About Kōwhiti Whakapae

What is Kōwhiti Whakapae and why was it developed?

What is Kōwhiti Whakapae and why was it developed?

Kōwhiti Whakapae is an online curriculum resource designed to help early learning kaiako strengthen planning, formative assessment and teaching practice within the framework of Te Whāriki: He whāriki mātauranga mō ngā mokopuna o Aotearoa (2017). Kōwhiti Whakapae and its associated resources focus on ways to support children’s progress in three learning areas: social and emotional, oral language and literacy, and maths. Using Kōwhiti Whakapae will help kaiako to strengthen their teaching in these three areas across the strands of 'Te Whāriki' to support children’s expanding capabilities and foster their growing identity as learners.

Kōwhiti Whakapae is built on the foundations of Te Tiriti o Waitangi, 'Te Whāriki' principles, the inclusion of all children, and nurturing children’s identity, language and culture. Kōwhiti Whakapae is embedded in te ao Māori cultural perspectives and guides kaiako to focus on affirming the identities, languages, and cultures of all children, whānau, kaiako and communities, and celebrating diversity.

Kōwhiti Whakapae developed from Action 4.2 of He taonga te tamaiti – Every child a taonga: Early learning action plan 2019–2029 (ELAP). This action arose because we know that quality early learning depends on kaiako adjusting their teaching practices in response to evidence-based judgements about children’s progress. Building a clear picture of children’s progress over time is important for supporting positive learning trajectories, growing positive learner identity, and for knowing when to seek additional support.

What does Kōwhiti Whakapae include?

Kōwhiti Whakapae focuses on three learning areas: social & emotional, oral language & literacy, and maths.  

Each learning area provides information about teaching practice and children’s progress, and guides kaiako through a four-step process to:  

  1. Lay the groundwork, or whakaritea te pārekereke | prepare the seedbed to strengthen learning for children.  
  2. Notice and Recognise children’s current capabilities in relation to four phases of progress - Te Korekore, Te Pō, Te Ao Mārama and Te Ao Hōu.
  3. Respond to children’s learning at different phases of progress to scaffold, consolidate or expand learning over time.  
  4. Document and communicate learning in ways that use evidence gained over time.

Revisit - Kaiako are also encouraged to revisit and review practices, and to recognise when children may need additional support.

In addition, each area of learning is supported by associated resources including:

  • Kaiako guides that provide more information for those who want to explore further.
  • Whānau guides to support conversations and collaboration with whānau. 

How is progress approached?

Progress refers to the way children’s learning changes in complexity and range of capabilities overtime, shaped by their identity, language and culture. While individual progress will vary in direction and pace, there are typical characteristics and patterns that are observable over time.

In Kōwhiti Whakapae children’s learning progress is described across four phases: Te Korekore (realm of potential), Te Pō (the realm of exploration), Te Ao Mārama (realisation) and Te Ao Hōu (innovation, growth that spirals outward and always connects back). These phases are not age-based, and the expression of the capabilities described within each phase will vary for each child, shaped by their language, identity, and culture. Capabilities across phases are cumulative and overlapping.

1. Te Korekore (realm of potential)

Māori Marsden, a Tai Tokerau elder and Anglican minister said that Te Korekore (a variant of Te Kore) was “the realm between non-being and being: that is the realm of potential being” that within the right environment will reach its fullness, whatever that may be.

2. Te Pō (the realm of exploration)

Te Pō can be likened to a seed that has been planted into the ‘darkness’ of rich and fertile soil. The earth is the right environment where a seed has everything it needs to grow and sprout upward to the light.

3. Te Ao Mārama (realisation)

Te Ao Mārama is the world of light and life where understanding dawns and grows.

4. Te Ao Hōu (innovation, growth that spirals outward and always connects back)

Te Ao Hōu is an ever-growing understanding where mokopuna can reach back to what is familiar to make sense of new learning and create new and innovative ideas. 

How will Kōwhiti Whakapae help kaiako in their teaching role?

Kaiako are primarily responsible for facilitating children’s learning and development through thoughtful and intentional pedagogy ('Te Whāriki', p. 59). This includes kaiako making evidence-based judgements (formative assessment) about children’s progress and using this information to adjust teaching practices in ways that help children expand their learning over time (progress).

