Developing new Agribusiness achievement standards in NCEA Levels 2 and 3 was a bold move and not one many secondary schools take on due to the sheer volume of work required to get the idea off the ground and sitting with the Ministry of Education.
St Paul’s Deputy Headmaster Peter Hampton didn’t see it that way, he took the bull by the horns. With Headmaster Grant Lander and his team, Peter has spent the past three years at the forefront of this colossal yet nationally significant project that could change the face of New Zealand’s primary industries.
The Independent Schools of New Zealand acknowledged Peter for his dedication to this project by presenting him with an ISNZ Honours Award in Wellington in June.
“I have been a key driver of the development of the Agribusiness achievement standards and the award was really an acknowledgement of that work. I didn’t expect it, it was a real surprise and I really appreciated it,” Peter said.
It all started in 2013 when the impetus for the concept of teaching young people about agribusiness came from a farming grandparent in a school survey. This survey also showed more than 50 per cent of St Paul’s parents worked in the agricultural industry.
“It was in that moment we realised we weren’t offering what our students and parents demanded. We did some research and found a gap in the New Zealand curriculum framework.”
“We found that there are thousands of jobs for graduates in agri-science and agri-business and that the agricultural sector was facing a skills shortage but secondary schools weren’t educating students about the opportunities available in this sector.”
A public-private partnerships between St Paul’s, Dairy NZ, Beef+Lamb NZ and 11 other business partners was then established to develop an Agribusiness programme for New Zealand secondary school students.
Over the past three years, St Paul’s and the business partners have worked together to develop achievement standards suited to the sector that target bright, tertiary capable commerce and science students.
Hampton says the end product looks at the “big picture” rather than the on-farm skills taught in the AgHort course currently available.
“Agribusiness students learn about growing value in products, future proofing, agri-innovation and technology, agri-science and sustainability.”
He has now handed the “baton” to the Ministry of Education who are “excited” by the progress and plan to have the standards available to all secondary schools in 2018.
Hampton is now working on trialling Agribusiness in ten other secondary schools in 2017 and is also focused on developing training resources for teachers.
“We want teachers to be able to pick up our package of resources, do their prep work and teach the programme comfortably in their own school.”
After hearing about the programme’s success at St Paul’s, where more than 80 Year 12 and 13 students now take the subject, 50 schools have indicated interest in the programme and a national agribusiness conference will be hosted by St Paul’s in April 2017.
Universities are benefitting too. Before Agribusiness was offered, only two St Paul’s students went on to study agribusiness at universities compared to the 20 who chose ag-related degrees last year.
“This was really important for us. We want our students to study degrees and enter a sector that will make them highly employable.”
Once the achievement standards are made available to all secondary schools, Hampton says he plans to look at introducing Agribusiness to Years 9 and 10 as a second stage to the project.