Negative stigma attached to Alternative Education

By Aroha Mane
Former Alt Ed Student, Leon Pulu

A former Alternative Education (Alt Ed) student says a negative stigma is attached to the sector. This comes as Alternative Education representatives met today to identify gaps within the initiative. 

Leon Pulu was expelled from school at 14, he says Alt Ed was his last resort, but it came with a negative stigma.

“Getting looked at by the public, like you know, you're a nobody. Where's his parents, what's he doing. You know that judgement,” says Pulu.  

Alternative Education is an initiative for students aged 13 to 16 who are alienated from mainstream education.

Although Pulu has since transitioned back to mainstream to study a Diploma of Sport and Recreation at AUT, sector and cross-sector representatives today maintain there is still room for improvement.

The Chairman of The Alternative Education Steering Group, Shirley Johnson says, “One of the big issues we’ll talk about today is the Alt Ed brand. How do we change the narrative that goes with that, from where young people have failed, where they have ended up in Alt Ed, to where young people need a new and different way to learn and thrive.”

According to The Education Review Office, 63% of all Alt Ed students in 2010 were Māori and many struggled with learning difficulties or mental health issues.

The Head of Alternative Education National Body says the sector needs better financial support.

Chairman Adrian Schoone says, "There are only one year contracts in place for Alternative Education Providers, which puts a lot of uncertainty into the sector. Alternative Education is a sector that's really making a difference to young people, but in many ways are getting the least support." 

From the information gathered today, The Alternative Education Steering group aim to provide a submission to The Ministry of Education, to review The Alternative Education Sector.