Kōwhiti Whakapae guides kaiako to lay the groundwork to create an enabling environment for all children and then to use evidence to notice, recognise and respond to children’s learning. Kōwhiti Whakapae also supports kaiako to have meaningful conversations with children about their learning, and to collaborate with other kaiako and whānau about children’s progress and identify learning priorities when designing local curriculum. See 'Te Whāriki' Online for more about local curriculum design.

Kōwhiti Whakapae builds on the goals and learning outcomes in 'Te Whāriki' by providing more specific guidance about teaching strategies and children’s progress in three learning areas: social & emotional, oral language & literacy, and maths. The guidance in each of these areas is consistent with 'Te Whāriki' principles, and supportive of teaching and learning across all strands, goals and learning outcomes of 'Te Whāriki'. 

Why focus on social & emotional, oral language & literacy, and maths?

Life course research

Life course research tells us that social & emotional, oral language & literacy, and maths capabilities are crucial to positive educational and life outcomes. However, persistent inequities remain in these areas of learning for some groups in our education system and evidence shows that inequities that begin early may persist.

Integrating domain knowledge

Kōwhiti Whakapae will help kaiako to realise the full potential of 'Te Whāriki' as an integrated curriculum. Domain knowledge (such as maths) is woven throughout 'Te Whāriki' and, while maths is more explicit in the Mana reo | Communication and Mana aotūroa | Exploration strands, it can also be found in others. For example, making connections between people, places, and things relates to mathematical skills and knowledge such as grouping (e.g., grouping people according to types of relationships) and an understanding of spatial relationships (e.g., connections between places). This capability is reflected in the learning outcome “… children become increasingly capable of making connections between people, places and things in their world | te waihanga hononga” within the Mana whenua | Belonging strand.

'Te Whāriki' reminds us that kaiako need to integrate domain knowledge into their local curriculum in ways that connect with children’s interests and strengths and other aspects of learning ('Te Whāriki', 2017, p. 9 and p. 59). Kōwhiti Whakapae is designed to help kaiako do this in ways that recognise play-based and routine-based learning opportunities as being at the heart of natural and authentic curriculum. 

Positive learner identity

A child’s positive learner identity grows when they can engage with new contexts, opportunities and challenges with optimism and resourcefulness. For these reasons, 'Te Whāriki' emphasises the development of knowledge, skills, attitudes and dispositions that support lifelong learning. Kōwhiti Whakapae guides kaiako to use teaching practices supportive of children’s expanding capabilities in specific learning areas so that children can increasingly engage in this way.

How does Kōwhiti Whakapae connect to other education initiatives?

Kōwhiti Whakapae has been developed to align with the following:

National Education Learning Priorities

The Statement of National Education and Learning Priorities (NELP) is a set of objectives and priorities designed to guide early learning services to focus on things that will have a positive impact for children. The priorities can be used alongside the service's own local priorities to help design local curriculum. Kōwhiti Whakapae is particularly aligned to NELP Objective 2 - Barrier Free Access, Priority 4: ‘Ensure every learner/ākonga, gains sound foundation skills, including language, literacy and numeracy’, and Objective 3 - Quality teaching & leadership, Priority 6: ‘Develop staff to strengthen teaching, leadership, and learner support capability’.

To find out more about the NELP visit 'Te Whāriki' Online.

Learning Support Action Plan (LSAP) and He Pikorua Practice Framework

Kōwhiti Whakapae supports priorities in the Learning Support Action Plan (LSAP), including early identification of learning support needs and strengthening early intervention. Kōwhiti Whakapae provides this support by helping kaiako recognise when additional support may be required, and by complementing the He Pikorua Practice Framework. He Pikorua supports practitioners to work effectively and collaboratively within the Learning Support Delivery Model . He Pikorua uses a flexible, tailored approach for identifying three types of supports which increase in intensity depending on the needs and the context.  This approach is called Te Tūāpapa and the three types of support are: Te Matua | Universal, Te Kāhui | Targeted, and Te Arotahi | Tailored.

