Last month’s ‘Wellbeing Budget’ invested $42 million over three years in the new Te Hurihanganui initiative.
Myles Ferris, president of Te Akatea – New Zealand Māori Principals Association, supported the move, which builds upon the former Te Kotahitanga programme.
“We’re well aware that racism exists in our schools and if we’re ever going to get rid of it from our society then schools are the first place to start.”
Ferris said work must be done to ensure the programme was well-structured and well-run, with the money directed to where it was most needed, and not “sucked up by the bureaucracy of it all.”
There is scope to eventually expand the programme out into the wider community, part of a “multi-pronged approach”, he said.
Te Akatea would also like to see more protections for those who call out racism.
“We have to be able to have a mechanism that allows our students, our parents, our staff, our teachers the opportunity to feel confident to raise an issue,” Ferris said.
Ferris also identified the $32 million funding increase for kōhanga reo as an important step in increasing the number of Māori children in Māori medium education.
“That’s a goal that a number of Māori educational organisations have identified as being necessary.”
Overall, he said the tranche of new funding would help the overall wellbeing of tamariki.
“We know that it’s important that they are not traumatised or re-traumatised every time they walk through the [school] gate.
“We’ve still got a long way to go to address the inequity of our society, but this is a good step.”
The $42 million will go towards teacher development, and hui with parents and schools to facilitate engagement.
An expert panel, chaired by Waikato University professor Dr Mere Berryman, hammered out the programme’s finer details during 2018.
The developmental phase included 36 hui held nationwide, with over 2,000 participants sharing their experiences of racism or bias in the education system.
Associate Education Minister Kelvin Davis said Te Hurihanganui would “boost the capability of the education workforce to better support Māori achievement, and transform the learning experiences of Māori students.”
Davis said the education system had “underserved Māori learners”.
“The Wellbeing Budget is about taking on long-term challenges, and we are committed to improving the outcomes and experience for Māori kids and their whānau.
“We receive consistent feedback that Māori students and their whānau experience racism and bias in schools, impacting on their achievement. Feedback supported by evidence.”
Davis said an evidence-based approach was decided upon, “focused on what works for Māori learners and their whānau”.
“There are two critical factors in supporting Māori learners: high quality teaching that reflects culture and identity, and strong engagement from whānau and the wider community.
“This initiative addresses both of these factors. We will work with schools, whānau and communities at the same time – supporting communities to build strong relationships with schools and supporting schools to strengthen their daily practice to ensure our system supports Māori success.”
Te Hurihanganui will be piloted across six communities over a three-year period. The Government will partner with participating communities later in the year to plan in detail for the programme’s implementation.