By: Michael Neilson

Auckland schools are calling on the Government to back a programme delivering te reo classes, saying they don’t have the capacity to do it on their own.

Te Reo Tuatahi (First Language) has been delivering Māori classes to primary schools, mostly on Auckland’s North Shore, for the past five years.

About 30 schools have signed up for the programme, paid for from their operational budgets, which provides a base of one half-hour lesson per week to each classroom.

Teachers were also included in the lessons, and the kaiāwhina reo (language tutors) assisted the schools with tikanga, some even helping with kapa haka.

Te Reo Tuatahi co-ordinator Raewyn Harrison said the programme was about boosting te reo in mainstream schools.

Te Reo Tuatahi co-ordinator Raewyn Harrison (right) and kaiāwhina reo Mel Davis during a class at Takapuna Normal Intermediate School. File photo / Dean Purcell

“We had high hopes with this new Government, especially with the way they campaigned on being a champion for te reo Māori, even saying it should be compulsory in schools. But the capacity is not there yet.

“This perception te reo Māori is being delivered well in all schools is definitely not true.

“One school might have a whānau member who comes in, while another might have a teacher doing it for a term. It is all ad hoc.

“By the time the students reach intermediate some are still struggling with things like numbers.”

Te Reo Tuatahi had a waiting list of at least 10 schools wanting to sign up, and they wanted to expand further, but needed more support, Harrison said.

Ministry of Education early learning and student achievement deputy secretary Ellen MacGregor-Reid said Te Reo Tuatahi had the option of becoming a centrally funded professional learning and development provider.

“To date they have chosen not to go down this track.”

The Government was committed to building a “culturally-competent teacher workforce”, and funded short immersion courses and second language teaching programmes, she said.

Harrison said the PLD process was “rather involved”, and there were issues with a large percentage of their kaiāwhina reo not being registered teachers.

“It seemed like we were going to have to jump through a whole lot of hoops just to get a few dollars to teach the indigenous language of this country, and there was no guarantee it would work out.”

She also questioned why they had to compete for the funding with other providers for all subjects, given the strong push for increasing the number of te reo speakers in the country.

“It might not be perfect, but making te reo Māori more available and accessible in schools through programmes such as ours is a step in the right direction.

“Schools should have access to funds to support them.”

Bayswater School tumuaki (principal) Lindsay Child said before joining the programme last year they had struggled to deliver te reo.

New teaching graduates had limited knowledge of tikanga and te reo, often less than their pupils, she said.

“All of the staff were enthusiastic, but we were learning ourselves, so it was hard to go and then teach a class.”

Now all 230 pupils in the school were involved, and they ran an extension class for pupils from kohanga reo, or who could already korero Māori.

“It has been fantastic. You can hear children having short conversations in te reo around the school.”

On one occasion, two 6-year-old pupils gave an art presentation to the school, and
instinctively did their pepeha in te reo.

“All the teacher said was you need to do an introduction, and they did their pepeha, because that was what they knew. It was beautiful.”

Devonport Primary School tumuaki Beverley Booth said their school was in its fifth year of the programme.

“It not only provides te reo, but general support on te ao Māori. This year we are running a kaitiakitanga moana theme, and the tutor came and talked it through with staff.”

Booth said the Education Review Office came through the school earlier this year, and was supportive of the programme.

“Beforehand teachers would do te reo themselves, but it was just on a much different level. It would be great if there was more support for [the programme].”

Both schools funded the programme through their operational budgets, but supported the Government getting behind it to help expand to other schools.

Harrison said this year there had been encouraging discussions with the Government about including the programme in wānanga on boosting te reo in schools, but these had fallen flat in the past few months.

“We don’t want a repeat of having to sit on the sidelines for another three years when we know our programme works, provides value to schools and could definitely be part of the wider solution for strengthening te reo Māori.”

In the meantime Harrison said they would be working with the New Zealand Māori Council, where she was secretary, to expand the programme across Aotearoa.

Source: NZ Herald

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