A plan to provide free driving lessons in schools may be extended to other family members after a pilot scheme in Napier found that about half of the parents of students in the scheme don't have full driver licences either.

Associate Education Minister Tracey Martin says the Government is still committed to a coalition promise to "offer free driver training to all secondary students".

But she said the plan had been widened after a scheme at Napier's decile-2 William Colenso College found that many students did not have parents with drivers' licences to coach them.

Colenso principal Daniel Murfitt said other family members wanted to be part of the college scheme virtually as soon as it started about five years ago.

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"We had a meeting for our first group of learners, and probably 50 per cent or more of the whānau/family members in that room had no driving licence or were driving on a restricted licence," he said.

"We have whānau members of students who haven't got a licence coming into the school to connect with the programme and get their learner's, restricted or full licences."

Martin, who visited the college yesterday, said she was now working with Employment Minister Willie Jackson to expand the scheme.

"As much of the programme uses the school as a base but delivers to the wider whānau as well, I am working with Minister Jackson on the development and delivery of resources," she said.

Tracey Martin is looking at combining William Colenso College's driving programme with a community mentoring scheme run by the NZ Transport Agency. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Tracey Martin is looking at combining William Colenso College's driving programme with a community mentoring scheme run by the NZ Transport Agency. Photo / Mark Mitchell

She said she was looking at "a combination of the successful model currently being delivered at William Colenso College in Napier and the NZ Transport Agency mentoring programme being delivered at several sites throughout New Zealand".

Ministry of Education officials told a careers advisers' conference in Auckland today that schools would not be forced to adopt either driving lessons or the rest of a proposed "school leavers' toolkit" including financial literacy, key workplace skills and "civics".

"We live in a devolved system. We don't make the schools do things, apart from what is set out in the curriculum," said Miriam Gibson, the ministry's lead adviser for secondary-tertiary pathways and transitions.

"What we want to do is to make it easy for the schools to do, and show the value of this, and we are hoping that if we do that well enough, schools will want to do it. But there will be no compliance."

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Careers advisers packed into a room at the SkyCity conference centre to hear Gibson and colleague Margaret McNie outline progress on the toolkit. Latecomers sat on the floor or stood at the back of the meeting room.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern promised before the last election that Labour would give all senior school students five hours of free professional driving lessons, a free defensive driving course, and free learner's and restricted licence tests.

She said the "toolkit" would also include compulsory civics courses on how democracy works for students in Years 11 to 13, and optional courses on financial literacy and workplace skills such as first aid.

Labour's pre-election fiscal plan included $25m for the toolkit in this financial year and $50m a year from next year.

But this year's Budget allocated only $1.7m to develop the toolkit this year and left any future funding up to next year's Budget.

 Daniel Murfitt says getting each student from learner's to full licence costs about $1500. Photo / Duncan Brown, Hawke's Bay Today
Daniel Murfitt says getting each student from learner's to full licence costs about $1500. Photo / Duncan Brown, Hawke's Bay Today

Murfitt said Colenso's scheme cost about $1500 per student to go through all steps from learner's to full licences.

A college dean co-ordinates local police officers to work with students in the school holidays on their learner licences, and then uses the local Got Drive Trust to give each student between five and 19 driving lessons until they are good enough to get their restricted licences.

The dean keeps in touch with students even if they leave the college and arranges for them to do a defensive driving course and go for their full licence a year later.

All lessons and test fees are funded by sponsors including Te Puni Kōkiri and the Eastern and Central Community Trust.

Murfitt said the programme was offered to every student when they were about to turn 16 and was taken up by most, although because of funding restrictions the college encouraged better-off families to get their licences independently.

Police officers help William Colenso College students to study for their learner licences in their school holidays. Photo / Supplied
Police officers help William Colenso College students to study for their learner licences in their school holidays. Photo / Supplied

He said other schools had not joined the scheme.

"There appears to be a lack of any national or even regional coordination around it," he said.

"Most schools end up just with their learner's, and I think that is a disservice. The reality in Hawke's Bay, with limited public transport, is that if you want to get a job you need to drive."