Kelvin Davis launched the Te Ahu o te reo Māori initiative this morning. - Photo: RNZ
The government has launched a new initiative to get teachers speaking te reo Māori better and more often.
Associate Education Minister Kelvin Davis launched Te Ahu o te reo Māori, which will offer Māori language training to teachers in early childhood, kōhanga reo, schools and kura.
"We know there is increasing demand from students and whānau - Māori and non-Māori - to provide more te reo Māori in learning environments," he said.
"The first step is ensuring that our workforce can comfortably use some level of te reo correctly with their students and, over time, increasingly incorporating te reo Māori into teaching practices and programmes."
Teachers and other school staff will be able to access Māori immersion wānanga or workshops and online support tools. It was to be offered in Waikato, Taranaki-Whanganui, Kāpiti-Horowhenua and Te Waipounamu this year, then be evaluated.
"These regions were selected because the Māori population is expected to increase by at least 20 percent by 2023," Mr Davis said.
Last year's Budget set aside just over $12 million to support the initiative over four years.
A member of the expert advisory panel Ruakere Hond said getting teachers comfortable speaking Māori could be the key to lifting the use of the language.
"In the past, a lot of the focus has been on language proficiency. And while we have been able to make an impact on that ... we still have not had a huge impact on the amount of language that is being used on a regular basis," he said.
"This is a project that specifically targets that area in particular, of language use and language use in the classroom and [to] normalise the use of language in that setting."
In Taranaki, a 16-week course will be tailor-made to meet different levels of Māori language competency, he said.
The course will include several Māori immersion noho, or overnight workshops, as well as access to online learning support.
Registrations are open now and run until 24 May. Schools and kura will be financially supported to release staff to participate in Te Ahu o te reo Māori. The aim is to have 700 staff members participate this year.
However, Dr Hond said the timeframe had been tight, with a programme design first presented to principals and staff in January. He said this would impact how many staff were able to participate this year.
"There has not been a long lead-in for schools to be able to set aside time for both release days as well as professional development allocation and managing the workload of teachers.
"While pretty well all of the principals were saying this is perfect, this is what we need ... many of them said we have already done our plans and those have all been approved.
"Some schools that are very eager said that they can't this year."