MIT’s Unique Contribution to NZ Education

A proposal to the Ministry of Education that MIT be allowed to develop a Tertiary Secondary High School.

MIT’s Unique Contribution to NZ Education

The last snippet introduced the topic of MIT and Secondary Schools over a period of time and ended with the promise of a snippet which brings us all up-to-date. We pick up the story: I proposed to the Ministry of Education in 2007 that MIT be allowed to develop a Tertiary Secondary High School in an effort to cater for the considerable number of students who were dropping out of school (we actually preferred the term “disengagement”).

Our idea was radical. Students would be identified in Year 10 and enter MIT as a fully enrolled tertiary student. The programme would have in its first year the essential elements of strengthening basic skills, NCEA up to Level 2, two certificates in tertiary studies (covering four trades areas) and guidance to pathways that would lead over time to MIT qualifications and employment.

For this to happen, the NZ Education Act had to be amended. This was a significant and very rare event – changing the law to allow one programme to go ahead! But the proposal gained support from both sides of the House of Parliament and the scene was set for 2009 to be a year of development, of communicating with Secondary Schools, of socialising the initiative across the education sectors and, the exciting part, setting up a school unlike any other.

An exciting part of the development occurred at the announcement during the 2008 election campaign from Rt Hon Helen Clark, Prime Minister, there came an immediate sotto voce voice across my shoulder from an official – “Stuart, would you like a building?” It appeared that the Ministry of Education had a building constructed for Albany Senior Secondary School because its planned permanent building was delayed by consenting issues. This was a sophisticated large modular building that the Ministry planned to de-construct and re-erect the building for other purposes. MIT was the winner.

But not everything ended coming up for roses. In her announcement, the Labour Prime Minister announced a grant of $1.0 million for the development of the Tertiary High School. Then Labour lost the election and several months later the new National Government withdrew the funding. In telling us the Minister of Education, Anne Tolley regretted that this could perhaps put the development in jeopardy. The CE of the day, Dr Peter Brothers, immediately rejected any suggestion of this: “Minister,” he said, “this will decision will not stop us. We are doing this for the benefit of our community.” And the MIT tertiary High School (known internally as the School of Secondary Tertiary Studies) opened in 2010 as the first fully-blended tertiary / secondary programme in a tertiary institution.

As MIT approaches its Golden Jubilee over 1,000 students have benefitted by the second chance offered through a place in the MIT Tertiary High School. Around 67% of the students have gained Level 3 qualifications or higher positioning themselves for employment.

But all this is only what happens at MIT. I knew that the legislative changes made to accommodate the MIT THS would have far wider implications and so it turned out to be. It was now possible for further Secondary / Tertiary developments to proceed. The first wave saw Trades Academies being developed across the country – typically they allow for a secondary school student still at school to spend one or two days a week in an MIT programme and in doing so earn a significant number of NCEA credits. There are approximately 9,000 places in New Zealand for Trades Academies. Then followed the provision of Youth Guarantee places – Year 13 students could spend two days a week in a tertiary programme, gaining credit in a Level 3 programme. MIT has been central to the development and introduction of these opportunities for our youth.

Return to MIT's Golden Jubilee homepage.

¹ Future Golden Jubilee Snippets will relate the story of MIT Manukau., and of the Secondary Tertiary Developments.