The hopes of a Whangarei school have been fulfilled with the opening of a new full Maori immersion classroom.
Yesterday morning a powhiri was held at Hikurangi School to welcome everyone back, but the first day was particularly special as it also marked the opening of their new classroom - Nga Whetu ko Hikohiko o Hikurangi - The Shining Stars of Hikurangi, a total Maori immersion classroom.
Principal Bruce Crawford said the opening of the class was a long time coming.
"I've always wanted it because I think te reo should be as common as English," he said. "We have 200 students at our school and a 63 per cent Maori roll."
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Mr Crawford said his "number one biggest problem" was finding a teacher who spoke fluent te reo but last year Terynne Jenkins, who is a fluent te reo speaker, started working at the school.
"It was something that the school always wanted and it was an opportunity when I started teaching here. They needed a teacher so Bruce asked me if I wanted to be involved in this," said Ms Jenkins.
The classroom, which is made up of students who are Year 1 to Year 3, will follow the Te Marautanga o Aotearoa curriculum and will teach Tikanga Maori, whakawhanaungatanga and te reo.
"We learn about ourselves to begin with, whakapapa our pepeha. Waitangi Day is coming up so we will learn about te Tiriti o Waitangi. Just about who they are as people and who we are."
Ms Jenkins said initially she will allow the students to speak some English as some of the students coming in have never been taught te reo. Ms Jenkins said she even has a girl in her class who is German.
In 2014, 14 mainstream Northland schools had at least one full Maori immersion classroom and there were nine full Maori immersion schools. Ms Jenkins said the nearest one was Te Kura Kaupapa Maori o Te Rawhitiroa, about 10km away at Tikipunga.
"There was a need in the community." Having a Maori immersion classroom was about self-efficacy and confidence, Ms Jenkins added.