More Maori teachers wanted in kindies

19:53, Jul 28 2014
arley mclaren, riley cannan
FOCUSED: Newfield Kindergarten pupils Arley McLaren, left, and Riley Cannan, both 4, practise kapa haka during Maori Language Week.

More Maori teachers are needed to lead the next generation of Southlanders, educators say.

The lack of Maori teachers in Southland early childhood education centres has been highlighted as kindergartens and childcare centres practise te reo after this month's Maori Language Week.

Figures from the Early Childhood Education services annual census show only 7.2 per cent of Southland early childhood educators are Maori.

This is well below the percentage of Maori living in the region, as 2013 census data shows 12.4 per cent of the Southland population identifies as Maori.

Southland Kindergarten Association advisory support teacher Michelle Clarke said the association highly valued staff who were skilled in te reo and tikanga Maori.

While it would be good to have more Maori staff working in the region, the association could not hire people who were not there, she said.

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"We rely on who comes out of teachers college and who applies for jobs."

This year, seven of the 60 students studying early childhood education at the University of Otago's Southland campus identified as Maori.

However, the association employed teachers from a wide range of ethnic backgrounds who were skilled in te reo, Clarke said.

The association also ran a teachers' kapa haka group, which was a fun way for educators to grow more confident with the culture, she said.

Clarendon Kindergarten head teacher Theresa Lavell said she also believed more Maori teachers were needed in early childhood education in Southland.

There were no Maori teachers working at Clarendon, and, although te reo and tikanga were included in the curriculum, having more Maori educators would benefit both teachers and pupils.

Working with a Maori teacher helped other staff with their te reo pronunciation and their understanding of the culture, she said.

Lavell was unsure why there were not more Maori teachers working in the region.

Newfield Kindergarten teacher Tessa Purdue said having more Maori teachers in classrooms would be empowering for Maori children.

One of the big benefits for Maori children was seeing their culture represented by the teachers, she said.

The Early Childhood Education services census figures show the percentage of Maori educators working in Southland is growing.

In 2002, only 3.3 per cent of Southland's early childhood teachers were Maori.

The figures also show 2.6 per cent of teachers in Southland identified as Pasifika and 2 per cent as Asian.

There are 32 Maori educators working in Southland, compared to nearly 400 Pakeha educators.

The Southland Times