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Success in Education – The Only Lifetime Guarantee that Matters!

So Youth Guarantee is not working according to those TV experts (TV1, Sunday, 18 September 2016), a view supported by some political statements, refuted by others, and brought to the attention of the education community by Ed Insider (19 September 2016).

The TV story was a mishmash of confusion between Youth Guarantee as a policy, the Youth Guarantee Fees Free Policy and the Trades Academies that are separate from the Fees Free places but are under the Youth Guarantee Policy setting

A key reason for giving young people the opportunity to continue their education and training up to the age of 19 years without cost to them is one of providing an equitable opportunity for them to have positive outcomes. It was always wrong that students could stay in a school up to the age of 19 years and fail elegantly for free while a decision to leave at 16 years (when they legally can) to pursue their education and training in a place other than a school would cost them a great deal.

Why should schools have a monopoly on free education up to the age of 19 years?

Then there is the clear truth that many 16 year olds are ready to leave school and get on with a career especially if they perceive that their chances of scholastic success in a school setting are not strong. So many of the Youth Guarantee students who pick up the opportunity to continue at an ITP might not be the strongest group of students, but many will discover strength as a learner when they are immersed in an applied educational setting.

The whole point of understanding a multiple pathways approach to education is to see the value in students’ being able to match the pathways to their needs, their aspirations and their views of where they are headed.

The TV News reporter and others have complained that “they do not stay in the course”. A simple enquiry would have enlightened the commentators to the fact that one of the key outcomes for YG places is to see them undertake study at a higher level and that is usually not a YG fees free place. The fees free place is a point of entry. Actually the successful outcomes, while they do vary somewhat between providers, are in many instances above 75% of students and Māori and Pasifika close to these levels. These are typically students not likely to achieve these results in a school setting.

The outcomes for trades academies should be viewed a little differently as many students undertake a trades academy programme at Year 12 and return to school for Year 13 with renewed engagement – a positive outcome. Nationally students in trades academies are out-performing comparable students in the schools.

The growth of secondary / tertiary programmes is an important channel through to employment but it is an even stronger weapon in the fight against the western education systems’ ugly statistic – those who drop out completely – and join the group called NEETs (Not in Employment Education or Training). It will take a raft of initiatives to first stem the flow of young people into that group and then undertake the huge task of moving those already in the NEETs group on into productive employment and a better life.

The Youth Guarantee policy setting is not a panacea for the considerable issues education faces, nor is it on its own going to meet the BPS goals. But it is working for a considerable number of students who do not deserve to have such opportunities denied them because of the ideological whims of others who have benefitted from a sound education.

Giving young New Zealanders a guarantee that their education will prepare them for a satisfying life, a family sustaining wage and an opportunity to make a useful contribution seems the least we can do.



The Tertiary ICT Conference theme for this year is  Bring IT On which focuses on identifying and sharing the key issues and opportunities for ICT in secondary and tertiary education, now and into the future.  A must for those in ICT Management, Teaching personnel and Service delivery teams.

For more information and to register, please go to: 

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Talk-ED: In Praise of level 1 and level 2

One of the real strengths of the current Better Public Service Goals is that the target for 18 Year olds is expressed with some flexibility. To pin the target at “NCEA Level 2 or equivalent qualification” is both sensible and essential for a variety of reasons.

It will be a very long time before all 18 year olds will be achieving this target through the conventional approaches of the secondary school. NCEA Level 2 does not function as an effective school leaving target for all simply because the secondary school-based pathway is not one that is attractive to or effective for all students.

This is recognised in other school systems. In the United States the High School Diploma is the standard “school leaving qualification”.  But many do not achieve this so an option is offered through the community college system in two ways. Study for other awards at the level of the diploma is recognised in the associate degree qualification or, where that study has been in general education subjects, often remediation courses, the qualification awarded is a General Education Diploma. This is “an equivalent qualification”.

When a student has not found success in the pathway through a school the appropriate response will neither be in a school nor will the appropriate qualification be one that is seen as a “school” qualification. A multiple pathways response will see the foundation level study wrapped onto other postsecondary programmes and the student who finds renewed interest and energy in different pathways will subsequently be successful not because of the Better Public Service Goal but because they have a line of sight to other postsecondary qualifications and the employment that goes with them. Achieving the Level 2 goal will merely be a station their train passes through on that journey.

Our education system has been dogged by two things in its history – the lack of connection between school and what comes after for a significant group of students and the fixation with a school-based qualification that has little connection with the qualification required beyond the gates.

