Supporting trade academies

Stuart Middleton from MIT writes:

The New Zealand Herald is right to call for more enrolments in trades academies. Yet to protect teacher management jobs from funding cuts, the NZ Post Primary Teacher’s Association (PPTA) recently advised against secondary schools enrolling numbers of students in trades academies.

The argument put forward by the PPTA is that they will lose funding for the one day per week that the student attends trades training.

Cutting the number of students able to access trades academies would dramatically disadvantage those students – particularly those in low decile areas. Trades academies are proven to keep students in education longer and to improve their employment outcomes.

That’s the important outcome.

South Auckland has experienced real success with these initiatives. As an example, the MIT Tertiary High School (introduced in 2010) has produced fantastic results for students who weren’t achieving in mainstream schools – its NCEA pass rate is comparable to decile 10 schools, and students are learning skills which will prepare them for real jobs in the future.

Early access to vocational and technical programmes is the key.

Importantly, the students’ results improved in their other subjects, not just the trades. Research, including a study undertaken by the MIT Centre for Studies in Multiple Pathways, shows that students learning in trades academies perform much better across all of their schooling.


The issue for the PPTA is that this training is best undertaken by the tertiary sector. It is cynical to deny students these opportunities simply because it would decrease a school’s funding. It is perverse that a higher premium is placed on a relatively small amount of staffing, than on the success that trades training can deliver to students.

We will only get different results by working differently. The PPTA needs to work with the opportunities, instead of resisting them. Mixing conventional school subjects with trades training is a winning combination and the only way that New Zealand will achieve excellence in both achievement and equitable outcomes across our communities.

By withdrawing students from trades training, the disadvantage for many students will far outweigh the funding advantage to a few adults.

Well said.

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