Kōwhiti Whakapae will help early learning kaiako and learning support practitioners within all three types of support. Practices in Kōwhiti Whakapae support kaiako to lay the groundwork to strengthen teaching practice and improve learning and wellbeing outcomes for all children (aligning to Te Matua | Universal). The practices and phases of progress also support kaiako to notice, recognise and respond to children’s capabilities (aligning to Te Kāhui | Targeted). Noticing and recognising early also means more timely access to learning supports as needed and more tailored support (aligning to Te Arotahi | Tailored).  

Find out more about the He Pikorua Practice Framework and Te Tūāpapa here.  

Ka Hikitia – Ka Hāpaitia | The Māori Education Strategy

Kōwhiti Whakapae has strong links with Ka Hikitia – Ka Hāpaitia | The Māori Education Strategy across all five of the strategy’s outcome domains: 

  • Te Whānau: Education provision responds to learners within the context of their whānau
  • Te Tangata: Māori are free from racism, discrimination and stigma in education
  • Te Kanorautanga: Māori are diverse and need to be understood in the context of their diverse aspirations and lived experiences
  • Te Tuakiritanga: Identity, language and culture matter for Māori learners
  • Te Rangatiratanga: Māori exercise their authority and agency in education.

Kōwhiti Whakapae is designed to help kaiako view their own practice and children’s progress through the lens of the identity, language and culture of the child and community. It supports kaiako to reflect on how they support children’s identity, language and culture, including recognising (and challenging) their own beliefs and values. For example, in the area of social and emotional learning, Kōwhiti Whakapae includes a sub-area: ’social inclusion and action’. This sub-area’s content supports children to talk about how people are treated and describe their views of fairness. It also guides kaiako to help children form and describe working theories related to aspects of life including prejudice about race and/or ethnicity, and to help them to take an active stance if children desire.

The Action Plan for Pacific Education 2020 - 2030

Kōwhiti Whakapae supports the shifts set out in in the Action Plan for Pacific Education 2020- 2030. It has strong links to Shift 2 – ‘Confront systemic racism and discrimination in education’, and Shift 3 – ‘Enable every teacher, leader and educational professional to take coordinated action to become culturally competent with diverse Pacific learners’. 

Find out more about this plan here

What does an inclusive environment mean in Kōwhiti Whakapae?

Kōwhiti Whakapae supports an inclusive education system where all children are able to fully engage, learn and achieve with the appropriate accommodations, adaptations and learning supports. Inclusion encompasses gender and ethnicity, diversity of ability and learning needs, family structure and values, socio-economic status and religion.

Te Whāriki defines an inclusive curriculum as one where kaiako are “adapting environments and teaching approaches as necessary and removing any barriers to participation and learning” (Ministry of Education, 2017, p. 13). 

Within Kōwhiti Whakapae the expectation is that kaiako provide a learning environment including teaching strategies, organisation of time, resources and technologies so each child can actively participate, communicate and achieve alongside their peers in a way and at a pace that is appropriate for them.

Inclusive communication incorporates all the ways children and kaiako communicate. This includes, but not limited to:

  • Spoken languages including te reo Māori and home languages.
  • New Zealand Sign Language (NZSL) and other home signed languages
  • Oral and visual means of expression, including vocalisations, gestures, movement, images and alternative and augmentative communication (AAC).

A learning environment that is inclusive of diversity of ability and learning  includes adapting the environment for a child who is physically disabled or adjusting routines and supports to fully include children with high levels of anxiety, sensory, or social and emotional needs.

Partnering with whānau supports kaiako to better understand and respond to whānau aspirations and children’s capabilities and learning progress over time. Where there are concerns about a child’s learning progress, it is appropriate to seek additional support and guidance from centre leaders and learning support and address these collaboratively with the whānau in a mana enhancing way.

Kōwhiti Whakapae - name and visual design


The name Kōwhiti Whakapae draws on the pattern of te kōwhiti whakapae whāriki shown on page 11 of 'Te Whāriki'. This pattern symbolises the “start of a journey that will take the traveler beyond the horizon” and has a focus on the realm of potential.

