Waikato school's Trades Academy ups achievement

Posted on 2015-06-10 by

Maori and Pasifika achievement has shot up at a Hamilton college and a trades academy programme is getting the credit. At Fairfield College, NCEA level 2 achievement levels almost doubled for Maori and Pasifika students in 2014. The school thinks a lot of that is down to putting a group of priority learners into a trades academy course at WINTEC one day of the week - something it did for the first time last year.

Among the students was Brooke Brightwell, 18. "I reckon [the trades academy system] was better... You get a break from school and you get a whole new environment of learning," she said. She passed NCEA levels one to three and is now taking the next step to get a level four building certificate. NCEA results seem to show the academy made an impact for several students. Most of the Fairfield students on the programme were Maori and Pasifika, and level 2 pass rates of year 12 students almost doubled for each group. The pass rate for Maori students at Fairfield went from 25 per cent in 2013 to just over 50 per cent in 2014. For Pasifika students it went from about 38 per cent to 73 per cent - and those figures are roll-based, not participation-based.

Brightwell was already keen on building before the trades academy - although it was a toss-up with bartending - and has since moved on to a Wintec Maori and Pasifika Trades Training programme. "[I] just like putting things together and building's just fun. You learn a lot building houses," she said. "My family thinks it's pretty cool. They're like, 'you're going to build our house one day'." In the training programme she alternates between a week at Wintec and a week of work experience, and this week she's working on a house in Huntington with TG Construction. Boss Tim Goodman says he's hired several staff members from the same course Brightwell's working on. 

Fairfield College principal Richard Crawford said the school realised in 2013 that what they were doing was not working for the students. "Many of [our students] were disconnecting from mainstream school five days a week. We knew we had to change the curriculum somehow." Crawford said the students that were at risk of not achieving NCEA level 2 were given the option to enrol in the Trades Academy Construction Infrastructure course. "The evidence we have in front of us says it's working," he said. "We're not saying we have the all the answers but what we do need to figure out is how we strengthen this."

Wintec's youth pathways manager Rachel Bowley said the trades academy programme targeted a class of "priority learners" in years 11-13. Most were Maori or Pasifika and Brightwell was the only girl. "One of the things that really worked for the students was the sense of identity that being in that group gave them," Bowley said. Through their study at Wintec, they could also earn credits towards NCEA. The programme is now being expanded for future years.

By the numbers

Fairfield College, NCEA level 2 achievement levels for Year 12 students

Ethnic group    Year      Pass rate*

Maori                2013     25%

Maori                2014     50.8%

Pasifika             2013     38%

Pasifika             2014     73.3%

* Pass rates are roll-based, meaning they include all students, not just those signed up for NCEA.