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The Oxford Area School Year 13 pupil was one of five students from around the country to receive a Student Excellence Award at the New Zealand Area Schools Association conference in Wellington last month.
Principal Mike Hart said he was thrilled to be able to accept the award on Ellie's behalf.
Ellie, who is a head student of Oxford Area School this year, is a member of the Waimakariri Youth Council and served as Waimakariri Youth MP at this year's Youth Parliament. Her Youth MP project was on youth employment, which stemmed from her involvement in developing the Waimakariri Youth Strategy last year.
She completed a survey, with more than 100 responses from 14 to 18-year-olds, who found a lack of experience to be a major barrier in finding employment.
She proposed a youth jobs pathway initiative for high school students, where they gain work experience from a local employer for a few hours a week over several weeks and the employer signs it off.
This led to Ellie putting a supplementary question to Education Minister Chris Hipkins during the Youth Parliament mock debate, calling for life skills, such as learning to write CVs, interviewing skills, student loans, budgeting and how to buy a house to be included in the New Zealand education curriculum.
Mr Hart says he supports Ellie's initiative. Schools offer some opportunities for pupils to learn those skills, but could do with more resourcing.
''When they go into Year 11 to 13, they're more likely to get it through the Gateway Programme, but that's not really available to those who are looking at going on to university.
''It's a question of balance and fitting it into what is already quite a full curriculum. It's pretty full as it is.''
Mr Hart says it might be more practical for pupils to seek work experience or volunteering opportunities outside of school time.