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Setbacks and Success

It might seem somewhat melodramatic to headline a newspaper story with “students who are expelled die earlier!” But Simon Collins (NZ Herald, 12 -14 November) in his excellent series in which he details the consequences for students who not receive the kind of attention they they need in conventional schools backs this claim up with much sound evidence. It’s real and it’s serious. The consequences of exclusion should be seriously troubling for a community that would like to think that it has a schooling system based on equity and an even-handed approach to meeting student needs.

The act of expelling of a student from a school is seldom a clear-cut issue and generally the school thinks long and hard about both the school and the student in making such a decision. The BOT knows in their hearts that expulsion can be the start of a journey that ends on the cold couch of the NEETs.

But there are pathways for students who incur the wrath of a Board of Trustees. Since 2010 the Manukau Institute of Technology (MIT) has been offering students facing the wall of failure in school a chance to head down a different pathway. It is the MIT Tertiary High School.

Students in Year 10 who are struggling or are unhappy in a school environment and quite oftenthose facing exclusion from their school are offerered a chance to enter a unique and special programme.. They are not being taken out of school, they will be in school but not at school because the entire programme is taught at the tertiary provider.

The students attend to strengthening their basic skills, the essential social, literacy, numeracy and digital skills. They are taught with a purpose and within an environment that is starting to be called “mandated engagement”. The requirements placed on the students are not simply optional extras – they are the essential sine qua non of being in the programme. Being involved, meeting requirements, and demonstrating the soft skills of punctuality, attendance, courtesy, and suchlike are expectatoins that are the foundations for future success.

Finding the pathway that will take them to higher qualifications is helped as they undertake four substantial short courses in different trades areas before they decide the trade or area that they will following. This develops a clear understanding that learning skills and developing knowledge in a specific area is purposeful and has a sense of direction. It also unleashes some of the power to learn that has been dampened by their experiences to date.

The MIT Tertiary High School set out to address issues of disengagement and with its focus on pathways and managed ransitions it creates a seamless progression NCEA and through professional and technical qualifications and into employment. The creation of a pathways that enables learners to have early asccess to applied vocational and technical learning provides hope to learners who once might have thought that they had reached the end of the road.

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  1. Gus Gus

    In a world full of choice its ironic that in the schooling system there is virtually no choice. It’s even worse if you have learning difficulties or you are gifted. You are forced to be “main stream” as for what ever reason you don’t fit. The same is for our children who “learn by doing” these kids don’t sit comfortably in a 50 minute or hour long lecture. These are kids who learn with their hands and by trial and error. This learning is no better or worse – just different. The MIT Tertiary High School provides options. Is it time to roll your model out nationally?

  2. Stuart Middleton Stuart Middleton

    I agree with both the commentary and the conclusion What are we waiting for! Check the next post that will report on the graduation of students in another country who have gained support from a programme based on the same principles as those of the MIT Tertiary High School. It is not as if we do not know what to do – we have known how to improve outcomes for the past ten years but have declined to act.


  3. Bridgit Bridgit

    Great article Stuart! It seems like common sense to me that all our young people are given this pathway as an option. Surely we know by now that everyone is different so why don’t we allow them to learn differently. I know first hand how successful MIT Tertiary High School is!

  4. Linda Russ Linda Russ

    Last week I visited the Wiri Men’s prison to moderate the Tradestart (Carpentry/Plastering/Painting) Level 2 programme MIT is delivering there. As I looked at the quality of the practical work, I was given the opportunity to speak with some of the young men. I asked about the skills they had developed during the programme and was taken aback by their enthusiasm, passion and pride in what they had achieved. They felt that this gave them hope to make positive changes when they are released. Most felt they had learned little of use at school towards getting a job, and I wondered how many may have benefited from an early diversion into something like the Tertiary High School.

    Great to see that MIT has the foresight and courage to tackle these issues – providing a ‘second chance’ for those whose needs are not being met by mainstream schooling AND for those who are at such risk post-prison if they cannot get into meaningful employment or further training.

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