Police and schools combine to license Northland teens
Working together to get Northland teenagers behind the wheel, legally.
Neil Vartan is a senior constable and youth aid officer based at the Kawakawa Police Station in Northland.
Laurie Anderson has been running driver licensing courses in Northland, mainly out of his home town in Moerewa.
Together with the support of schools in the Mid North, Neil and Laurie have been working on helping students at Northland schools obtain their learner driver licences.
"The penny dropped because of the distance,” says Neil. "It was making it difficult for these kids to get a licence."
Kawakawa is 32 kilometres from the nearest AA centres in Kaikohe and Kerikeri.
"It just made sense. Help them get their licence and they’re on the right track. It also reduces the chances of a ticket, which is often the first interaction our young people have with the Police," he said.
"It’s a thrill to see the look on their faces when they see what they’ve achieved."
Laurie teaches the students and Neil transports them to the AA so they can sit their tests.
Late last year 16 of 18 Okaihau College young people passed their learner licence tests. Bay of Islands College students had a 100% pass rate for all 14 students who sat the test.
Neil is naturally chuffed. So is Laurie, who has been teaching driver licensing throughout Northland for more than 20 years.
"I’ve been trying to find a way to get into schools for years. This is a wonderful initiative and I’m blessed to be a part of it," says Laurie.
Okaihau College principal Alan Forgie says licensing his students has been a wonderful initiative.
"There’s a sense of achievement for the students, as well as giving them a head start when they finish school," says Alan.
"A lot of the students are at a loose end at the end of the year with NCEA and all, so this has been good for them."
Alan says it’s also been good for the students to see uniformed police in the school environment and the driver licensing course is just the beginning. Another course started this month (March 2018).
"We’ll be doing more courses,” he says. “It takes a bit of organising, but considering the reward, it makes it worth it."
Bay of Islands College Deputy Principal Annette Wynyard says the students were very excited and grateful for the opportunity to be able to get their learner licence before leaving college. "They studied hard and supported each other along the way and were chuffed they all passed the test and achieved their licences together," says Annette.
"Had it not been for Neil and Laurie combining their efforts to enable this to happen, then it’s very likely a lot of the students would have struggled to accomplish what they have. This is purely based on the logistics of giving them time to study at school as well as transporting them to the nearest AA Centre where the testing had to occur."
Discussions are underway to enable more Bay of Islands College students to be able to complete their learner licence test this year.
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