14 Apr 2015

Charter schools vary approach to Maori

7:36 pm on 14 April 2015

Inquiries by Te Manu Korihi into some partnership schools reveal a diverse approach to Maori education.

Children at Te Kura Maori o Waatea.

Children at Te Kura Maori o Waatea. Photo: SUPPLIED: Te Kura Maori o Waatea

The investigation follows a Bay of Plenty Maori language advocate, Pat Spellman, calling for Te Reo to be compulsory in all charter schools.

But that vision is not being shared in the classrooms.

The latest charter school out of the blocks is Te Kura Maori o Waatea - set up in Mangere for primary-aged children.

Based at Waatea Marae, the kura looked into many different learning methodologies, and intends to incorporate parts of the Rudolf Steiner approach.

Principal Tania Rangiheuea said they had selected and adopted certain concepts.

"We like the idea of inclusivity, so that's family engagement with their child. We like some of the teaching practices, for example greeting the child as soon as they walk through the door into the kura so they understand the difference between outside environment and inside learning space.

"Children should not be subjected to yelling and screaming in class, we don't like that. So our children come and they know when they come into the class there is a certain type of behaviour they have to meet."

Te Kura Maori o Waatea splits its curriculum between Maori and English.

It's a different story at two other charter schools, South and West Auckland Middle Schools, where Maori is only compulsory for the second term of Year 9.

The schools are Christian-based with about 15 children per class, and academic advisor Alwyn Poole said they taught basic Maori in their curriculum.

"So what we try and do in all of our subject areas is give students enough of a base and enough significant content in terms of language and culture so that if they want to do Maori in Year 11 we've given them a strong foundation to do it."

Over the harbour bridge at North Shore's Vanguard Military School, Maori is an optional subject for seniors.

Vanguard teaches years 11 to 13, and the head of Maori, Eddie Hudson, said they offered Maori to all three year groups.

"A lot of these kids don't know where they're from, they don't know their marae, their iwi, even though they're Maori. So I suppose within our classroom settings we can challenge these kids to find out, research it, and they can actually start to realise why they are brown and different from other people. I think it's really exciting actually - having schools like charter schools giving them a different vehicle to find who they are and hopefully (be) successful in education."

Mr Hudson said the curriculum's flexibility meant he could tailor what he taught to what the akonga wanted.

"At the moment we do a haka from the central Hawke's Bay area called Tika Tonu, but the kids sort of approached me last year and said it'd be really cool to start their own project. At the moment they're working on their own school haka so hopefully we'll have something sorted by the end of the year."

Officially, the approach to Maori education in charter schools is flexible, with the Ministry of Education only stipulating that the schools have to measure akonga attendance and achievement through school rolls and NCEA-type standards.