Kohanga, primary and high schools in finals for national prize

A ROTORUA kohanga, primary school and high school are highlighting the hard work happening in the local education sector, being named finalists for the 2016 Prime Minister's Education Excellence Awards.

Aorangi School, Rotorua Boys' High School and Te Kohanga Reo ki Rotokawa have been shortlisted for awards.

Aorangi School is a finalist for the Education Focus (Takatu) prize for achieving great change in a relatively short amount of time.

Aorangi School worked hard to include health across the curriculum, and gained strong academic results with sustained student engagement over time.

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Health and well-being is now embedded in the school with collaboration and input from the community.

Principal Debra Harrod said they were thrilled by the news the school had been shortlisted.

"We have put in a lot of hard work to get to where we are now, so when we were applying we were quietly confident.

"That being said, you can never know for sure what the judges are looking for so when we were told we were thrilled."

Te Kohanga Reo ki Rotokawa is a finalist in the Excellence in Engaging - Atahapara Award category. The school set out to increase whanau and community engagement with great results. It wanted parents to be active beyond kohanga reo and to help develop the well-being of their tamariki.

Three years on and whanau participation has increased dramatically along with the well-being and empowerment of the community.

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Senior supervisor Tiria Shaw said when the team found out they were finalists, they were surprised, immensely proud and a bit overwhelmed.

"Our journey towards engaging our whanau through a Te Ao Maori lens has not been an overnight success story. Instead it has taken years to empower our whanau through a variety of experiences and consistent engagement."

She said entering the awards was a first for the kohanga and while it seemed daunting, "we saw it as an opportunity to share with all of Aotearoa the uniqueness of the kaupapa of Kohanga Reo".

"Regardless of the outcome, we are very proud of what our kohanga has achieved for such a small whanau base."

Rotorua Boys' High School has been selected as a finalist in two award categories, the Excellence in Engaging - Atahapara Award and the Excellence in Leading - Atakura Award.

The school underwent a thorough examination of institutions and practices. A disparity between the achievement of Maori and non-Maori was identified and staff realised things needed to change if it was going to address the achievement difference.

This led to significant changes within the school that accelerated Maori success. Attendance and engagement of students improved as well as success in cultural and sporting activities.

The awards celebrate some of the best of teaching in New Zealand. This year saw a record number of entries with 14 finalists selected from more than 200 entries.

Winners from each category will be awarded $20,000 and a professional development opportunity. Winners will be announced on June 13.