03 Apr 2017
Unable to find suitable teachers and unwilling to cut digital technologies and electronics from their curriculum, two Christchurch high schools have formed a partnership with Ara Institute of Canterbury, finding a creative solution that puts students first.
These subjects are too important to neglect, says headmaster Nic Hill from Christchurch Boys’ High School (CBHS), one of the schools that approached Ara for help after they were unable to find a teacher to deliver the curriculum. “Our students are delighted that they have the option to study computing,” he said.
Ara Computing Tutor Josh Hough works with secondary school students on Digital Technolgies standards
Papanui High School was quick to sign up Ara too. The school ran an Electronics option class for some 10 years, but in 2015 the teacher returned to the UK. “The rest of that year was taught by relievers, none of whom were suitable for one reason or another to continue,” Papanui High School Careers Advisor Ellen Cashion said.
Training for the future
Attracting students to Digital technologies and electronics is key to training the technologists, engineers and scientists of the future, however the reality in our fast changing world is that capacity in the secondary school sector doesn’t always meet demand in these specialist areas.
Papanui High School struggled to replace their electronics teacher, but like CBHS saw the importance of offering these subjects. “We advertised worldwide but could not find a suitable teacher - other schools did the same and decided to can Electronics. I was very reluctant to do that, so I approached Emma West [then Manager of Youth Pathways at Ara] and after a couple of meetings we agreed on a process by which Ara delivered the teaching.”
The agreement saw Ara computing tutor Josh Hough delivering the programme for two classes a week at the specialist facilities at Ara and two classes a week at the schools. One class of supervised self-study per week completed the programme. The programme started in 2016 and continues this year.
By all accounts the collaboration is working for students. When surveyed, all of the students at CBHS rated Josh as very good or excellent; 100% of students agreed that “my tutor helped me to prepare for assessments”.
CBHS Careers Advisor Richard Webster said that the increase in demand for the programme this year is proof of its success. “The student feedback and re-enrolments speak for themselves with 38 out of the 43 opting to select the Level 3 Digital Technologies Computing Course this year.”
Josh not only brought specialist computing skills to the table, but also excellent communication and the motivation to go the extra mile to help students succeed - by attending parent interviews and holding extra sessions when students needed them for example.
“I thought Josh did very well running the Year 12 Computer course, especially in regards to his communication with the students, parents and the school and in the coordination of providing time for students to sit the assessments even when they had missed the scheduled times for one reason or another,” Richard said.
Feedback from Papanui High School was just as positive. Not only were students succeeding in the programme, but they were learning about tertiary training options, while getting insights into the industries and even setting up future work experience.
Beyond delivering technology
Ellen from Papanui High School listed the advantages of the collaboration. “Ara has excellent teachers who are highly qualified specialists, students get to spend time at Ara developing confidence and knowledge about future pathways, students have the opportunity to work individually on robotic projects, manage their own learning and use far superior facilities than we could offer.”
“By tutors coming to the school, they are more aware of the level of students leaving school and this must assist in the development of appropriate first year full-time courses at Ara. The visits to Electronic firms facilitated last year by CDC gave students first-hand knowledge of employment industry pathways and opportunities, it is hoped internships may result from this in the future.”
This year CBHS and Ara will run two Digital Technologies Year 12 programmes, two Year 13 programmes and will introduce a Year 12 Electronics class. The Year 13 programmes are being taught by both Ara and University of Canterbury, giving students a valuable insight into tertiary life at both institutions, which will inform planning for their future study and career paths.
Creative and cutting edge - changing perceptions
For people who are creative and like working with technology, career paths in this area are significant now and are expanding fast according to Future in Tech, set up by the Institution of Professional Engineers New Zealand (IPENZ), funded by the government through Callaghan Innovation and the Ministry for Primary Industries, to change perceptions about careers in technology, engineering and science.
“Almost everything we use – from smart phones, digital TV, home appliances and the internet to computer and telecommunication networks – was designed by somebody with digital technology skills,” the Future in Tech website states.
“Careers in the digital industries are creative and cutting edge, and there’s a huge range of options from website design and development, digital effects and computer animation to software development and network administration, as well as helping other people use computers.”
The Ministry of Education is currently formalising Digital Technology within the New Zealand Curriculum, Education Minister Hekia Parata announced in June last year. Since then, the Ministry has been consulting with stakeholders, designing new curriculum content, and developing achievement objectives across the whole learner pathway. The intention is to fully integrate Digital Technology into the New Zealand Curriculum and Te Marautanga o Aotearoa for 2018.
Building relationships for youth success
Until then, CBHS, Papanui High School and Ara are already delivering these subjects. And it’s by no means the first successful collaboration between the tertiary and secondary sectors.
“Since the establishment of the Canterbury Tertiary College in 2011 students and schools have been participating in dual enrolment programmes delivered in collaboration with Ara through a range of specialisations including: Construction, Automotive and Engineering, Cookery and Hospitality, Business and Retail,” Ara Manager of Engagement Emma West said.
“The intention is to ensure that students achieve NCEA level 2 with the ability to make informed decisions about their next steps so that they can make a successful transition from secondary school to tertiary training or into employment.”
“Ara welcomed the opportunity to further collaborate with CBHS and Papanui High School to meet the short term student demand for specialist training, and to develop a more long term strategy to supporting schools to build their own capability to delivery this content.”