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Ministry of Education.

Creatives in schools – a Kāhui Ako initiative in Porirua East

It all started with the appointment of qualified teacher from Chile, Matias Ceballos, who is also a musician, as a bilingual support worker across schools in the Porirua East Kāhui Ako. He was funded through the RFFP (Refugee Flexible Funding Pool) to provide in-class support for Spanish speaking students and to assist the schools with family liaison.

Wellington-based Senior Advisor Refugee and Migrant Support, Carolina Millar, who was instrumental in setting up bilingual support and has worked extensively with the schools and families, says:

"The learning support coordinator, Balaji Somasundaram and the bilingual tutor (Matias) identified that some children, particularly the Colombian children from a refugee background, were not attending school regularly. This was especially evident after COVID. Parents had a genuine fear of something happening to their kids, partly because of their own traumatic experiences."

Matias had been using his musical skills to engage the children. He says:

"In all Latin American nations, music is a passion that reflects the great cultural, regional, and ancestral diversity of its people and its geography. Much of the music is a blend of Spanish and European influences with indigenous sounds and African beats. Often dubbed the 'land of a thousand rhythms', Colombia especially is home to a dynamic, unforgettable and ever-evolving musical environment. Music is identity, sense of belonging and integration, not only for children, but for the entire community." 

Matias works with children at Holy Family School.


The Porirua East Kāhui Ako put in a successful application last year for funding from Creatives in Schools to start an orchestra this year. To belong to the orchestra, children and their families must commit to children attending school regularly and practising their instruments at home. The children are provided with an instrument, and at the end of each term it is planned to have a performance.

Matius wrote in the Creatives in Schools funding application:

"Every day I see children and youth of Latino roots in the classroom who have a special motivation towards music and dance. In this project, we want to meet the needs of students who are highly motivated towards music, willing to dedicate part of their free time in developing their musical abilities, enjoying and acquiring levels that would be unattainable in the normal dynamics of the class." 

"Starting an orchestra is a means to promote 'culture and identity' through the reconstruction and conservation of our Latin American roots, creating a participatory procedure to increase the self-esteem and self-regulation of the students."

A group performs at Windley School.


This is an evidence-based project expanding on an approach that the schools have found effective with children and their families. The 'Outcomes for parents and whānau' section of the application states:

"The project also serves in the development of a learning community and family participation. The parents and families would be invited to join one of the weekly sessions regularly where they could observe how the child is learning which may be practised at home during weekends." 

"Many Latin American families in Porirua East have a wealth of knowledge in music which they would be invited to share. This project would also create a platform for these families from different countries speaking Spanish in getting to know each other and in forming friendships." 

The children enjoy wearing their Colombian dancing costumes.


Creatives in Schools TKI page

Updated on: 25 Jan 2022