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Growing roll. . . Arowhenua Maori School pupils and staff, pictured on mufti day, perform a haka. The school is the only accredited Level 2 bilingual Maori school in South Canterbury, which has prompted a boost in numbers. PHOTO: GRETA YEOMAN

by Greta Yeoman

About half of Arowhenua Māori School’s pupils are commuting from Timaru to attend the bilingual school, its principal says.

Principal Bronwyn Te Koeti attributed most of the increase in children coming from outside Temuka to the school’s accreditation as a Level 2 bilingual school last year.

The Ministry of Education credentials meant between 50% to 80% of schoolwork was taught in te reo Māori.

Mrs Te Koeti had seen a “steady growth” in Arowhenua’s roll since the change.

There had been 39 pupils on the roll at the start of last year and more than 60 children in years 1-8 were now attending.

Mrs Te Koeti said the bilingual abilities of her staff were the only reason why the school had been able to shift to teaching in both English and Māori.

“There had been the desire to be bilingual [for quite a long time] but we didn’t have the teachers.”

Mrs Te Koeti, who is known as whaea Bronwyn by her pupils, said the school had a long history in the Temuka area.

The 123-year-old school, which sits beside the pā at Arowhenua marae, had had many generations of families come through, particularly from Temuka.

“It is really common to hear ‘Oh, my nan came here’.”

It was new, however, to have such a number of pupils travelling from outside the Temuka area to attend.

Mrs Te Koeti estimated about half of Arowhenua’s roll was made up of Timaru-based pupils, along with others from Geraldine and Pleasant Point.

“[They are] reconnecting with their culture.”

Their curriculum now included plenty of work on local Māori history and mythology, she said.

“This is the reason they are coming here.”