Monday, May 28, 2012

The Intermediate Years

The New Zealand government are suggesting some changes to funding and allocation of funds for New Zealand intermediate schools. Having taught in an intermediate for a couple of years, and having 3 children in intermediate as I write, I feel slightly qualified to offer an opinion on the whole picture.

More than 300 technology teachers are under threat of losing their jobs through the proposed restructuring. It seems to be all about funding and distribution of funds, but the reality is, that for our kids who are at intermediate, it is all about wider learning.

I have met many parents and teachers who have never been a big fan of the intermediate years being served out in separate schools. The students seem to be in this frozen state of 'in between' for 2 years - not a primary school student, yet still under that curriculum and wider umbrella, yet also not yet a secondary student and somehow not quite ready for that leap. Yet the alternatives have really seemed a solution either - middle schools for 4 years, full primary school for the whole first 8 years or secondary school for 7 years. Hmmm, what is the other option then?

Intermediate.
2 years of intense preparation for the transition from primary into secondary.
2 years of the focus shifting from being driven by the 3 R's and moving the students' thinking into the broader aspects of life.
Tech and spec they call it - and these are exactly the jobs under threat.

Ask any person of any age what they remember about intermediate and their immediate response is: "Woodwork...metalwork...food tech...graphics..." and so on. They will recall, without exception, that for many of them/us it was our first (and sometimes most inspiring) experience of something quite new. We were introduced to skills that girls and boys at that age and stage may never have dreamed of undertaking, but undertake it they did, and the enjoyment was real and unforgettable, often channelling students into directions that defined their future in study and employment.

If we lose our tech specialist teachers, then we wipe out much of the reason for intermediate schools. Those years will look and feel no different and no more special than the primary years, and although the primary years are incredibly special, there is something unique and rather wonderful about the intermediate experience. I, for one, will greet those changes with genuine sadness and regret for something that is lost. Why fix what isn't broken?

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