Embracing Play-Based Learning: A Decade of Transformation at Kaurihohore School

Longworth Education has embarked on a journey to show off Play Pedagogy from Aotearoa New Zealand on the world stage. Play Pedagogy is a way of integrating children’s play experiences with curricular learning, giving ākonga (students) the flexibility to find their own solutions to both new and existing problems.

Embracing Play-Based Learning: A Decade of Transformation at Kaurihohore School

School Information

  • Current School Roll: 183
  • Rural Primary Kura/School (Years 0-6)

Physical Environment

Primarily single-cell classroom blocks and ‘older’ style buildings


Kaurihohore school is a primary school Year1-6. The school is located in Whangārei, about five minutes out of Kamo. They have ten classrooms and a roll that starts around 180 each year and climbs to just over 200. Their outlook is rural, with lots of lifestyle properties in the area now. They have a diverse socio-economic community with an Equity Index is 433.

For over a decade, Kaurihohore School has been at the forefront of educational innovation, embracing play-based learning and developmentally responsive practices. This article explores their remarkable journey, highlighting the positive impact on students’ learning outcomes, the transformation in teachers’ practices, challenges faced, and their goals for the future.

A Decade of Play Pedagogy
Kaurihohore School embarked on their play-based learning journey approximately ten years ago. They started with a focus on oral language development, which gradually led them to fully integrate play into their Year 1-3 classrooms. Although play looks different for Year 4 and above, the playful ethos permeates the entire school.

Embracing Play-Based Learning: A Decade of Transformation at Kaurihohore School

Enhanced Learning Outcomes
The impact of play-based learning on students’ learning outcomes has been significant. While academic achievements have not seen a dramatic shift, students have become more robust learners. They possess well-rounded skills, including improved executive functioning and persistence. The playful approach has fostered deeper student engagement, enabling them to take ownership of their learning.

Transformation in Teachers’ Practices
Embracing play-based learning has revolutionized the way teachers perceive and facilitate learning. By understanding children’s developmental stages, teachers have gained deeper insights into the learning process and built stronger relationships with their students. The integration of authentic learning situations has made classrooms more dynamic and engaging, creating a conducive environment for growth.

Embracing Play-Based Learning: A Decade of Transformation at Kaurihohore School

Overcoming Assumptions and Challenges
The transition to play-based learning has come with its own set of challenges. However, the dedicated educators at Kaurihohore School have successfully overcome their old assumptions about learning. They have embraced the transformative power of play and its ability to enrich students’ educational experiences.

Balancing Play and Literacy/Numeracy
A common concern is the perceived conflict between play-based learning and literacy/numeracy instruction. At Kaurihohore School, these two approaches coexist harmoniously. The journey began with a focus on oral language development, ensuring a seamless connection between play and literacy. Bite-sized moments of structured literacy and numeracy instruction are integrated throughout the day, aligning with students’ cognitive load and the need for explicit teaching.

Reflective Achievement Levels
The literacy and numeracy achievement levels at Kaurihohore School are reflective of students’ typical development. The integration of play-based learning alongside structured literacy approaches has resulted in improved developmental outcomes. By establishing strong foundations and gradually introducing formal reading around 5.6-6 years of age, students have excelled in their literacy and numeracy journeys.

Embracing Play-Based Learning: A Decade of Transformation at Kaurihohore School

Addressing Concerns and Future Goals
Oral language development remains a primary concern for Kaurihohore School. Efforts are continually focused on embedding talk and vocabulary development to enhance students’ expressive capabilities. Looking ahead, the school aims to further enhance dramatic inquiry, allowing play to evolve into a guided process that fosters reflection and deeper understanding. Ensuring access to play for older students and maintaining a balanced learning environment are also key goals for the future.

Kaurihohore School’s decade-long journey into play-based learning and developmentally responsive practices stands as a testament to their commitment to holistic education. By valuing the power of play, the school has created an environment where students thrive as resilient learners, while teachers continue to evolve and adapt their practices. As they forge ahead, Kaurihohore School remains dedicated to providing engaging, meaningful, and student-centered education through the transformative force of play.