Good can follow bad at school - study

By Elizabeth Binning

Long-term check on pupils finds factors outside classroom can boost results

The Competent Learners study followed 500 pupils through their learning years. Photo / Thinkstock
The Competent Learners study followed 500 pupils through their learning years. Photo / Thinkstock

Doing badly at primary school is not always a barrier to achieving good NCEA results, says a report from a study which has followed the lives of 500 young people throughout their education.

The Competent Learners study followed the children from just before they started school until they turned 16, collecting information every two years.

It then revisited 401 of the participants when they turned 20 and also spoke to 29 who had followed paths into adulthood that seemed "less straightforward than others".

Part of the Council for Educational Research study, issued this week, looked at whether students' secondary school qualifications reflected their performance in primary school.

It found more than half of the children who had low performance as 8-year-olds still went on to gain NCEA Level 2 or 3.

"That means children's support from teachers and parents, the learning opportunities they had in and out of school and their interactions with teachers and parents enabled them to make real progress," the report says.

It also found that students who gained Level 2 didn't necessarily have better arithmetical, reading, writing or problem-solving skills at 14 than those who gained only Level 1.

Instead, they had "higher levels of perseverance, communication, social skills, curiosity and self-management".

"These findings suggest that it is important for teachers and parents to respond to low performance levels and work actively to improve them at all age levels."

"The period from age 10-14 appears to be a time when it is particularly important for teachers and parents to watch for signs that children are turning away from school and learning."

A snapshot of 20-year-olds showed most continued some study after leaving school, often in conjunction with paid work.

Those who left school with NCEA Level 3 had the most straightforward path, while the 20 per cent who had left school without a qualification, or with only NCEA Level 1, were less happy.

They were also less optimistic about the future and more likely to participate in behaviour such as drug use and driving while drunk.

Of the 84 per cent who had studied since leaving school, most supported themselves through working or loans.

Eleven per cent of the 20-year-olds had some experience of unemployment since leaving school - something that often dented their enthusiasm, even if they did get a job again.

Two-thirds of the 20-year-olds had fallen in love, four-fifths had had sex within the past year and three-quarters had done something while they were drunk that they later regretted.

AT AGE 20 ...

* 84 per cent had studied since leaving school; most had loans or worked to pay for their studies.

* 11 per cent had been unemployed.

* 11 per cent were living with a partner.

* 66 per cent had fallen in love within the past year.

* 81 per cent had had sex within the past year.

* 75 per cent had done something while they were drunk that they later regretted.

* 77 per cent were optimistic about their future.

* 75 per cent voted in the 2008 election, but only 32 per cent cared who won.

- NZ Herald

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