'They need to be in with the little ones' - Christchurch headmaster demands greater focus on Te Reo Maori in early childhood education

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A Chirstchurch school says despite great steps being taken to encourage more Te Reo Maori classes in schools, there isn't enough supply for demand.

Christchurch's Christ's College has made Maori compulsory for year nine students.
Source: Seven Sharp

"I've got a very special teacher of te reo, but I won't have him for very long", said Shirley High school's head master John Laurenson.

The solution according to headmaster Mr Laurenson: More focus on Te Reo Maori in early childhood and primary education.

Although he's not against fellow Christchurch school, Christ's College's compulsory teaching of Maori in year nine.

"Yes it's important, it's one of our national languages - doubly important, place to start? Not secondary.”

It's here Mr Laurenson believes a real difference to New Zealand’s educational landscape with it being well documented that bilingual students, can become smarter students.

"They need to be in with the tiny little ones because that's where it's going to make a serious difference."

The school's one and only Maori teacher Te Rau Winterbottom agrees.

"As a Maori language teacher a dream of mine would be to be a part of a nation that is fully bilingual and to get there I think compulsory is a word we would need to get used to."

He uses the All Blacks as an example of how te reo has the ability to unite Aotearoa and its importance in New Zealand's identity.

"How proud are we when the All Blacks get up and do the haka? For that one moment, for those couple of minutes we are totally united and it's in te reo."

As te reo begins to flourish in two Christchurch secondary schools, the national conversation on compulsory te reo is likely to grow louder.

For Shirley High School's head master it's a conversion that's required.

"When I went to school, in standard two in those days, my best friend was given the strap for speaking Maori in class. An astonishing thing for me to see and looking back now - the consequences of all of that we're living with but we've still got the opportunity to do something about it."

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