Darfield High School gains endorsement
Darfield High School confirmed the place of its rural training programme as one of the best in the country earlier this year by gaining endorsement by agriculture training quality mark AgExcel.
Rex Smith, the teacher in charge of the school’s rural training programme, says they decided to apply for AgExcel endorsement because they recognised the credibility the endorsement would give their programme.
“The benefits of endorsement include credibility and motivation to strive for a higher standard. Becoming endorsed by AgExcel means our programme is recognised as meeting the needs of local industry employers.”
AgExcel is a quality mark that recognises training providers who deliver superior quality agricultural training. It bridges the gap between basic quality assurance standards and the delivery of training and education that meets industry requirements. The quality mark is administered by AgITO and endorsed by industry partners DairyNZ and Beef + Lamb New Zealand.
AgExcel evaluator, Andrew Donohue, says, “Darfield High School’s rural programme is a high quality training pathway. Rex has developed a prestigious rural programme that sets their students up for a career in agriculture.
“The AgExcel application process requires schools to look into their programmes and prove quality of delivery. Rex not only showed us the current high standard of the programme but also reassured us that this would continue into the future.”
The school’s rural programme is made up of four classes from Year 10-13. Students must apply for entry into the Year 11 programme.
“We always have more applicants than places in our programme,” Rex says. “All students are interviewed with their parents before they enter the Year 11 programme. The Year 10 course is also used to evaluate their suitability and motivation for the programme.”
For Darfield High School, AgExcel endorsement is another means through which to encourage excellence in their students.
“We actively encourage students to aim for excellence rather than just meet the standard – this is reflected in our enviable record in wins in Canterbury skills competitions. We wanted to use the AgExcel endorsement to further motivate students to push themselves further.”
Rex says about 50% of the students leaving the programme go into employment in the agriculture industry after leaving school.
“Students complete 10 days of work experience per year on local farms. We arrange these placements with local farmers and use feedback to tweak the programme. Some of these placements eventuate in permanent employment. Students also go on numerous whole-day practical teaching days on local farms.”
“Darfield High School are exactly what we want to promote as an AgExcel school,” Andrew Donohue adds. “The school has a long tradition of delivering agriculture training and has the support of the wider community. They have turned their programme into a sought after subject choice. The programme produces young people who are ready to work on farm and often undertake further training with AgITO.”
Rex believes other secondary schools would benefit greatly from achieving the quality standards required by AgExcel.
“It is vital that there is uniformity to agricultural teaching and training in New Zealand so that employers know exactly what skills graduates have. It is important that schools rise to the AgExcel standard rather than lowering their standard to simply pass students and gain NCEA credits. Agricultural teaching needs to have a higher profile in schools to avoid it being a last-chance subject.”
More information about AgExcel and the list of endorsed providers and tutors can be found at www.agexcel.co.nz.