Based at Raglan Area School, Te Rōpū Aroha Ki Te Reo was established in 1989 with a roll of around 20 students.
Te reo Māori at the primary school was introduced to cater to the tamariki coming from kohanga reo. In the beginning, English was spoken in the mornings and reo Māori in the afternoons.
Now full immersion with four classrooms, Te Rōpū Aroha Ki Te Reo celebrated 30 years this year.
Former and current students, staff and whānau gathered at Labour weekend for a 30th celebration of Te Rōpū Aroha Ki Te Reo and a sculpture was unveiled. Carved by Te Rōpū Aroha old boy and local sculptor Simon Te Wheoro, the sculpture stands sentry at the gateway to Te Rōpū Aroha Ki Te Reo. Named Hei Kaki, the sculpture represents a pendant, and the motifs and designs symbolise many aspects of the school – from the journey of the students through the many levels of learning and the dedication of the kaiako (teachers), to the striving for excellence and the coming together as one.
Unveiled by current students Taimānia Te Wheoro and Waiariki Te Pania, the sculpture was blessed by kaumatua Russell Riki and Sean Ellison.
The basalt rock used for the sculpture was sourced by Simon from the landscaping at the entrance near where the sculpture sits. Having trouble with the design, Simon came to the school looking for inspiration.
“I came to the school to look at the site, and looked down and saw the rock.” In that moment, Simon had found his sculptural medium and his inspiration was to be found in the wairua of the school.
Raglan Area School deputy principal and Te Rōpū Aroha Ki Te Reo leader of learning Quenten Browne says the school had its beginnings at the community level and continues to flourish with the community’s ongoing support.
“The 30-year celebrations have confirmed that the learning has been an asset for the graduates in their pathways in life.”
Success stories include Olly Coddington who won fame as a Mai Time presenter, I AM TV and producing television reality show Game of Bros and Kara Rickard a George FM breakfast host and SKY Sport presenter.
“Many of our learners also represent their local marae, hapū and iwi,” he says.
Quenten also points out that all the Te Rōpū Aroha Ki Te Reo students have benefited in many ways and being bilingual is an asset in itself. Scientific research has found that bilingual students have many advantages, including better memory and attention, increased creativity, ability to switch between tasks easily and score higher on intelligence tests. Te Rōpū Aroha is open to all students and there is currently one Pākehā family on the roll.
“We are open to anyone who wants to embrace te reo and tikanga Māori,” Quenten says.