Five Rotorua schools and early childhood centres and one Te Puke school have been named finalists in this year's Prime Minister's Education Excellence Awards.

Elstree Kindergarten, Te Kōhanga Reo o Tarimano, Rotorua Boys' High School, Tiaki Early Learning Centre and Te Kōhanga Reo ki Rotokawa, all in Rotorua, have been selected, as well as Te Puke's Fairhaven School.

The awards celebrate groups of teachers and educators working together, and with students, whānau and communities to deliver excellent outcomes for children and young people.

Ministry of Education deputy secretary for early learning and student achievement Ellen MacGregor-Reid said the judging panel had chosen 20 finalists across all categories.

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She said they all demonstrated outstanding teaching practices that made a big difference not just to learners, but to their whānau and the wider community.

"They are a great example of the amazing work that is happening in early learning services, kura and schools across the country. We look forward to hearing their stories at the awards ceremony and sharing them with the rest of New Zealand," she said.

Members of the independent judging panel are visiting the finalists between June and August to see their work and speak with all those involved.

Winners from each category will receive $20,000 and a professional development opportunity.

The Supreme Award winner will receive an additional $30,000 and an opportunity to represent New Zealand in an international education conference.

The awards ceremony will be held in Wellington in September.

The finalists
Elstree Kindergarten, Rotorua, finalist in the Excellence in Engaging category.

This kindergarten developed a strong partnership with its local marae and a shared vision with its community to ensure tikanga is a strongly embedded aspect of children's early years.

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This grew into the development of strong relationships between tamariki, kaiako, whānau, and the marae, with te reo, waiata, pakiwaitara, karakia and māra kai becoming an integral part of the kindergarten's programme.

The relationship with the marae has ensured mātauranga Māori and te reo are evident in teaching and learning in ways that reflect the identity and language of Māori children and their whānau.

The children, with the support of their whānau, have become culturally competent, confident and connected, and have developed positive attitudes towards hauora through the community garden project.

Te Kōhanga Reo o Tarimano, Awahou-North Rotorua, finalist in the Excellence in Engaging category, and the 2019 Education Focus Prize - Excellence in Māori-medium Education.

The kōhanga focused on getting its whānau fully engaged to enable it to reach its full potential, and to improve and sustain positive outcomes for its tamariki as well as the iwi of Ngāti Rangiwewehi.

The kōhanga looked at the level of awareness of whānau, accessibility and barriers to attending hui, and whānau perception in relation to the benefits of kōhanga for its tamariki.

It's leadership structure changed to create one management committee for whānau to streamline processes.

The kōhanga now uses online tools to engage whānau with tamariki learning, curriculum design and collaborates with the wider iwi to ensure the iwi supports and contributes to the success of the kōhanga.

The kōhanga has also increased its engagement with the wider Ngāti Rangiwewehi community through various community projects, creating a stronger community together.

Rotorua Boys' High School, Rotorua, finalist in three categories: Excellence in Leading, Excellence in Teaching and Learning, and Excellence in Health and Wellbeing Education.

This high school, through effective leadership and culturally responsive teaching and learning, focused on a journey of achievement for its students in the school's hostel.

Teachers as housemasters and strong involvement with whānau have provided increased educational opportunities for the students.

The high school and Tai Mitchell Hostel set out to remove the disparity of educational achievement by focusing positively on Māori potential. Māori enjoying education success as Māori has led to outstanding academic results.

Tiaki Early Learning Centre, Rotorua, a finalist in the Excellence in Health and Wellbeing Education category.

The kindergarten set out to authentically connect with its local community and its history and culture, so that children are able to access the physical, mental, spiritual and emotional benefits these connections offer.

The centre reviewed its vision in consultation with whānau and local marae, and made connections with local schools. It wanted children to benefit by having a strong relationship with the land to enhance their health and wellbeing and that of Papatūānuku.

The programme includes environmental activities with an aim towards zero waste, and plant-based meals for its learners, which are supported through the development of many vegetable gardens.

The centre, which values place-based education, initiated a Tangata Whenuatanga day in the community involving all the children, and a visit to its marae every week.

The result has been significant growth in the health and wellbeing of the children.

Learners have also developed respect and appreciation of Papatūānuku. The children have gone on to display these characteristics when they start school.

Fairhaven School, Te Puke, finalist in two categories: Excellence in Leading, and Excellence in Health and Wellbeing Education.

Toitoi Manawa is an immersion unit at Fairhaven School, which offers a whānau-led and established Māori-medium setting where its tamariki are succeeding as Māori.

Toitoi Manawa delivers localised learning experiences that are relevant and enhance Māori success.

Kaiako undertook professional development and aligned best practices. They also reviewed the support needed for the students and included relevant services as part of that support. Consultation with kaumātua, iwi and whānau is a key part of the unit's success.

The improvement in academic outcomes has been significant, particularly in literacy.

There has also been a huge improvement in student and whānau engagement with the school. Whanaungatanga and kotahitanga underpin Toitoi Manawa's holistic approach to Māori education.

Te Kōhanga Reo ki Rotokawa, Rotorua, finalist in the Excellence in Teaching and Learning category, and the 2019 Education Focus Prize - Excellence in Māori-medium Education.

This kōhanga embarked on a journey to develop Ngā Kōrero Tuku Iho, an assessment approach grounded in kaupapa Māori principles and utilises wānanga.

The approach empowered kaiako to document, analyse and present progress and achievement in a Māori way while acknowledging the important role of whānau.

Tracking progress through Ngā Kōrero Tuku Iho has resulted in mokopuna becoming more confident, creative and connected in te reo and tikanga Māori.

Connections with whānau have also been strengthened, and whānau now assume a shared role in identifying and analysing learning for all kōhanga reo mokopuna.