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In 2014 Mayfair School in Hastings, New Zealand, was considered one of the worst local schools. In the prior 18 months the school had been through 4 principals, lost all middle management, had significant white flight losing 41% of its school roll and had a turn over of staff due to student behaviour, parent behaviour, staff behaviour, personal safety, unhappiness in work life and a reduction in staffing entitlement from the Ministry of Education.

Behaviours exhibited, but not limited to:

  • Parents and students abusing, intimidating and threatening staff

  • Parents recording meetings and placing on social media

  • Students abusing and hitting staff

  • Community vandalising the school

  • Students destroying school property, buildings and windows during school time

  • Sexual references being made to teachers by parents and children

  • Students forming gangs within school

  • Students bringing gang paraphernalia and items into school

  • Large scale fights at all school breaks

  • Racism from students to other students

  • Infighting in the parent committee

  • A split Board of Trustees

  • Loss of community, including parents and caregivers visiting the school.

The school was in a dire state for a new management team of experienced principals and a new middle management team who had weathered the previous 18th month storm. An immediate action by the new Senior Management Team (SMT) was to enrol in Positive Behaviour For Learning (PB4L)

Kate Medlicott (PB4L Leader) and June Crawford (PB4L Coach) with a dedicated team collaborated and brought together a core group of parents who wanted to see success in Mayfair. Through individual group consultation with staff, students, whanau, board and management looked at the attributes and expectations the community aspired for the Mayfair community to meet. After many months it was agreed the values for the school would be:


Some of the key work that followed, but not limited to, were:

  • Behaviour lessons for students every morning (this has been sustained since 2015)

  • Intrinsic and extrinsic rewards established to enhance motivation

  • Signage placed around the school so the values are visible at all times.

  • A solid behaviour plan imbedded for the school

  • Shared expectations of teacher behaviour, reactions and accountability 

  • Development of self empowering murals 

  • Uniforms created by Year 6 students annually who exhibit all values

  • Recording forms to capture behaviour data

  • Synthesising of data to inform decisions.

  • Forming of a PB4L support team.

Changes were not immediate and it took 3 years to move the school into a space that the SMT were happy with in terms of student behaviour.  In terms of PB4L the school had moved from Tier 1 to Tier 2 of PB4L and were ready for Tier 3 in 2018. Unfortunately Tier 3 was only a pilot project currently being trialed in Flaxmere, New Zealand by two schools. Further research by Mayfair Principal, Ricardo Fox, found inconsistencies in an analysis of PB4L and its parent programme in the United States of America, Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS). The key concerns were:

If PB4L had schools involved in the project for 10 years, why were the Ministry of Education only piloting Tier 3 now?

Rob Horner, one of the key researchers and founders of PBIS, at the end of 2017 at the New Zealand PB4L conference that Tier 3 had been used in High Fidelity in schools in the United Staes of America for 18 years. Why then was Tier 3 not clear for New Zealand Schools?

In April 2018 Ricardo Fox was awarded a sabbatical based on the above questions and spent 8 weeks researching at the original PBIS Schools, reputed PBIS schools, the University of Oregon (Home of PBIS research) and the University of Washington - Tacoma. Various meetings with PBIS researchers, experts and boards were facilitated by his mentor Ewa Campbell, an expert in behaviour development among many other things. Findings from the sabbatical can be found here

In short the key findings were:

  • Tier 3 doesn't essentially exist - all tiers intertwine. It is possible New Zealand use a tier system to manage development of PB4L implementation.

  • Behaviour is only one facet that is important for students to be successful in learning.

  • PBIS/PB4L is important to establish a strong and inclusive foundation of culture in a school.

  • Tier 3 needs to evolve to focus on the whole child.

In 2018 the PB4L team was disestablished and we relabelled the team a Multi Disciplinary Team (MDT). Using research from the University of Washington Tacoma and Tacoma Schools we worked on hunches about what would work and what wouldn't for our Mayfair students, teachers and families. Not long after that we changed the process to copy Tacoma and called  our project the Whole Child Initiative and the MDT became the Whole Child Team. Under this name we had one key focus:

  • What are the main concerns we have for children in our community?

  • Instead of having our hands out for money or begging for external support to support students, families and teachers, what could we be doing for students with the expertise and resources we have internally as a group of experts and a community?

The main concerns we identified for our children from a collation of internal review were:

  • Learning

  • Behaviour 

  • Health

  • Social

Unfortunately only having some similarities to the Tacoma research we realised we had to trial and start creating and developing our own systems and documents in order to harness internal knowledge and experts. To support the process Ricardo Fox was awarded a Tech Futures Lab Scholarship to complete his Masters Degree based on the Whole Child Initiative in 2019. This essentially would add to the validity of the work and research by the Whole Child Team.

