Tauranga’s first full-immersion Maori secondary school officially opened its doors this week.
Te Wharekura o Mauao school for Years 7 to 11 has been operating for the last three years, with two of those being run from a temporary facility at the Bay of Plenty Polytechnic.
Now the 115 students attending the school have a permanent home with the official opening of the Bethlehem campus on Thursday.
It sits on a peak above Bethlehem on the corner of Westmorland Rise.
School Principal Tame Kuka says the school will address the needs of Maori youth in Tauranga.
“It’s not separatism. Maori kids are not achieving in mainstream schools so we are saying, ‘give us the opportunity to try and lift their performance’.”
Te Wharekura o Mauao’s buildings and classrooms are designed to replicate the shape of Mauao’s base and its various features, such as the mountain’s north-eastern bluff.
The school has the capacity to educate 450 students between intermediate and high-school age.
“Kids who come to this school will be motivated. I think it will be positive for the community,” says Tame.
Early results are already pointing to success.
On the May 18 students from the kura travelled to Whakatane for Nga Manu Korero a Rohe 2012 - a prestigious speech competition.
Three students from the school entered.
Wiremu Toma entered the Junior Maori section, Marata Bidois entered Senior English and Te Oi Singh competed in the Junior English division.
Wiremu Toma placed 3rd for Junior Maori, Marata Bidois placed 6th for senior English and Te Oi placed 1st for Junior English.
The Wharekura was built after Tauranga iwi in 2003 surveyed and found a need for a secondary immersion school.
The Ministry consulted with the community in 2006 and 2007, and the result was the setting up of the Wharekura o Mauao on a temporary site at the campus of the Bay of Plenty Polytechnic.
The Bethlehem site had been purchased by the Ministry some years previously and was considered ideal.
At present the Wharekura has a roll of 115, but will continue to grow as it currently has learners in Years 7 to 11 only.
The design was a collaborative effort between the Wharekura leadership and architect.
The school symbolises Mauao, Mount Maunganui, this can be seen from a birds eye view, in the materials used and in the layout.
The cost was $11.7 million.