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Talk-ED: Eating the Pudding: The Sweet Taste of Success

My Mum always said that the proof of the pudding was in the eating.  In other words, the recipe is not enough, the ingredients will not suffice, it’s what comes out of the oven and gets eaten.  That’s why results in education matter.  But I have always been opposed to league tables because they tend to hide invidious comparisons and there is always a feeling that what they set out to achieve is never quite what their creators would admit to.

The recent publication of the 2012 NCEA results in the NZ Herald does a good job of being fair by listing the results alphabetically and being restrained in its comment.  Of course the general reader is still unaware of the subtleties of the data presented and I have no doubt their minds move quickly to simple and incomplete tables in the mind that rank the schools.

Here is a table that reflects a small sample of the schools in that list – the Decile 10 schools of Auckland.

NCEA Results 2012 (NZQA Data)
    Secondary School   L1   %   L2   %   L3   %
School 1   86   89   66
School 2  *   8   77   65
School 3   91   92   80
School 4   99   97   94
School 5  **   98   99   93
School 6   75   80   74
School 7  *   81   96   79
School 8   91   98   85
School 9   95   98   88
School 10   91   93   84
School 11  *   92   88   76
School 12   85   96   100
School 13   67   71   na
School 14   87   90   87
School  **   99   98   99
School 16   95   98   95
School 17  */**   80   88   82
*     Cambridge Examination also in school    
**   International Baccalaureate also in school  


Actually, these are not just the Decile 10 schools of Auckland, this list is comprised of sixteen Decile 10 schools in Auckland but also includes one other school that is not a Decile 10 school and which appears in the Herald NCEA list.

Readers are urged before they go further to see whether at this point they can identify that school in the above list.

Because this other school recruits students who are not headed towards positive outcomes in their secondary schooling and who would benefit from an opportunity to engage with what is colloquially called “vocational and technical education” at an earlier point in their schooling.  After a process that involves the school, parents / caregivers and students, they enter a programme at a Polytechnic where a team of ten secondary school teachers supplemented by a group of 12 vocational and technical education specialists provide them with a different kind of schooling, a different way of completing their senior secondary schooling.  The NCEA assessments are the same as those in conventional schools and are moderated in the same way.

The “school” is different from others schools in a number of ways:

  •         it is not in a school setting but in a polytechnic;
  •         the students are expected to be like tertiary students rather than school students;
  •         they travel from many parts of the city to come to the school;
  •         their previous schools overall reflect a wide range of decile levels but the intake is weighted towards those from low decile schools;
  •         the ethnicity of the students reflects the future demographic profile of Auckland.

The programme they undertake has some quite unique general features which include: 

  •          earlier access to technical, career and vocational subjects;
  •          clear pathways through to tertiary qualifications;
  •          a curriculum structure that meets the requirements of the NZ Curriculum through achievement standards but which integrates the secondary elements with the tertiary elements;
  •          the capacity to generate credits to both NCEA and other qualifications;
  •          the opportunity to study at multiple NCEA levels simultaneously in Year 11 and Year 12;
  •          making available to students multiple pathways that lead them to positive outcomes.
  •          High levels of student monitoring, mentoring and partnerships with whanau
  •          Strong learning relationships

Above all, the students in this Tertiary High School have purpose and direction.  Let’s be clear, not all last the distance – some head off to employment, some to other providers, a small number return to their schools – but the retention figures are well ahead of national levels.

The first year of this programme (Year 11 in a conventional school) allows students to study in a number of technical disciplines as well as completing a full Level 1 NCEA programme in mainstream secondary subjects.  Students then choose to move into a fulltime tertiary course or complete NCEA level 2 and one tertiary area of study.  The majority of students choose to complete NCEA Level 2 and then move into fulltime tertiary courses in years 13 and 14.  A small group remain in the programme to complete NCEA level 3.  If the pathway they chose after that year is a technical pathway they would start that around the time of reaching NCEA Level 2.  This is a critical component that ensures that the selection of a future pathway is based on knowledge and experience of what that pathway entails and where it will lead to – and with a set of applied educational skills as a learner.

These specialised pathways often involve the stair casing journey to industry recognised qualifications.  But, and here is Surprise Number 1, the pathway some chose is an “academic pathway” into a degree programme.  This pathway is in reality both academic and vocational.

Furthermore, Surprise Number 2 is that an “academic pathway” has emerged in the programme and a group of students chose a pathway that takes them to NCEA Level 3 (with University Entrance) – they want access to degree programmes at any tertiary provider.  (One student who completed University Entrance and NCEA Level 3 started in a degree at the University of Auckland last year but he was quite exceptional.)

So here is a “league table” that the Manukau Institute of Technology Tertiary High School (internally known as the School of Secondary-Tertiary Studies) can get into.  But it doesn’t reflect the range of successes that the programme is having.  Some students have stepped into employment after obtaining the requisite qualifications (and that includes NCEA to the appropriate level), others are in Year 3 or Year 4 of the programme and fully engaged in tertiary programmes including degree level study, some have returned to their school to resume their education, some have shifted towns and countries with families to continue their education in other places.

This is not a secondary school and doesn’t offer some of the attractions that an excellent secondary school offers.  But it does have its attractions.  It does offer what in the views of parents and caregivers, the schools they had been attending and the students themselves something that had seemed out of reach and unlikely – educational success, positive outcomes, and the opportunity to be a successful contributing member of a family and a community.

In short, the sweet taste of success.


[For those who couldn’t spot the odd one out in the table of Auckland Decile 10 Schools – the Manukau Institute of Technology Tertiary High School is School No. 12]


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