First school in New Zealand to follow Māori calendar

By Herewini Waikato

It has been 18 months in the making but, finally, Education Minister Chris Hipkins and the Ministry of Education have allowed Te Wharekura o Ngāti Rongomai to rearrange its dates of schooling for the year and reset to the Māori calendar away from the Gregorian calendar (The Gregorian calendar is a solar dating system used by most of the world).

Tukiterangi and Renata Curtis, co-principals of the school in Rotorua, say they were thrilled to learn they can go ahead. This now means the school can change term one, which will start at the middle of the year when every other school starts term three. There will be four weeks' holiday instead of two weeks for every end-of-term holiday. This is done to align the tauira to the Maramataka Māori and rest and work with students in sync with the Maramataka also.

Asked why the school wants to follow the Māori calendar, which is based on seasons, Tukiterangi says: “It's a Māori pathway, it's Māori teaching, it's Māori developing Māori. We wanted to find out how we could implement this into today's teaching curriculum.”

Education ministry deputy secretary, sector enablement and support  Katrina Casey says the ministry is supportive of the change and is helping the kura with the logistics and consultation required.

During the preparation of what a year would look like Ngāti Rongomai following the Māori calendar, Professor Rangi Matamua came to help, Renata still remembers his words of knowledge, “when one follows the Gregorian calendar you decide when and what will be taught. No matter the challenges throughout the year you planned what your year looks like. But here we stepped back and asked 'what are the signs of the environment that we can enter into and be taught?'” ,

And Tukiterangi says this breakthrough may suit all schools - mainstream and Māori. "A pathway to learning more about Māori knowledge.”

Now they will start preparing new resources for this new journey for themselves, students and the government.