The Ministry of Education is defending printing thousands of badges to promote Maori education which some principals have labelled gimmicky and infantile.
The badges, sporting phrases like "I love Maori success", "Nice!" and "Wassup!", were sent to principals this week with information packs for Ka Hikitia - Managing for Success, a strategy aimed at turning around Maori under-achievement in schools.
The total cost of the mailout was $230,000, Radio New Zealand reported. The badges are thought to have cost $56,000.
Avondale College principal Brent Lewis told the Herald he thought the badges were a disappointing waste of taxpayers' money and sent an unfortunate message that Maori students were valued over those of other races.
Secondary Principals Association president Peter Gall said that while some of the material in the packs was useful, the marketing material and badges were a "load of nonsense".
"Frankly I think it's infantile."
Ministry deputy secretary for Maori Apryll Parata said she was disappointed by the criticism.