A kura kaupapa has for the first time taken out the top prize for Māori medium education sector.
Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Hoani Waititi Marae won the 2019 Focus Prize at the Prime Minister's education excellence awards last night.
The kura was recognised by the judges for the significant shifts in achievement it had made, with students remaining at the school longer in their senior years and providing greater career choices for students, with a focus on vocation aspirations.
"This kura is building on robust conversations with whānau. It has initiated new approaches to teaching and learning and has shifted from an emphasis on subject learning to meeting the need of their students," the judges comments said.
Tumuaki of Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Hoani Waititi Marae, Hare Rua, said the award honours the rangatira who first started the kura kauapapa from nothing.
"For our whānau just to be in amongst that, in that company, and be recognised in that manner is real honouring, and then also the vision that the likes of papa Pita Sharples and our whānau saw back in 1985 when they first decided to go with kura kauapapa - with nothing - four, five years the kura kaupapa ran with no funding at all, just out of aroha and out of kindness."
"So the vision they had that this is the right direction for them to take for their tamariki, last night's award was part of the vision that they saw, and what they wanted to see so we honour them as well."
Mr Rua said the application and judging process, which includes a panel of judges that visit and interview students and teachers for a day, was quite challenging, but the judges were complimentary of the work the small kura kaupapa was doing.
The curriculum of the kura, Te Kete Uruao, allows students to be involved with big, projects within te ao Māori, such as revitilising streams, where tamariki not only learn maths and sciences, but they learn about te taiao.
"They build a tomokanga for our māra kai, so within building that tomokanga there's measurement, there's angles ... there's all these different curriculum areas that drop out."