit that helps progress rather than as a control.

From March 2011, the Ministry introduced a requirement that all future advice to Ministers about national flagship policies and programmes be linked to Ka Hikitia by including how the identity, language, and culture of Māori learners have been incorporated. By March 2011, a new process was put in place using a tool called the Group Māori/AAMES to monitor the Ministry's progress in responding to this requirement.

The Ministry told us that changes in governance arrangements meant different performance monitoring replaced the use of this tool. In our view, it is important that the Ministry has robust mechanisms for monitoring the linkages between Ka Hikitia and the Ministry's flagship policies. It is too early for us to assess how effective current monitoring arrangements are but we will consider this in our future audits.

We note that a new programme office that covers the whole of the Ministry has been set up, and it has the potential to strengthen how the Ministry manages programmes.20

Improving cultural understanding and knowledge to put Ka Hikitia into effect successfully

Significant capability building towards cultural competency is required to enable the changes needed to put Ka Hikitia into effect. The Ministry is building this understanding and knowledge.

In our view, the Ministry's staff will benefit from continued communication and practical support to improve the way they work with Māori. A recent Ministry survey of staff who completed an introductory workshop about Whakap mautia, Papak whaitia, Tau Ana and Tatai Pou showed that only 41.7% and 48.6% respectively "strongly agree" or "agreed" that the training provided examples that they could relate to in their roles.21 This shows that the Ministry has work to do to improve training and practical support and guidance to staff.

Changes are taking place. Staff told us that Ka Hikitia has been an indirect influence on operational aspects of the Ministry's business. Changes that can be traced to the influence of Ka Hikitia include iwi providing truancy services, setting up taskforces focused on improving systems for priority learners, expanding programmes that work for Māori students, and changes to contracts to expect more of providers in delivering results for Māori.

"Refreshing" Ka Hikitia

As noted earlier, the Ministry is "refreshing" Ka Hikitia with a further five-year phase, Ka Hikitia – Accelerating Success 2013-2017, in early 2013. This is an important opportunity to boost effectiveness and results, and to avoid the problems experienced before. The problems included confused communication, unclear roles and responsibilities in the Ministry, poor planning, poor programme and project management, and ineffective communication with schools.

The Ministry needs to learn from, and avoid repeating, the implementation issues outlined in this report and in the Ministry's evaluations of the introduction of Ka Hikitia. This means emphasising, throughout the Ministry, leadership that supports good programme and project-based reporting. It means prioritising Ka Hikitia among other initiatives, holding managers to account, providing practical support and guidance, and resourcing to ensure that those working on Ka Hikitia can focus on it.

In our view, the work programme for Ka Hikitia – Accelerating Success 2013-2017 will need a strong focus on implementation, including sustained effective communication, effective cross-organisational leadership and management, and monitoring and support throughout the education sector.

Recommendation 1
We recommend that the Ministry of Education apply what it learned from the introduction of Ka Hikitia to ensure that the next phase of implementation is effective, including:
  • thoughtful planning and engagement with those expected to deliver the next phase of Ka Hikitia, with adequate resourcing;
  • clear leadership and management responsibilities for embedding Ka Hikitia into day-to-day business in the Ministry and throughout education agencies; and
  • improved accountability and reporting mechanisms.

The Ministry should consider what activities work best and prioritise these.

In our view, the Ministry should also prioritise work and resources to target activities that best support Ka Hikitia being put into effect. The Ministry should identify which activities are working best and target resources to these. Activities and programmes to consider include professional learning and development to build Ministry and school capability, face-to-face support for schools, effective web-based guidance, continued application of the MGF, and data analysis of Māori students' success to provide insight into what works.

Recommendation 2
We recommend that the Ministry of Education identify and target resources to support the activities that have been the most effective in putting Ka Hikitia into effect.

15: Ministry of Education (2008), Ka Hikitia – Key Evidence, Wellington, available at

16: Goren, P (2009), How Policy Travels: Making sense of Ka Hikitia – Managing for Success – the Māori Education Strategy, Fulbright New Zealand, Wellington.

17: Tatai Pou is the framework of Māori cultural competencies for Ministry staff and is embedded into the staff performance framework.

18: State Services Commission (2012), Performance Improvement Framework: Formal Review of the Ministry of Education (MOE), Wellington, pages 50-53.

19: The mid-term review is summarised within the Ka Hikitia section of the Ministry of Education website,

20: The Enterprise Portfolio Management Office (EPMO).

21: Ministry of Education (2011), Whakap mautia, Papak whaitia, Tau Ana, (Grasp, Embrace, Realise), Wellington. Whakap mautia, Papak whaitia, Tau Ana was introduced to the Ministry in 2008/09 as a framework for conducting excellent relationships between the Ministry and iwi.

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