The government has provided a funding boost for the teaching of agricultural and horticultural science in schools, committing $1.6 million to better supporting teachers.
The funding over five years is being provided by the Ministry for Primary Industries’ Sustainable Food and Fibre Futures (SFF Futures) fund.
Agriculture and Rural Communities Minister Damien O’Connor said the food and fibre sector is nothing if New Zealand does not have good people.
“Educated and enthusiastic people are our competitive advantage as an exporter, because it’s people that deliver technology and grow value,” O’Connor said.
“We’re backing the development of a nationwide advisory team to provide support to agricultural and horticultural science teachers, create resources, and provide important links to local food and fibre sector partners.”
O’Connor said the funding will also help young New Zealanders understand the career options that are available throughout the value chain and provide them with real-life work experience opportunities in their local communities.
“There are 126 schools across the country teaching agricultural and horticultural science and we’re aiming to increase this number, especially in urban areas,” he said.
The funding will provide for one full-time adviser and a support person based at St Paul’s Collegiate School in Hamilton, and up to 16 part-time regionally based advisers.
He said he expects the support network will be a huge help to teachers who usually have sole charge of their subject and often have to take care of farmlets or orchards as part of their role.
St Paul’s Collegiate’s agribusiness curriculum director Kerry Allen said the funding is hugely exciting.
The school is one of the business partners running the new programme, which will run in conjunction with its Agribusiness in Schools initiative.
“Agriculture and horticulture science sectors haven’t had any professional development funding before so it means we can provide direct help to agriculture-horticulture science teachers,” Allen said.
That help ranged from upskilling and resource writing to implementing the Ministry of Education’s new standards, she said.
Allen said she hopes it will lead to the programme expanding. Currently, about 150 schools teach agriculture and horticulture in schools at achievement standards and slightly more teach it at unit standards.
O’Connor said the nationwide advisory team will survey the professional development needs of agricultural and horticultural science teachers annually.
“They’ll provide workshops to build professional practice, tailored mentoring and support for individual teachers where required, and develop and distribute teaching resources,” he said.
“They’ll also provide assistance to enhance student achievement and help raise the profile and public perception of agricultural and horticultural science.”
O’Connor said he would like to see this approach continuing beyond the life of the five-year project.
“One of the goals of this project is for the model to be self-sustaining so it continues to support teachers and their students long into the future.”