It was while researching culturally responsive practice for the Whole Child Initiative that Ricardo Fox had an epiphany that changed the path once more.  

The whole child process is based on improving outcomes for individual learners but every child has a different start to life. They all have a different culture, financial background, skin colour, religion, language, learning style... the list went on. In New Zealand Schools we have children from all around the world and we are encouraged to promote globalism, yet for 250 years we have attempted biculturalism miserably. It took our Government 230 odd years to create a strategy for improving Maori achievement and competencies for teachers of Maori students. How do we create a global classroom when we can't get a bicultural one right? Include religious intolerance, ignorance to LGBTQ, racism and sexist inequality, these among many others inconsistencies. With this in mind the overarching focus isn't necessarily the whole child but equity and the awareness that is required for success so that a child has the best start and support within school. From January 2019 the 4th iteration of Mayfair schools journey began - The Equity Awareness Project.



Equity is often mixed up with equality (McGraw-Hill, 2018). Simply put, Equity is giving everyone what they need to be successful. Equality is treating everyone the same.


Equality aims to promote fairness, but it can only work if everyone starts from the same place and needs the same help. In a New Zealand context the country has one of the least equitable education systems in the world (UNICEF, 2018). children do not start at the same place and need differing levels of support. 

It would be remiss to mention equity without acknowledging the privilege that exists in New Zealand. Privilege is a special advantage not enjoyed by everyone. In layman terms it is those that have and those that have not. There is a privilege in grades, scores, health, social well being and behaviour between white students and most students of colour and between rich students and the poor students. This gap is not a natural phenomenon. It is the measure of constructed difference, a difference that pretends that the racial and class privilege in New Zealand is simply a matter of objective meritocracy. Community of privilege (including some parents, teachers, administrators, and foundations) are the ones who patrol the schools, searching for any danger to the current system — which reproduces hierarchies of privilege. Sustained research and evidence of privilege proves it exists. The following video is an example of the activation of privilege.




















In terms of Equity it appears unfair, but it actively moves everyone closer to success by “leveling the playing field.”

In order to improve equity teachers, principals, parents and community leaders need to be aware of how the promote Equity in schools in order to have a design change to affect positive outcomes for all students so that they are on a level playing field.


The Equity Awareness Project has two woven strands that intertwine to overcome social deprivation that exists in New Zealand Schools. The two strands are fairness and inclusion. 


Fairness means that every learner regardless of their gender, ethnicity or socio-economic status has the right to achieve their educational potential.

Inclusion means that every teacher ensures that a basic minimum standard of education intently occurs.




The Education Review Office has stated that “the number one challenge facing the New Zealand education system is to achieve equity and excellence in student outcomes” (ERO. 2016). UNICEF’s annual Innocenti Report (2018) placed New Zealand 33rd out of 38 countries in regards to educational equality. UNICEF commissioned a specific New Zealand report that noted poverty, racism and unconscious bias in schools were factors that added to inequality. New Zealand has an excellent history of excellence in teaching but a poor history of equality.  The purpose of this project is to improve equity in New Zealand Schools

Evidence supports the lack of overall equity:

Nationwide Evidence

  • In 2017 age-standardised stand-down, suspension, exclusion, and expulsion rates all increased. (Ministry of Education, 2018)

  • There were 17,724 stand-down cases in 2017, which were received by 13,341 different students. (Ministry of Education, 2018)

  • There were 3,134 suspension cases in 2017, which were received by 2,827 different students. (Ministry of Education, 2018)

  • The decrease in attendance was evident among schools common to both the 2016 and 2017 surveys, which suggests that this decrease was real and not due to a change in the composition of schools responding to the survey. (Ministry of Education, 2018)

  • One in six New Zealand adults had been diagnosed with a common mental disorder at some time in their lives. This includes depression, bipolar disorders and anxiety disorders.  ("Mental Health and Illness | Community & Public Health", 2019)

  • Students who identified as Māori and Pasifika had lower rates of regular attendance than other ethnicities (50% and 52%, respectively). ("New Zealand Schools Attendance Survey: Term 2, 2017 Results | Education Counts", 2018)

  • Māori and Pacific have higher rates of being diagnosed with mental disorders or experiencing psychological distress than the rest of the population. Mental health service use by Māori is rising.  ("Mental Health and Illness | Community & Public Health", 2019)

  • People living in the most socio-economically deprived areas were nearly three times more likely to experience psychological distress as people living in the least deprived areas – after adjusting for age, sex and ethnicity.  ("Mental Health and Illness | Community & Public Health", 2019)

  • The number one challenge facing the New Zealand education system is to achieve equity and excellence in student outcomes” (ERO. 2016).

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