Conclusion

Most schools in this evaluation were aware of Vocational Pathways and saw some value in using them to support students' careers education and course selection. Students were beginning to use Vocational Pathways tools, particularly the online Profile Builder, as part of their careers education and to select courses relevant to their pathways.

However, at the time of this evaluation, only a few of the schools were moving towards substantial curriculum change as a result of their engagement with the pathways. More commonly, the pathways were functioning as an add-on to a traditional curriculum and their use was largely limited to careers staff. School leaders, and particularly curriculum leaders, should consider the potential benefits of providing access to more relevant and authentic learning contexts, and using a pathway approach to underpin a more integrated and cohesive curriculum for their students.

A perception of Vocational Pathways as being relevant only to students who are not achieving academically remains widespread. Awareness and understanding of Vocational Pathways was generally strongest among careers staff, followed by school leaders, then teachers and students. Whanau were less likely to know about the pathways, although many schools were taking steps to address this through information evenings and on an individual basis as part of their course-selection processes.

Further targeted promotion of Vocational Pathways is needed. This should particularly focus on addressing the issue of perceived status by affirming the important economic and social contributions that students can make as they pursue further education and employment opportunities across the whole range of industries. Raising awareness of Vocational Pathways among employers is crucial to the credibility and usefulness of Vocational Pathways Awards.

This evaluation has focused on how secondary schools are implementing Vocational Pathways.

A comprehensive evaluation of the whole Vocational Pathways project is planned for 2017 by the Ministry of Education and Industry Training Federation. This will provide an opportunity to evaluate the impact of Vocational Pathways on student engagement, achievement and retention across secondary, tertiary and industry training contexts, and Maori-medium and English-medium settings.