A pilot scheme for promising students from four low decile Auckland schools aims to improve their chances of getting into university. Figures from 2016 show 17 percent of students in decile one and two schools achieved University Entrance (UE) compared to 69 percent of students in decile nine and ten schools.

The University of Auckland has conducted long-term research into the factors that enhance success at secondary school for students from under-represented groups; and a new programme has been designed to provide academic support, advocacy and access to successful role models the students can identify with.

Director of Educational Initiatives, Professor Graeme Aitken, has been central to developing the programme and says: “We are often disappointed with the numbers attending university from lower decile schools.

“While university education is not for everyone, the reality is that we will not turn around the access statistics unless we work with schools to provide support that raises aspirations and equips students with the skills and tools to successfully complete secondary school and then transition to university.”

Launched at Alfriston College in South Auckland, the programme involves senior teachers across four schools working closely with students to support their achievement in subjects that will give them access to university. As well as Alfriston College, the other schools involved are Aorere College, Onehunga High School, and Tangaroa College.

The senior leaders will be the students’ problem-solvers, advocates, and allies as they navigate their way through NCEA. This support will be coupled with mentoring from students who have graduated from their schools and are now successfully engaged in university study. The longer-term hope is that the mentored students will in turn become university student mentors at their old schools.

The initiative is supported by the Buchanan Charitable Foundation. Dr Trevor and Dr Caroline Gray from the foundation approached the university, interested in helping students at low-decile schools pursue tertiary study. They say: “By enabling promising senior school students to explore a clearer path to university, and giving them the necessary support, we hope to equip them with tools to achieve their dreams of academic and career success.”

Alfriston College principal Robert Solomone believes the programme has the potential to change the lives of his students. “Many of our learners need to see for themselves the potential that others see in them, and a programme like this will help us do this even better,” he says.

The Foundation’s gift of $1.867 million will fund the pilot project over the next four years. It was received as part of the University of Auckland’s For All Our Futures campaign launched in September 2016 with the aim of raising $300 million to put towards programmes, research, and scholarships to help the University of Auckland contribute to some of the biggest questions facing society today.

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