A new sports academy at Dannevirke High School dovetails into vocational pathways and encourages pupils to stay at school longer, principal Dr Dawid de Villiers says.

The new programme is also another asset aimed at making the school's curriculum flexible and relevant to pupils' needs.

"We have to compete with city schools and have to implement any new initiative from within our current resources," Dr de Villiers said. "Money is a huge issue, but if it's going to fill a need, we'll do it if we can fund it."

The new, practical programme is also part of the school's community responsibility in engaging pupils and encouraging them to remain in school longer.


"It's not just about pupils running around and pushing weights, but instead is a practical approach to sports science which could lead pupils into sports management, fitness and personal training as career options," said Dr de Villiers.

With credits attached to NCEA, the new academy programme, which began this year, is currently targeted at Year 12 and 13 pupils.

"It's part of our strategy to retain pupils here longer, so they can gain higher qualifications.

"Matt Ahern is teaching the programme and is young, fit and into sport. He's also an ex head boy of this school, so it's great to have him doing this."

Although the programme could be offered to other pupils later, Dr de Villiers said he's mindful of the impact that could have on privately owned gyms in Dannevirke.

At this stage there are 14 pupils on the new course, which also gives them an insight into sports science.

With exercise and nutrition quite topical at the moment pupils are also able to apply their learning to their everyday lives.

However, adding another subject has put some pressure on resources at the high school, Lloyd Parkes, teacher in charge of student support said.

"The money for the equipment has come out of my budget, but it definitely makes a difference to the way Matt (Ahern) teaches the subject," he said. "This is a course which fits a certain group of pupils - perhaps those not previously following a career path."

One pre-requisite is that pupils on the course must play sport for the high school and the programme is very structured, Dr de Villiers said.

"The new fitness centre used to be a nothing space, now pupils on the course use it in a very structured way, with a purpose for everything."

And Dr de Villiers has had plenty of experience in what's required to train athletes, having coached track and field athletes to Commonwealth Games level and lectured in sports science at a Cape Town university while living in South Africa.

"There's everything in this gym-based classroom, including kettle balls which are the buzz in core training these days," he said.

And with a new fabric course, complete with 16 new Janome sewing machines, also underway, the high school is responding to what pupils want, Dr de Villiers said.

"We survey our pupils and if what they're wanting is provided by the New Zealand curriculum, we say 'why not', even if it stretches our resources."