• Natalie Jessup

Paeroa College circuit breaker trials give rangatahi new direction

Circuit breaker trials were created in 2020 and 2021 to help youth aged 15-18, who had been adversely affected by the impacts of COVID-19. These trials involved working with a range of rangatahi from various communities throughout the Waikato region and aimed to introduce something positive and inspiring into their lives, to disrupt the path they were likely to be on.


The trials focused on connecting rangatahi to training, employment or education by giving project experiences and providing eye-opening and achievable opportunities. As a result extremely positive changes in these young people's lives have been seen.


At the Thames Valley Alternative Education (AE) unit, a circuit breaker trial was carried out, which involved three rangatahi being supported by a teacher to help these students see themselves as part of a bigger picture through employment. As a result, more pathways were opened, and their perceptions positively adjusted for the future.


Out of the three rangatahi involved in the trial, one found permanent part time work, whilst the other two have gone onto vocational training.


“Usually, students in situations like this leave without a plan; however, all three students have gone onto something meaningful, which is really outstanding,” says Amy Hacker, Principal / Tumuaki of Paeroa College.


All students said their perspectives towards future employment options had broadened. They were also rewarded financially through paid work experiences, which meant they were able to do shopping and provide for their families.


“The biggest change we saw was in their self-confidence and aspirations for their futures,” says Amy. “There was a huge increase in their sense of agency and hope, and each student could see what was possible beyond what they had experienced in their immediate family environment”.

Through exposure to different work opportunities the students were rewarded through positive feedback from employers. This really increased their perceptions of what they could offer, which lifted their self-esteem and their belief in themselves.

“Sadly, some of our students have such low self-confidence they don’t even apply for jobs,” says Amy, “Each of these students could now see that they could add value and this process enabled them to step of out their usual comfort zone and away from a thought pattern of “Who would want me?””

Several initiatives were key to the successful implementation of this initiative including:

  • Work ready sessions to ensure students who were nervous felt more prepared

  • Building on existing relationships, with the school and employers

  • Flexibility in funding allocation to enable the use of resources where they could best achieve positive outcomes.


At present the ability to continue and scale this programme is hampered by a lack of funding. However, if it was better resourced, more rangatahi could be reached. Moving forward it is hoped that more resourcing will be directed into circuit breaker programmes so that greater numbers of rangatahi can be exposed to a variety of life pathways.


“We are facing some real challenges in New Zealand right now and small projects like this can make a such a difference,” says Amy, “I’d like this programme to be integrated as part of the bread and butter of what is resourced in our schools”.
“If we put time and energy into these kids now there is much less need for an ambulance at the bottom of the cliff later on,” says Amy.

This project has made a significant difference in the lives of these young people, who will now be in meaningful, legal and paid employment, which also has huge social and financial benefits to our society.


For more information about this programme please contact:


Bevan Smith | Principal Adviser - Secondary Transitions

Te Mahau | Te Tai Whenua (Central)

Bevan.Smith@education.govt.nz


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