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Building a house, refurbishing a Chevron sports car, and a planned culinary trip to France. Well, at Massey High School all these activities, and more, are helping students achieve NCEA Level 2, and progress to further learning or work.
Nationwide, up to 70% of school leavers do not go to university. Massey High School, via the Auckland West Vocational Academy, and using the 2012 Vocational Pathways framework, is delivering a more 'hands on' and employer-relevant learning experience for these students.
The relationship between Massey and the West Auckland Vocational Academy has significantly lifted NCEA Level 2 pass rates, improved student attendance and increased student retention, according to Bruce Ritchie, Principal of Massey High School.
"For example overall, in the first year, students reached or exceeded 80% NCEA Level 2 achievement in every academy where this was a Ministry target. In carpentry, all the students achieved 100% of the Level 2 BCAT's (National Certificate). And thirteen out of fourteen achieved Level 2 NCEA."
Clearer vocational pathways have also led to a vast improvement in student attitudes, Bruce says.
"Students now have a sense of achievement, take pride in what they are learning and have developed a 'team' approach through the academy. This has lead to a significant improvement in school attendance. At this time in 2013, 120 out of 126 Academy students have attendances that meet the required 80% minimum. Student retention has also drastically increased. Nearly all students remain. Only two out of 126 have decided the academy is not for them," Bruce says.
Massey High School welcomes the "direct connection the academy gives students to work with employers, community organisations and service groups. The majority of students who have completed learning in the academy have progressed to employment that was related to the academies or to tertiary institutions, " Bruce says.
For Bruce and his teachers, having their students achieve more is not just about ticking some boxes. It's about the pleasure they get from seeing students do things they never thought possible, and from seeing the pride that parents and the take in their children's achievements.
"One student on work experience from the Academy burst into tears in a review, saying that they were the only person in their family who had ever had a job. They now have part-time work, and an offer of full-time work once they complete the academy.
"A 'Roof Shout' was held for the house built by our carpentry students. Every parent attended, along with extended family members. It was a very special day. One at risk student, unlikely to remain in school, attended the Academy and now has employment in an apprenticeship. The student returned to thank the school and inform students how important the academy was. We encourage this - it has happened in about a dozen cases already.
"Partnering with vocational and trades academies, and the arrival of the Vocational Pathways programme, are two of the most significant changes made for New Zealand's students in recent years. Both are changing pupils lives, and their futures," Bruce says.