Te Wharekura o Mauao is marking five years at its Bethlehem campus, in which time the school has gone from strength to strength.
Prior to 2012, the Maori medium school was run from a temporary facility provided by what was then known as the Bay of Plenty Polytechnic (now Toi Ohomai Institute of Technology).
Initially the school began with 30 Year 7-9 students, but now has a roll of 220.
It's classed as a ‘special character' school which any student of any ethnicity may attend, so long as they embrace an immersive curriculum of te reo and tikanga Maori.
Principal Koa Douglas says kura such as theirs are increasingly becoming the springboard for the revitalisation of te reo Maori.
“It connects students with their heritage, too. We see many parents sending their kids here because they want their children to be connected with the Maori world.”
Assistant principal Heywood Kuka says the school's students are achieving above the national average.
“We're disappointed if we don't reach close to a 100 per cent pass rate,” he says. “Our NCEA statistics show students in Maori medium schools are high achievers.”
Last year all Year 13 students left school with NCEA Level 3. The school roll continues to grow, with more than 60 new enrolments this year – a 30 per cent increase on 2016.
The choice of site on the corner of Bethlehem Rd and Westmorland Rise initially faced resistance from locals, principally those in the Mayfield subdivision. Some residents were concerned traffic in the area would increase, while others worried their house prices would fall.
“That still reverberates in our school community,” says Koa. “But this is us standing up to the naysayers and showing how well we're doing. Having said that, our relationship with our neighbours is one of positivity and collaboration.”
Today, the median house price in Bethlehem is $744,750.