The expression of school culture is based on the vision and values incorporated in the Mana College charter (2019-2021) and the eight capabilities within the learner profile. This vision entitled ‘Mana with Mana’ demands that all young people will flourish within the learning community. To flourish in a school context is ‘to grow positively into oneself’ and to experience learning opportunities that build the value of oneself and one’s context in a wide range of physical, mental, spiritual and social areas (Scherto Gill, 2009). Mason Durie also describes this by way of four dimensions of hauora in the development of his widely used model of Mäori health, ‘Te Whare Tapa Whä’.
School culture can be defined as ‘what we do around here’ (Deal & Kennedy, 1998). While school culture is the responsibility of all members of the community, teachers and leaders are at the centre of influence. Teachers and leaders who believe in the process of building positive relationships with young people and their family, and regard student agency as paramount are critical for improvement. These teachers possess mana and respect and look to problem solve and advocate based on the child’s needs rather than a focus on problems (deficit theorising).
School culture therefore enables relationships for learning and supports togetherness or whakawhānaungatanga for the learning agenda. Positive learning relationships between young people, staff, parents and the community support academic and personal excellence and uses growth mindset, culturally responsive pedagogy and restorative practice to strengthen learning power. Young people are supported by learning teams to be able to feel safe and secure, included, nurtured, resilient, and a sense of belonging and accomplishment.
Wellbeing is at the centre of this vision, and strives to support the mana of a young person. ‘Mana with Mana’ attends to the needs of all young person, regarding their positive connections with their peers, teachers, whānau and the wider community as critical. The vision desires to enables them to pursue and engage in a school curriculum that connects them to their strengths, interests, culture and their huge potential to succeed.
From day one young people and their whānau buy into a culture of deep care, self responsibility, and curiosity about their world and their future. This is played out in learning contexts such as the classroom, learning advisories, academies, and in activities such as sports, arts and cultural experiences and events. Young people codesign this experience and this allows them to engage deeply in what is important to them.
Ultimately, young people will make mistakes and a supportive, restorative environment teaches them to reflect, grow and strengthen from the experience. This is ultimately where relationships for learning are tested and strengthened.