Wellington Girls' College making te reo Māori compulsory for all year 9 students
Wellington Girls' College is set to introduce compulsory te reo classes for all year 9 students, after years of obstacles.
The scheme, which begins next year, was something principal Julia Davidson said the school had been working towards for the past five years, but a lack of suitable teachers had made it impossible until now.
"The time has come and we're in a very fortunate position to have the staffing to do that ... I know that not every school has the ability to have two staff helping them.
"We've got to a point where we want to do a lot more, so we're thrilled about this step."
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The language will be compulsory for all year 9s for half a year, with the option to take it through to year 13 remaining optional.
According to the Ministry of Education, a total of 754 year 9 students studied te reo in 2016 across the 32 Wellington secondary schools that offer the subject.
Of those, 26 of them were from Wellington Girls' – a number that's set to grow to more than 250 once the subject becomes compulsory in 2018.
While it would be a substantial jump, Davidson said the lessons would be co-taught, meaning two classes with two teachers would be run at the same time.
"We hope that some of our other staff who are really keen, but perhaps don't feel as comfortable teaching te reo, will be able to slip in as well, so we could by the end of next year have a few more staff who are prepared to help."
"That's certainly the aim ... to grow the capacity."
The idea to make the language compulsory, rather than just an option, came from surveying parents and students, as well as from a desire to integrate Māori culture and language into everyday school life.
"We always start the year with a full pōwhiri for parents and the girls, and they are definitely becoming much more comfortable in that situation," Davidson said.
"Not everyone knows how to act in the setting. A few years ago kids would clap, but now that doesn't happen."
She said feedback from parents and students had so far been "fantastic".
"Everyone has been totally supportive. I was expecting some pushback, but instead I've just had so many people saying it's a great move, so we're rapt."