Woolf Fisher Kairapu: Taylor Hughson

Woolf Fisher Kairapu: Taylor Hughson

Oct 08, 2019 - In the media

A huge congratulations to Kairapu (alumnus of Cohort 2016), Taylor Hughson, who has received a Woolf Fisher scholarship to continue his research in education. Described by one of his referees as “someone who has shown immense commitment to serving his community”, Taylor will head to the University of Cambridge to complete his PhD in Education, investigating the current state of teacher policy in New Zealand.

Described by one of his referees as “someone who has shown immense commitment to serving his community”, Taylor Hughson will head to Cambridge to complete a PhD in Education. He already has two postgraduate degrees (BA Hons and MA in English from Victoria University of Wellington) and a postgraduate teaching diploma (from the University of Auckland), and is currently completing a Master of Education at Victoria University of Wellington, while teaching fulltime at Hutt Valley High School.

Taylor’s passion for teaching and education—and the proposed topic for his PhD—was sparked during his first few weeks on the Teach First NZ programme, through which he obtained his teaching diploma.

“Teach First is a programme where one teaches in a low decile school for two years, while simultaneously completing a teaching qualification,” he says. “I had arrived at my assigned school in South Auckland excited and ready to go. But I found out on arrival that I would not be teaching the subject I was trained in—English—but would be working in an ‘integrated studies programme’ teaching all five ‘core’ subjects, most of which I had no training in delivering”.

“Although I found this programme to have some benefits for the students involved and understood why the school had developed it, I also wondered if something was being lost in all of this. Was this kind of programme in line with the best available research? And surely there was something unique that I, with subject-specific expertise, had to offer my students?” he says.

“Accordingly, I want to investigate the current state of teacher policy in New Zealand: what are its origins, what impact is it having on the classroom, and is it in line with international best practice?”

Taylor wants to focus on low-decile schools, because of his concerns that students in these schools should receive the best education possible. His concern arose originally when in 2011 he started volunteering at Victoria University of Wellington’s homework club for refugee students.

“The students I encountered at this club changed the course of my life for the better,” he says. “One girl in particular helped me see the gap between the opportunities I had been given in life, and the opportunities given to others.”

Despite the difficulties of her life in Somalia and her family’s flight here as refuges, what he found most difficult to accept were her stories of challenges at her low decile school in New Zealand.

“After coming all this way, the lack of ESOL support, the lack of qualified maths teachers and the absence of extra-curricular opportunities she told me about infuriated me,” he says. “I had gone to a well-regarded school where I had received an excellent education and had all the support and opportunities I could have asked for.

“Why then were students like this girl, who had already overcome far more barriers than I, not getting the support they needed to thrive?”

Taylor has continued supporting refugee students and working with Teach First NZ as an alumnus, while both working and studying full-time. He now plans to pursue a field of study that will enable him to contribute to improving the education of New Zealand’s most disadvantaged students.

*This article was written by Scoop Media, and published on scoop.co.nz. Read the full article here.

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