31 Jan 2008
Schools not set to become prisons – PPTA
Suggestions that secondary schools are set to become prisons with students shackled to their desks until they turn 18 are simply ludicrous, PPTA president Robin Duff says.
Mr Duff is disappointed that misunderstandings of the Realising Youth Potential (RYP) programme, announced by Helen Clark yesterday, have led to a debate over whether young people should be forced to stay in school until they are 18.
“Not once did the proposal mention children would be forced to remain in secondary education. Instead it focuses on a collaborative approach with schools, employers and training institutions to keep young people learning outside of the classroom,” he said.
“This is already happening, and it works”.
Programmes such as Gateway – a successful scheme that offers senior secondary students structured workplace learning - were designed to help young people transition into the workforce, Mr Duff said.
This proposal will not prevent young people from entering the workforce. What it will do is help provide them with skills and training while they are there.
“It is a shame that such an important issue has been turned into the ‘John vs Helen show’, when what we should be doing is focusing on getting the resources to make these programmes work.
“This is a vital issue that we are pleased both parties are debating, but we don’t want to see important aspects buried by politics,” he said.
Mr Duff also disagreed with claims that the RYP did not address the issue of students as young as 13 and 14 leaving school.
“Youth Apprenticeship programmes, which were previously only available to senior students, will now target Year 9 and 10 students who may not be responding well to conventional education,” he said.
Mr Duff called for more debate about National’s plan, which would give all 16 and 17 year olds free access to any education providers, and could return the country to the “bums on seats” approach of the past.
“It will take us right back to where we were in the 1990s with twilight golf. I am rather apprehensive about the quality assurances promised,” he said.
The plan was also naive because it relied on the fantasy that a difficult student will suddenly become a model pupil when placed in a different form of education, Mr Duff said.
“It takes a lot more time and resources to turn a child around. There is nothing new about this situation. There have always been students who don’t want to be in school and there always will be. What we need to do now is make sure we have the resources to work with them in a successful way.
“It is far more sensible to focus on going forward with a programme that experience and research has already proved works very well,” Mr Duff said.
For more information on programmes that really work, see: