Maori achievement programme helping school

Totara Primary School principal Brandon Payne has plans to encourgae Maori education in his...
Totara Primary School principal Brandon Payne has plans to encourgae Maori education in his school. He jokes with (left) Blake Taylor (10) and Fern McRostie (12) about their experiecnce learning haka. Photo: Shannon Gillies.
It has been six months since Totara Primary School joined the Dunedin Maori Achievement Collaborative (MAC) and it is having positive results for pupils, the school principal says.

Totara was the only North Otago School to join the collective, about six months ago, when it formed with 17 other Dunedin-based schools and now the school was investigating its options about offering the district a kohanga reo.

School principal Brandon Payne believed if he could get the kohanga reo project started it would be a first of its kind for the district.

"There’s nothing like that in North Otago."

He said being part of MAC was helpful for generating ideas about what his school could do to embrace indigenous culture and it was proving positive for children of all backgrounds.

"We meet every term and have a hui at different schools around Dunedin. The focus is to upskill the principal because they’re leading the school and then you grow."

A Ministry of Education document says MAC is a development group for principals with its key focus on creating positive education outcomes for Maori pupils.

The underlying premise of this learning and development programme is that "schools won’t change unless the principal does".

"To this end, the focus of the programme is on ‘changing the hearts and minds of principals’ through a process of deep learning, mentoring, coaching, ... and collaboration."

Being part of MAC altered the way Totara taught te reo and Maori culture.

For example, every Tuesday the children come together to learn haka and waiata, he said.

When the school is a host for events, such as next week’s gathering of local country principals, guests were greeted by waiata and haka.

The drive for change came from the school’s roll. About a third of children identified as Maori.

"The big thing is how [pupils] see it. You come to school and you see yourself being valued and in a lot of schools Maori kids can see their culture not being valued.

"Maori education is one of the priorities of the ministry.

"Here we’re quite lucky because now our Maori achievement is well above the national average. That’s what a lot of the schools in the MAC project are starting to show, especially in places like Christchurch and the North Island. They’re starting to show their achievement rates are going up, but there are positive impacts for all students."

He said pupils were reacting well to the Maori curriculum being delivered at Totara.

"In other schools you can get ‘why are we doing Maori?’, but I haven’t had any of it. The boys like the haka. It gives them their chance to shine and quite often boys don’t get that chance to shine."

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