Secondary schools should be viewed as the the hub institutions charged with helping students to develop individual education plans, and supporting students to achieve their goals both inside secondary schools and externally. This approach encourages collaboration and thus avoids the competition for students that characterised the tertiary sector during the 1990s and resulted in the proliferation of low-quality courses which served the financial interests of the institution offering them rather than the educational and vocational needs of the students.
Recommendations to Government
- That all 16-18 year-olds are entitled to a fully-resourced, personalised programme overseen by their secondary school, that includes a range of learning opportunities, pathways guidance and mentoring and supports their successful movement from school into work or further education.
- That a rigorous evaluation and review of existing government-funded initiatives in training and education for 16 to 19 year olds be undertaken.
- That a review of the efficacy and quality of assurance of all alternative education and training programmes offered by all government and non-government organisations be conducted with a view to:
- Improving student outcomes;
- Providing opportunities for valid and current qualifications;
- Ensuring quality provision;
- Providing valid pathways for further development or integration into the workforce;
- Rationalising provision, in order to best use the available resources;
- Streamlining administrative processes.
- That a comprehensive strategy for securing the delivery of technology education in secondary schools be developed, encompassing:
- A recruitment and retention strategy for technology teachers;
- An upgrade of facilities where required;
- Continuing curriculum review and professional development; and
- Funding for 21st century materials for students to work with.
- That, as a signal that the government intends to properly resource improved careers guidance and transition for students, the final recommendation of the Staffing Review Group, recommendation 3.6, be implemented immediately.
- That a specialist taskforce be established by the Minister to consider new models of timetable structure for secondary and area schools, the parameters within which modern timetables should be developed and the resourcing needs associated with suitable models.
- That secondary and area schools be provided with additional staffing to employ teachers to visit workplaces, tertiary establishments, homes and other supporting organisations to enable them to monitor all school leavers.
- That there be a tagged increase to the operations grant to fund the following:
- Additional ancillary assistance for tracking students engaged in off-site activities; and
- High quality mentoring programmes for at-risk students.
- That where necessary funding for secondary schools’ 10 Year Property Plans be increased to enable upgrading of facilities consistent with the expectations of 21st century schooling.
- That an infrastructure of support for schools be provided so that students are able to access all necessary services in the areas of mental health and drug and alcohol counselling to support at risk students.
PPTA applauds the recent focus on improving the options and quality of transitions for students moving between secondary school and further education and training.
The Association has extensive policy on the transition from school to work or further education and training, dating from the late 1960s. For years, PPTA Conferences have been calling for some coherency around what was known as “the jagged edge”. In May 2009, PPTA produced a document, Secondary Forward (download from resources/publications) which drew all PPTA policy on the issue together to form a comprehensive statement of where PPTA stands. The ten recommendations from the publication (listed above) formed the basis of the PPTA policy.
A “bums-on-seats” policy would be particularly unfair to secondary schools which are funded at a much lower rate than the tertiary institutions with which they would be expected to compete. It would also be damaging for all
secondary students because the loss of even a small number of senior students impacts significantly on the number of staff and the range of subject options a schools is able to offer. In any case, the reality is that students who drop out of secondary school are also highly likely to drop out of further education though the anecdotal “success stories” are designed to suggest otherwise.
Secondary schools remain concerned about the resourcing provided for youth transition policies as individual education plans are expensive in terms of staff time and require specialised career staffing, ancillary help and professional development as well as purpose-designed facilities and equipment.
They are also concerned that any change be carefully managed, comprehensive, consultative and at a pace that enables schools to ensure that pupils are not adversely affected.