Success defines Maori research
A Hokianga man's study of what makes Maori succeed in education has been nominated for a national research award.
His 50,000 word thesis has been nominated for the Research in Education Association's Rae Munro award which recognises excellence in research with implications for teacher education.
Mr McKinney interviewed nine year 13 students at his school to identify factors that had helped them to reach the seventh form.
"A lot of research on Maori is negative and focuses on why they're bombing out. I took it from a positive angle. I wanted to know why this group had made it to that level."
Students in the study group - which included eight females - all had a mentor or role model who they respected and trusted, he says.
"Their inspiration came from someone quite close. You could almost pinpoint where they got it from."
Positive peer pressure was also important and students understood the risk of falling into the poverty trap if they didn't get an education.
"Friends pulled each other along. They knew what lay ahead if they didn't pass."
Students were also grounded in Te Ao Maori - the Maori world - had strong links with their marae and grandparents who were positive role models.
While a stable home environment was important, parental influence became less of a determinant of success when students gained more independence in their teenage years.
The findings have led Mr McKinney to set up a mentoring programme at the school.
Year 11, 12 and 13 students pick a teacher they feel comfortable with who monitors their academic progress and helps them to follow the right path to their chosen careers.
"If nobody chooses you, you have to ask why."
Mr McKinney is descended from south Hokianga hapu Te Hikutu and Ngati Korokoro.