Over 160 Principals and Health & Physical Education (HPE) lead teachers came together at Claudelands Events Centre in Hamilton to challenge the traditional structures of sport and physical education in the region’s primary schools and kura, and explore what a holistic approach to physical education would look like in an approach to whole school wellbeing.

In collaboration with the Waikato Principals’ Association (WPA), and with support from regional partners Te Whatu Ora - Health NZ, Ministry of Education and Sport NZ, The Value of HPE conference marked an integral day in the history of Sport Waikato and the role of the Regional Sports Trust as a partner in supporting schools and kura to deliver quality physical activity, physical education, sport and play experiences for all tamariki.

The day was opened by Sport Waikato CEO Matthew Cooper, who opened the event by highlighting the importance of HPE for tamariki..

“We know that schools are time poor and we know there are massive pressures on achievement data.  But without a well child, we will never have a learning child. We want to create systemic change in our education settings and we know we can do this through the Health and Physical Education Curriculum.”

The conference brought together speakers from around the north island, including Welby Ings (internationally renowned speaker and educational reformer), Gregor Fountain (Strategic Engagement Manager at Sport NZ) and Harko Brown (expert on traditional Maaori games and play) who delivered motivational and thought provoking koorero around the importance of physical activity, play, sport and physical education.

The day was wonderfully hosted by MC Marcus Freke, Director of Education, Waikato at the Ministry of Education.

Last year our partnership with the WPA focused on re-conceptualising HPE programmes. Moving away from traditional programmes allows schools to consider more culturally responsive and aakonga (student) centred approaches to getting our students moving. As we all know there is direct correlation between physical wellbeing and mental wellbeing.  

With the background and rationale behind a shift in gear for Sport Waikato outlined through local and national evidence, it was time to dig into some thought provoking koorero with Professor Welby Ings.  

Welby approached his keynote from a leadership lens; often we are met with heroic leaders, when the silent leaders are the ones achieving the greatest outcomes; we often see ambition beat talent on numerous occasions. Welby left us challenging our own thinking around what it means to make change, and who has the power to achieve it.

This was followed up by some keynote speakers in chosen break out sessions. The principals heard from Gregor, ex principal of Paraparaumu and Wellington Colleges. He spoke from the heart and challenged the principals around their own wellbeing as leaders of their schools, and how important this is. His message focused on going back to what is important and challenged principals to take a step back and re-evaluate what they do and why. 

“Too often the urgent drives out the important.” Gregor also discussed how physical activity and HPE can support those important factors that can sometimes be forgotten in our busy and ever changing world. We need to break down the structures that support the status quo.”

Feedback received via our survey of the event: “I enjoyed both of these presenters. They were lively, engaging and challenging. Many takeaways for me from this day.” (Principal)

The HPE leads heard from the engaging Harko Brown around how to create Maaori artefacts to entice play through a Maaori lens. This was a hands-on workshop which left teachers scurrying to buy his book and planning their next lessons with their tamariki.

Some great feedback was received from HPE leads: “I really enjoyed Harko’s interactive session, I absolutely loved weaving a kite from the nikau palm leaves.” (HPE lead)

“I really enjoyed how interactive the session was and how engaging Harko was. He made it a safe space to get involved.” (HPE Lead)

The afternoon session was a series of Pecha Kucha’s. Presenters had six minutes to share their narrative and leave attendees with some thought provoking ideas. We heard from Harko Brown, Gregor Fountain (SportNZ), Latisha Kelly (Ministry of Education), Pip Newick, Sara Heyward and Marg Cosgriff (University of Waikato) and Deane McKay (Sport Waikato).

The array of thought provoking koorero left principals and teachers contemplating their school practices in the HPE space. A principal noted what they intended to implement from the learning of this day, 

"Seriously considering making HPE the hub of my school's strategic plan. The cross curricular connections and the close links to offer school values seem to lead towards this." 

And a teacher said what they enjoyed most from the day was that it was "Thought provoking and guided in ways to make change, support change and uphold what works".

As educators, we know that looking after wellbeing is an important priority. We know that our tamariki need to feel like they belong. The WPA Connection Day - 'The Value of HPE in a Whole School Approach to Wellbeing' provided an opportunity to explore ways to create systemic change in education settings, with the help of the Health and Physical Education Curriculum. Change that not only honours wellbeing but also honours our unique culture and identity.

With representation from school leaders across all districts within the Waikato region, this event was a celebration of the strategic approach from Sport Waikato and the kaiako (teachers) within the region – providing a great opportunity to connect and unpack the true essence and importance of the HPE curriculum in a whole school approach to wellbeing.

THE VALUE OF HPE in a whole school approach to wellbeing

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