19 December 2003
By JAYNE HULBERT
According to Jamie Fenton, one of the hardest things
about studying bursary level science as a 10-year-old is being too
small for the lab bench. But size certainly didn't stop Jamie becoming
the Western Institute of Technology at Taranaki's youngest graduate
last night. The young science student got a big cheer from the crowd
when she accepted her Certificate in Science Studies at the TSB
Showplace – only to have to return to the stage for a second time
to receive a surprise award. An excited Jamie received the science
department's award for consistent high standards.
And she deserved it. During her 18 months of studying
at WITT getting A grades was commonplace. For her human biology unit
Jamie's A+ mark placed her third at WITT, and she was top of her class
for physics and cell biology. Jamie admits she didn't find the work
hard. Mum, Christine Fenton, puts it down to her excellent memory. "She
remembers things very well. Some people might think that because she
does so well she is always studying, but it's not like that," Mrs
Fenton said. Jamie divided her time at WITT, 10 hours a week, with her
other classes at Bell Block Primary School. The only pre-requisite to
enrol at WITT was School Certificate. Jamie already had that under her
She sat and passed School Certificate science in 2001
when she was only eight. During her time at WITT Jamie found a new love
– maths. "I really enjoyed calculus and algebra. I'd like to do
more maths sometime," said Jamie. She said to begin with her WITT
classmates were a little shocked to see someone so young in their
class, but they soon accepted and looked out for her. "One of my
favourite things was watching cell division, it was really cool to see
it happening." But to see it, Jamie's microscope had to be set on a
special small table. Next year Jamie is off to Highlands Intermediate,
fulltime. About 520 certificate students graduated at WITT's ceremony.
/ Tertiary ...let them leave school early OR dual enrolment?
a successful example of starting Tertiary education at Year 12 is
Level 1 NCEA in Year 11
Full-time high school student taking traditional
Level 1 courses.
Begins a Diploma of Applied Science in Year 12
Leaves school, enrolled at the Western Institute
of Technology at Taranaki, works part-time in a commercial laboratory
to gain work experience.
Finishes Diploma of Applied Science in Year 13
Continues part-time work in a commercial
laboratory to gain work experience.
Direct entry into Second Year B.Sc at Otago
This student scores 100% in lab manual reports
during the year, and has work experience, money from savings and a
Diploma qualification to assist his studies. In contrast, friends that
remained in school are just beginning their first year at University.
"Cost" could mean different things
for different schools.
A school could use STAR funding
to permit a student to complete on or two extramural papers at a
A student might finish school
at Year 12, reducing the EFTS funding.
A staff member might be
timetables to mentor or guide students completing extramural papers.
Regardless of the "cost" to the
school, the benefit to the students and the community when the student
contributes as an adult more than justifies this.
Can your school
afford NOT to assist these students?
Behaviour problems, disruption to
classes, truancy, poor role models, etc, could cost the school more in
the long run.
DUAL ENROLMENT... a
successful example of starting Tertiary education while at Secondary
school is outlined:
Jamie attended Inglewood High as a
Year 9 student in 2006 and was awarded
As a Year 12 student at Inglewood High School she
is also a Massey University extramural student having taken 100-level,
200-level and 300-level Maths papers. She plans on doing a con-joint
degree in Arts and Science. She is a member of various community groups
in New Plymouth as well.
She is also artistic and has many
other interests and achievements.
In 2006 she won the New Plymouth
Little theatre award for Best Actress under 18.
Jamie was named 2006 Most Oustanding
Student/Trainee of the Year at the New Plymouth District Council Young
Achievers Awards. She also recieved an award for her success in many
aspects of the arts including literature and performance (dance and
Also that year she had a scientific
journalism piece accepted and printed in a Royal Society of New Zealand
Jamie’s list of achievements is
extensive: She has a long-term commitment to academic study and the
arts and is an excellent role model for all young people in New Zeland.
She was honoured to be
named Young New Zealander of the Year for 2011. Jamie Fenton, along with Jessica Watson, was a
keynote speaker at
the Australia New Zealand Leadership Forum.
Both young women had similar messages...young people should be
better supported to reach their true potential.
These are examples of interventions that
pushed the boundaries of what has been the "normal" programme of study
in Taranaki schools. Every day I see many students that could benefit
from such interventions.
Positive energy is required to move our
regions educational strategies for gifted children in the right
direction. It is easy to be negative and critical of others or blame
existing systems failures. I have tried instead to offer solutions with
evidence and look forward to seeing others succeed where I have only
However, I make no apologies for
questioning the motives of schools and whether there is a real drive
and desire in New Zealand to meet the needs of the students. I am lucky
as a parent to have had Bell Block Primary School, Inglewood High
School and the Western Institute of Technology at Taranaki to be
willing to trial new ideas.
Jamie attended Inglewood High as a Year 9
student in 2006 and was awarded Level 1 NCEA, Level 2 NCEA, Level 3
NCEA and University Entrance. She is enroling at Massey University as
an extramural student in 2007. She is also artistic and has many other
interests and achievements...all have contributed to her becoming a
well-rounded and confident individual. She is resilient enough to fit
into any social or school group she finds herself in. All she needed
was to be treated as an individual, not as a stereotypically "gifted"
Some teachers assume she must be "immature"
or have some other deficit to "balance" out the areas she is talented
in. Not all people work like that...some are frustratingly good at lots
of things and may make some of us feel inadequate or threatened...after
all, isn't the teacher supposed to be the source of all knowledge? We
must not assume we know best just because we are adults or teachers.
"Experts" are not created
On the other hand, if a school
decides to offer professional development to staff, and bring in a paid
outside expert, don't forget that some staff may already have excellent
experience in this area and can offer guidance for free. Be aware that
some "expert" advice is of poor quality or too simplistic.
Some "qualified" advisors (they have
completed courses and/or papers) simply regurgitate theory or
stereotype children. Avoid these people if you can!
My goal as a parent and teacher is
not to extend children beyond their capabilities but make them reach up
to see what they are capable of.
HOW do you demonstrate this at YOUR school...in YOUR