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A Whanau in Action

John Powell

Secondary schools can be organized in a variety of ways. A whanau organization subdivides a large school into largely self-contained units or whanaus to gain the social advantages of a small school while retaining the curriculum flexibility of the large school. The social objectives of promoting caring relationships and a sense of belonging are embodied in the name whanau, meaning extended family. The manner in which whanaus have given expression to this varies in detail but they have in common a relatively small group of students and staff with their own clearly defined area of the school where they operate something like a school within the larger school. It is argued that through the small size of the group and its own space, better relationships and a stronger sense of belonging will develop . The whanau organization expresses in an institution the greater emphasis given to familiness by Polynesian cultures. In this way the school becomes less mono-cultural in its organizational structure.

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