In this curriculum resource, the name Kōwhiti Whakapae represents the importance of weaving rich and responsive curriculum experiences for all children. The name also represents the space for conversations (formal and informal) that are crucial to formative assessment and local curriculum design. These conversations involve kaiako, children and their whānau.

Underpinning concepts

Kōwhiti Whakapae draws on concepts underpinning the cover image  of Te Whāriki. This  image depicts the underside of the whāriki revealing the weaver’s mastery. It also shows the hiki or hono which symbolises where new knowledge joins existing strands to support the quality of the whāriki. The whāriki is unfinished with loose strands still to be woven. These strands acknowledge the child’s ongoing learning.

Visual Design  

The visual design is underpinned by two elements: a representation of harakeke - whānau nurturing and protecting a child - and a representation of kaiako/hapori supporting and guiding the whānau. The two elements are woven together with strands of harakeke, emphasising the important connection between two supporting events of a child’s life, learning and development. The white spaces allow for conversations and learning. The painted texture gives a sense of the weaving being handmade and the importance of the mastery of the weaver. 

Icons representing learning areas

The three learning areas are represented through unique woven designs that can also form patterns.


Social and emotional learning

The design reflects connection, emotion, inclusion, hands and hearts and the strength in joining strands of harakeke.


Oral language and literacy

The design reflects multiple ways of communicating, different forms of expression, coming together and leaving space for others. The central space with the four squares around it represents tapa whā - and a holistic approach to learning.



The design reflects poutama or the stages of learning that lead to knowledge i.e., maths as a foundation of mātauranga. It can also represent a bar graph and counting blocks. It is turned on its side when incorporated into the lead (wider) weave pattern. 

Kōwhiti Whakapae - the development process

In 2020, the Ministry of Education began work to develop resources to help early learning kaiako strengthen their formative assessment and intentional teaching practices. We approached the work in phases to allow us to trial and iterate as work progressed and work closely with kaiako and others in the sector.  

Throughout the process we have engaged people with expertise in curriculum and formative assessment, including in kaupapa Māori and Pacific contexts, and expertise in subject (or domain) learning areas.

The Ministry’s Early Childhood Advisory Committee (ECAC) helped us to establish a Sector Reference Group (SRG) so that the views and expertise of kaiako, early learning services, providers and other stakeholders could guide the process. This SRG has been an invaluable source of critique and support.  

You can find out more about who has been involved in the development of Kōwhiti Whakapae in ‘Ngā mihi maihoa | Acknowledgements’ section below.

Initial trialling

In mid-2021, a PLD supported trial of the initial framing and draft social and emotional content was undertaken in the context of COVID restrictions. The trial involved kaiako and whānau from over 100 early learning services and ran between October 2021 – June 2022.


Following the PLD supported trial, the Ministry used the findings to revise the framing, content and language of Kōwhiti Whakapae. To inform this work, we continued to work closely with a Sector Reference Group and Internal Advisory Group as well as kaiako and academics. We held public meetings and several meetings with interested stakeholder groups.

To address perceptions that the progressions were too linear with potential for misuse, changes were made to strengthen the focus on kaiako practice in supporting children’s growing capabilities. This included introducing ‘respond’ practices, and presenting content online in a stepped process to guide kaiako through the essentials of Kōwhiti Whakapae.

Developing the oral language & literacy and maths learning areas

Continuing from the earlier work, the oral language & literacy, and maths content follows the same framing as the social & emotional learning area. Work is informed by sector feedback and trialing with the sector.

Ngā mihi maioha | acknowledgements

The Ministry of Education wishes to thank the generosity of:

  • Kaiako who brought their practice lens to trial the content and functionality of the online resource.
  • Mokopuna and whānau whose photos enrich the resource.
  • Associate Professor Tara McLaughlin (Massey University), Associate Professor Sue Cherrington (Victoria University) and team for their expertise in developing Kōwhiti Whakapae framing, approach, and social and emotional content.
  • Members of the Sector Reference Group and Internal Advisory Groups who provided their time and expertise to review and comment on the work throughout its development.
  • Tātai Aho Rau CORE Education for shaping framing and content throughout the development and working with the sector to trial, iterate and finalise numerous drafts.
  • Content and technical writers who distilled content into an online format.