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NZAPEP Questions “Schools Plus”

24 September 2008

NZAPEP Questions “Schools Plus”

The New Zealand Association of Private Education Providers (NZAPEP) asks what will become of “at risk” students under the Schools Plus initiative that was formally announced by the Prime Minister on Friday 19 September.

The Association applauds, and supports the idea of Schools Plus and welcomes the funding commitment of $39.7m to see its progressive implementation.
The proposal has the potential to support the current 52% of students who leave secondary school without achieving NCEA Level 2. NZAPEP feels that many of these students have become disaffected with their participation in secondary schools because it is there that they have failed to have their needs met. These disaffected students often fare better in the smaller, more nurturing, more focused environment provided in a private training establishment.

Two particular issues in the proposal will not be of any benefit to this small group of students;

- The proposal to remove the school leaving exemptions.
- The requirement that schools continue to manage this process (including the careers advice), despite the “at risk” status of the students.

NZAPEP strongly supports encouraging students to stay at school to achieve their potential, but there is a group who require other alternatives.

These young people are the same ones who currently are disengaged from school, have few or no qualifications, and are at risk of long term unemployment, anti-social behaviour including crime, and chronic truancy. Even with more options, requiring these young people to stay at school will not solve the already existing problem.

Removing the school leaving exemption could have the effect of removing the option of pre-employment Youth Training until students reach the age of 17, by which time these students’ disengagement from school, learning and society’s expectations are severe.
It has been long recognised that regulation does not resolve issues for those who have no wish, need or desire to comply. For these “at risk” students we need early and appropriate action. The earlier that action is implemented the less cost involved in rebuilding self esteem and reintegration into society.

The Schools Plus Learning plan at year 9 is a good start, but signs of disengagement must be recognised and supported early (even before year 9 in many cases), by skilled and trained personnel. Recognition that school is not always the best environment is one crucial step.

Removal of the school leaving exemption option is a backward step because it removes alternative engagement options outside of the school gates. This requires the school to manage this small but difficult group or encourages the student to totally disengage until they reach 17 years.

NZAPEP welcomes the opportunity to engage with secondary schools to ensure that “at risk” have access to alternative training programmes early enough in their development to give them appropriate pathways into worthwhile careers.

Established in 1991, NZAPEP is the largest association representing private tertiary education providers in New Zealand.”


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