Demand high for Golden Bay’s very first bilingual classroom

The appetite is there says Takaka primary School principal Jenny Bennett. The challenge is finding the right teacher.

Nina Hindmarsh/Stuff

The appetite is there says Takaka primary School principal Jenny Bennett. The challenge is finding the right teacher.

Demand is high for Golden Bay’s first te reo Māori and English bilingual classroom set to begin next year – if the right teacher is found.

Takaka Primary School will be paving the way toward a bilingual future for its students beginning in term 1 next year, with 31 students already enrolled in the new classroom.

Principal Jenny Bennett said there was a “huge appetite” among its students and their families, from both Māori and Pākehā alike.

“There’s huge energy and enthusiasm to experience a bicultural society actually within the school in a really authentic way,” Bennett said.

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“So it’s not just paying lip-service to [te reo Māori], it’s actually woven through our school curriculum and culture, and deepening that knowledge and deepening that understanding.”

Applications for an experienced kaiako, or teacher, to run the class close in October, with applicants interested in the position from outside of Golden Bay.

Manawhenua ki Mohua kaumatua John Ward-Holmes.

Chris Conroy

Manawhenua ki Mohua kaumatua John Ward-Holmes.

But Bennett said the biggest challenge the school faced was finding the right kaiako.

“We have the energy, enthusiasm and appetite, the resourcing, and we know it’s sustainable … but it’s only going to work if we find that person, and the challenge for me is finding someone who is not just fluent in te reo, but also a good teacher.”

Bennett was surprised to see there was no bilingual education pathway in Golden Bay, when she started three years ago. 

“So this is actually a community initiative, it’s something we have to give back to our mana whenua.”

The 31 students will be taught up to 51 per cent in te reo Māori within an open hub learning environment. There would be one lead kaiako, another existing staff member also learning the language along the way, and one kaiawhina, or teacher aide.

“With a skilled person coming into it, I’m hoping there will be a lot of art, games, singing and stories to build the language, as well as the reading, writing and maths in English, for a really well-rounded education.”

Manawhenua ki Mohua’s kaumata John Ward-Holmes said the iwi was “extremely supportive” of the school’s initiative.

“We have dreamed of something like this happening for a very long time, but wondered if it would ever come to fruition,” he said.

“That is our wish, for it to continue on into high school eventually, and into life. It’s really great to see so many from the community supporting it.”


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