The Qualifications Framework was a mechanism that would allow equivalence to be struck between different programmes and qualifications. “Equivalence” is not “sameness” and judgment is required in striking equivalence between dissimilar programmes and qualifications at the same level. Trying to bundle everything at Level 1 or Level 2 into a package is at best pointless and might even be counterproductive.

The Tertiary Education Commission insists only that programmes “offered through Youth Guarantee must be linked to level 1-3 qualifications on the New Zealand Qualifications Framework”  and notes that “achieving level 2 qualifications should be the starting point for the learner, with tertiary education organisations encouraging and supporting Youth Guarantee learners to progress to higher levels of education” (see  This reinforces the principles of difference and equivalence. It also importantly reflects the importance of the Minister’s recent announcement that Youth Guarantee would apply to 19 year olds allowing level 3 programmes to become a realistic goal within a Youth Guarantee supported pathway.

Level 3 is important in that at that level entry into other industry-recognised qualifications becomes more realistic and suggests that level 2 is an important stage – essential but not sufficient for a secure future. And that is an important point.

The Ministry of Education ( notes that “foundation education at levels 1 and 2 on the New Zealand Qualifications Framework provides people of all ages who left school school without qualifications opportunities to learn foundation skills needed to progress to higher-level study and skilled employment.”

Current moves to wrap foundation education into continuous pathways that take young people to a higher and better place are to be welcomed but if they result in re-introducing the disconnection between foundation work and the real qualifications they follow then many of the gains made by Youth Guarantee might be lost and that would be a great pity.

If issues such as disengagement, NEETs, teen Mums and Dads, Maori and Pasifika achievement and so on are to be seriously addressed then level 1 and 2 must not become programmes based on new turf in its own right but a level of learning that is a genuine foundation on which the superstructure of higher skills can be placed. The two parts of this process are one and indivisible.

Effective delivery of levels 1 and 2 in a seamless and connected manner will be a key to success not only of programmes but also for learners – both those things are also the same thing!



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Secondary-Tertiary Pathways: Collaboration, Collaboration, Collaboration


Written by Colleen Young, MIT Centre for Studies in Multiple Pathways / PhD Candidate


Seven out of ten of our senior secondary students in New Zealand will not attend University.  Increasing student failure and youth unemployment has focused educators on creating multiple pathways with increased programme choices for senior secondary students.  Student failure should not be an option for any of our senior secondary students.  However, pathways development requires collaboration.

We know that providing increased choices and student-centred learning rather than what works best for an organisation or continuing with the “status quo” requires new ways of working and problem solving in the secondary-tertiary space.   The need for educators to collaborate with other providers, share resources and create individual learning pathways for each learner is paramount, to enable improved student success, if we are going to achieve the 85% government “Better Public Service Target”  of all 18 year olds achieving NCEA Level 2 by 2017.   

High School leaders and management staff are now beginning to build sustainable partnerships with other educational providers with the assistance of the newly established Youth Guarantee Networks.    Although over the last decade secondary schools have introduced Gateway and STAR programmes which have required staff to collaborate with tertiary providers and/or employers, the challenge now is to be able to implement these types of initiatives on a much larger scale.  Youth Guarantee programmes such as Trades Academies, Tertiary Fees Free Places are examples of collaboration between secondary and tertiary providers over the past few years.  For example, New Zealand’s first Tertiary High School (THS), (School of Secondary-Tertiary Studies) situated at the Manukau Institute of Technology was established in February 2010 with the aim of improving student outcomes for students identified as disengaging  in Year 10 and likely to fail in a traditional school setting in Year 11. Implementing a mixed secondary-tertiary program has allowed for THS students to undertake NCEA Level 1, 2 and 3 while simultaneously gaining credits towards a tertiary qualification at MIT.  Now, the THS is in its fourth year and the indications are that the THS students’ achievement, progression and transition into postsecondary education and/or work are demonstrating huge success.  The THS student success has not just happened without enormous effort on everyone’s part.  It required huge collaboration from all parties:  the Ministry of Education, Tertiary Education Commission, Manukau Institute of Technology, surrounding secondary schools in the southern Auckland region, New Zealand Qualifications Framework, local community, whanau and students.  But, there was a trade-off.  For schools to identify students at risk of disengaging and to encourage them to apply to the THS, they knew that the school was at risk of losing a percentage of the funding for that student.  This required faith and trust and a student-centred approach to managing the schools funds.  The THS shows us that with determination and a student-centred approach that all other challenges such as funding or duty of care can be solved with the key stakeholders’ willingness to put student success at the top of the agenda. 

