Manurewa High School earns recognition on world education stage

Manurewa High School students

Year 9 students from Manurewa High School with examples of products they make with laser cutters, 3D printers, vinyl cutters and other tools and techniques.  In the process of making these products to sell, students draw on their creativity and learn valuable business skills. 

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Developing a unique approach to preparing young people for their future in work is attracting international attention for Manurewa High School.

Based in South Auckland, Manurewa High School’s roll of 2100 students represents 54 nationalities with the largest being Pasifika, Maaori and Asian.  The community is often over-represented in statistics for poor life outcomes in health and education, posing additional challenges for students.

“Many of our young people, often growing up in low-income and/or welfare-dependent households unfortunately do not start on the same line when it comes to learning equity.  With some families being welfare-dependent for five years or more, there is a clear lack of networks that can inform and inspire young people for their futures in work,” explains Manurewa High School Principal, Pete Jones.

“Whether it is into work or further study, our aim is to provide them the platforms they need and ultimately the confidence to take their place in the world.”

Over the last decade, Manurewa High School has developed a multi-pronged approach to fostering valuable career paths for students.  At the heart of this was the establishment of the school’s own Business Academy, focused on creating real pathways for students into the business world with emphasis on entrepreneurial and innovation initiatives.

Senior leaders from the school were this year invited to present at a global conference in Toronto, entitled ‘Applying Education in a Complex World’.  Based at Sheridan, a tertiary institute attracting students from across Canada and around the world, the conference brought together educators from a range of disciplines with a focus on exploring education in a rapidly changing world.

Emma O’ Riordan, Director of Disruption for the Business Academy, says the school’s approach is founded in recognising that the future of work will look very different for today’s students, and preparing them for this is critical.

“We recognise that the future of work is changing and our students’ employment lives will look very different to today.  We’ve looked at how we design learning with confidence, in order to provide our students with real and genuine pathways.”

The positive impact of the Business Academy now reaches throughout the school and has evolved to include pathways into all areas and sectors.  This has included generating connections and opportunities for work experience and partnerships with a number of leading New Zealand businesses.

“This includes a Pathway to Employment programme with weekly paid work experience, the development of Makerspace - a technology-focused hands-on learning space, and an evolving future of work curriculum design process,” explains Ms O’ Riordan.

Multiple business and social partners are integrated across three programmes, with collaborative partnerships with companies such as Hynds, Mainfreight and EY helping deliver real-life experience for students. 

Mr Jones says education is a highly contested space when it comes to beliefs about the right ways to teach, and to learn.  “Over the last 10 years we have developed a partnership ecosystem that serves our students in their transitions into, through and beyond high school.  This is being achieved through a culturally sustaining, innovative, creative and agile local curriculum design. The ecosystem has been adaptive to shocks like a pandemic, and to shifts in education practices.

“Our school community is united in the belief that preparing young people for their futures in work is a key responsibility of a high school, and that learning design is best done in partnership with those already in the world of work.” Mr Jones adds that the success of the programmes are evident in the pathways that many students have gone on to enjoy over the last decade. “Each year we’re thrilled to see our students transitioning onto meaningful pathways.  This is made possible by our partners who understand the value of an investment of time and resources into developing future leaders. 

“This recent opportunity to present our experiences in Toronto and learn from others is yet another motivator to keep doing what we’re doing – it has been an absolute privilege to showcase our learnings on the world stage.”