Te Kōpae Piripono: early childhood education based whanau intervention
Te Kōpae Piripono is a successful whānau intervention based in Taranaki. Te Pou Tiringa and the National Centre for Lifecourse Research, University of Otago have formed a research partnership to carry out a robust evaluation of the initiative. Research team members are Dr Mihi Ratima, Aroaro Tamati, Hinerangi Korewha, Erana Hond-Flavell, Dr Will Edwards, Dr Moana Theodore, and Professor Richie Poulton. The research programme is ‘Te Kura Mai i Tawhiti’.
About Te Kōpae Piripono
Te Kōpae Piripono was established in Taranaki in 1994 in the form of an early childhood education centre, and its governance body is Te Pou Tiringa. It was recognised in 2008 by the Government as a ‘Centre of Innovation’, with the potential to be implemented in other settings.
The initiative was premised on the accepted wisdom that early connection to culture, practice and language have a long-term effect on indigenous health and well-being. The emphasis on whānau ora has been integral to Te Kōpae since its establishment, with its underlying objective to respond to the social and cultural impact of historical grievance (massive land confiscations and Taranaki wars) and the continued trauma experienced by Taranaki Māori communities trying to restore their cultural and social strength and health and wellbeing.
Te Kōpae Piripono has been able to advance its vision in a way that is consistent with the Government’s Te Whāriki early childhood curriculum framework. The core aspiration of Te Whariki is for children to grow up as competent and confident learners and communicators, healthy in mind, body, and spirit, secure in their sense of belonging. The programme’s early-childhood centre setting allowed for greater self-management and provided a more reliable source of funding that reflected the wide range of activity the initiative hoped to achieve and sustain.
Te Kōpae Piripono aims to revitalise Taranaki Māori language use and cultural practices.
- It actively promotes the use of Taranaki mita (regional language variation), tikanga (cultural practice) and taonga (oral and cultural resources).
- There is critical awareness among leaders of the importance of whānau participation beyond the walls of the centre in the revival of language.
- The initiative maintains a firm stance on active language use and acquisition and has a rigorous whānau selection and induction process.
The programme has also developed its own model for positive resolution of issues, called ‘Te Ara Poutama’, which may be used for both children and whānau members. Children learn to advocate for their needs, and to negotiate and find solutions themselves. The process helps isolate the issue from the person, enables constructive dialogue, and fosters trust and confidence to positively resolve issues.
Longitudinal research shows that influences in early life matter greatly in terms of how a person fares later in life across a wide range of domains. It has been demonstrated that high quality early life interventions represent one of the best ‘investments’ a society can make to ensure an optimal start to life – one which will net significant returns over time via long-term benefits for individuals, whānau and society. There is huge potential for intervention in the early years to lead to substantial health gains later in life across a broad range of health issues that disproportionately impact Māori. These include health outcomes related to non-communicable diseases such as diabetes, coronary heart disease, stroke and also mental health issues and disability. While there is clear evidence around early years interventions leading to improved outcomes, what is largely missing are proven interventions that address ethnic inequalities, are effective for Māori and achieve sustainable positive health outcomes across the life-course. The aim of the Te Kura Mai i Tawhiti research is to contribute to generating an evidence base around what constitutes effective early life kaupapa Māori programming for tamariki and whānau that will lead to improved health outcomes later in life for tamariki.
Te Kura Mai i Tawhiti – research programme
Figure 1: Te Kura Mai i Tawhiti Research Programme
A feasibility or Proof of Principle study is under way in 2016 to firstly demonstrate the ability of the team’s research methods to determine change over time in tamariki and whānau on key constructs of interest (e.g. tuakiri, whānauranga, self-control). The Proof of Principle study will focus on whether, over the course of a year, an individual changes over time, taking into account developmental changes.
Findings from the Proof of Principle study will be used to design two future studies. Firstly, a 10-year prospective project to compare same age cohort tamariki in Te Kōpae Piripono, with at least two comparison early years programmes selected from Taranaki or similar regions. This involves conducting a longitudinal study to compare groups across key child behavioural and whānau development measures (i.e. the measures used in the Proof of Principle study). In addition to the prospective study, a retrospective (historic) study will be undertaken (Figure 1 – as a part of Tangi ana te Kawekaweā). This will focus on previous graduates and whānau of Te Kōpae Piripono from the past 20 years (n>150 whanau) with an emphasis on graduate outcomes in health, education, Te Ao Māori and other determinants areas that may have been influenced by the kaupapa Māori child and whānau programming.
If the research generates robust evidence of the success of the Te Kōpae Piripono model, there is potential for the overall approach and/or key elements of the intervention to be scaled up for implementation in other settings (e.g. other ECE and Māori medium) to complement broader approaches to addressing determinants of health and education and in other domains. The research is currently supported by the Health Research Council of New Zealand, the Ministry of Education, the New Zealand Council for Educational Research and the University of Otago.