In an effort to improve collaboration amongst the various secondary-tertiary providers and the employers, the Ministry of Education has been establishing Youth Guarantee Networks throughout New Zealand with the key focus to create partnerships between schools, tertiary education providers, and training organisations and for this group to focus on developing a collaborative approach to increasing NCEA Level 2 achievement rates in their communities.  In future, the Ministry of Education wants to also work with industry leaders, business advocacy groups and employers with the intention of improving the skills and competencies to respond to the local communities employment needs. 

In addition, the five Vocational Pathways (Social and Community Services, Manufacturing and Technology, Construction and Infrastructure, Primary Industries and Services Industries) developed in collaboration with the Industry Training Federation, released by the Ministry of Education are an important tool to assist students when making their choices for their future career pathway.  Once fully understood by both students and education providers the five Vocational Pathways can be used not only as an achievement record and assisting with senior secondary school programme choices but the aim is to also use the Vocational Pathways as a diagnostic tool at an earlier age (perhaps Year 9) to ensure students see the benefit and purpose to their learning programme over time. 

While there are some challenges faced by all providers such as a lack of understanding of the Vocational Pathways, funding frameworks and what pathways should be introduced by each Youth Guarantee Network, for which students and by which provider, it is crucial for us as educators to put the student first in all of our discussions.  Working collaboratively will assist our senior secondary school students on their pathway to successful transition from school to tertiary and into employment.  Let’s try not to use the silo approach and continue to work together for the good of our students!



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Pathways-ED: Big 3 Budget boon!

Stuart Middleton
24 May 2012



In amongst a budget that was pretty flat on excitement, there was some good news for education. Spending will bring some benefits to education some increase in the operating grants and the broadband roll-out will continue. Universities get another slurp into the PBRF research trough and there is a focus on science and engineering for increased EFTS funding.

Of course there is a downside – largely borne by the students who pay back loans a little more steeply, means testing remains and a new targeting of such assistance onto first degrees constitute something of a curate’s egg rather than a golden goose’s egg.

But the big three for me, no surprise here, is the increase in early childhood participation, the increase in the number of youth guarantee places and the NCEA Level 2 target.

To raise the ECE target to 98% from the current 94.7% might seem a modest increase but it is a huge ask in some communities. Access to early childhood education across different communities with different characteristics is discrepant. So if the goal is to be achieved do not expect a little bit for everyone, this will have to be well and truly targeted.

The increase in Youth Guarantee places is throwing good money after good money. The fees free places are providing a valuable opportunity for young people who otherwise might well lose momentum in the school setting, to enter a tertiary programme and, if indications from the first couple of years are a guide, succeed and move into qualifications that will lead them into real jobs.

Then there is the NCEA Target. It is stark in its expression! By 2016 85% of all 18 year olds will achieve NCEA Level 2 (or its equivalent). Now this is apparently not just 85% of those who tackle NCEA Level 2 but all 18 year olds. So the increase mentioned in the budget from 68% to 85% is the overall current result but there are challenges in this target that become more apparent when the total is deconstructed into its ethnic components.

The cohort that entered Year 11 in 2008 has performed as follows by the end of 2010 with regard to achieving NCEA Level 2.

  •          NZ European               68%                
  •          Asian                          74%    
  •          Maori                          43%
  •          Pacific                        58%


I actually wonder…

Now remember that probably 20% of 18 year olds have disengaged from school prior to age 16 years. Other students will have dropped out along the way through Year 11 and Year 12. So if this target is to be achieved equitably i.e. all 18 year old Maori, all 18 year old Pasifika etc then we will need to get our skates on. The group who will be the 18 year olds in 2016 are in Year 9 now. Help!

Earlier media attention was paid to the more controversial announcement in the budget that $512 million will be spent on improving teacher quality. We know of course that this is on the basis of savings that result from the squeezing of student / teacher ratio.

Something that intrigues me is a little calculation that I have done tells me that there is some good news for secondary schools in this. Based on national student number profiles (which means that there will be some differences for individual school to take account of their senior school profiles), the equalisation of the ratio across all the levels of the senior secondary school at the level of the current lowest (Year 13) rate will result in a 12% increase in teacher numbers nationally at the senior level.

Was this intended? I was surprised when I did this calculation because the Minister had said that schools would generally be affected by + 1 teachers. Am I wrong? If not then I am excited because increased teachers at the senior level should mean increased flexibility for schools.

If we are to hit that NCEA target in 2016 then that will be crucial.


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