Findings

The CYF residential schools have all demonstrated sound or good practice in the areas examined under the terms of reference for this evaluation. The following section discusses how the residential schools have performed and provides examples of good practice from specific schools.

The findings are divided into three sections that reflect the terms of reference for this evaluation. Sections are included on the quality of teaching, transitions (both into and out from CYF residential schools) and the extent to which the education programme of these schools supports the overall CYF plan for each student.

The section discussing the quality of teaching at the CYF residential schools includes an outline of the areas in which these schools could continue to develop their teaching. This section draws together the findings from the CYF residential schools and discusses how the existing good practice could be further enhanced.

The quality of teaching

In evaluating the quality of teaching at the CYF residential schools ERO staff examined the following:

  • classroom relationships;
  • classroom teaching, including strategies for engaging students at risk of educational failure;
  • individual education plans (IEPs);
  • classroom curriculum, planning and assessment processes;
  • student achievement, especially in relation to numeracy and literacy.

The quality of teaching in the CYF residential schools was generally high. While there was some variation in quality between and within the residential schools, there were some common strengths found by ERO.

The most obvious example is the low teacher-student ratios found in all the schools. The low ratio supported small group and one-to-one learning opportunities for students. In particular it meant that classroom teachers could give students frequent and immediate feedback on their learning.

Small classes also supported the development of good relationships between staff and students. Importantly, these relationships were also supported by the effective strategies staff used to manage the behaviour of students. These strategies were based on support, encouragement and a good sense of humour. CYF staff contributed to this positive classroom dynamic with most working alongside students to support their learning.

Teachers were well prepared, while also taking a flexible approach to classroom activity. Teachers developed clear sequences for classroom learning and acknowledged the success made by students at each point. Despite being in a residence, students could be withdrawn from class for various reasons, including issues arising from life in the residence.

Part of the strength of the classroom relationships came from the high expectations staff have for students. All students were expected to complete work to an acceptable standard. Teachers demonstrated a commitment to the education of young people, many of whom had never succeeded in a school previously. This commitment has helped build trust between staff and students and, subsequently, supported student engagement in learning.

The assessment processes used by staff provided good information about the numeracy and literacy skills of each student. The high quality of assessment information was observed in the Individual Education Plans (IEPs) of students. For example, the IEP used by staff at Korowai Manaaki gave an overview of a student’s reading, writing and numeracy skills. Korowai Manaaki used PROBE reading assessment data as well as qualitative comments about the attitude of a student to reading [9]. AsTTle was used to identify writing and mathematical knowledge. A section on social, behavioural and study skills was used to identify a student’s strengths and development areas10]. Small sections were included on student interests and preferred approach to learning.

The IEP structure used by Korowai Manaaki included ongoing updates on how students had performed in class. Teachers included weekly comments about how a student had progressed. This information allowed the student, and other staff, to see the progress made by a student over time.

Tikanga Māori was a focus at most of the schools. Students learned waiata and karakia and used Māori protocol in the classroom. Teachers understood and affirmed the cultural background of Māori students. They readily incorporated te reo Māori me tikanga into classroom discussion and presentation.

The high quality of teaching in the residential schools meant that most students have made significant progress. Some young people have gained credits towards the National Certificates of Educational Achievement (NCEA) during their time at a residential school. Most students showed improvements in their literacy and numeracy skills.

Moving teaching from effective to highly effective

ERO found few areas for improvement in relation to the quality of teaching at the CYF schools. The teachers at the schools had good relationships with students, engaged students, used sound assessment techniques and contributed to significant gains in the learning of most students, especially in numeracy and literacy.

This section primarily focuses on how the good foundations built at the schools can be improved for the future. After a short discussion about the minor areas for improvement at the schools, the section below outlines how the engaging practices of some teachers might be extended to improve teaching for students at the residential schools.

Minor areas for improvement

ERO indicated some areas for improvement indicated in its 2008 education review of Kingslea School. These were being addressed at the time of ERO’s 2009 visit.

ERO also suggested that young people at Korowai Manaaki and Whakatakapokai could be provided with a broader range of reading resources. Our discussions with staff from all the schools suggested that this was part of a wider issue with residential schools not consistently receiving teaching and learning resources from Learning Media.

Discussions with educational staff also identified that safe and accessible internet access for students at all the residential schools could enhance the range of reading material available to them. [11]

Enhancing existing teaching

The good relationships and practice developed by teachers at the residential schools provides a platform for extending classroom teaching. In particular there is scope to make greater use of the interests and strengths of students to provide more relevant and authentic learning activities. These activities would be based on solving problems for a real audience. These activities would help students develop greater intrinsic motivation for learning and build their sense of themselves as learners.

Some teachers in the residential schools used student-centred approaches. For instance a student at Te Poutama Ārahi Rangatahi, with talents in fashion, attended a design course at an off-site provider. Another student attended a hip hop dance class in line with his interests.

Teachers often used the interests of students to create learning activities when students started in a residential school. This can be a difficult time for students who may be placed in a residence by the court or by CYF’s. Initially, some students can be reluctant to engage in classroom activities. Teachers have developed engagement by creating learning activities based on student interests. Examples given to ERO included students preparing posters based on professional wrestling or musicians.

By extending such work teachers could also develop engaging activities that built on student literacy and numeracy. Given the low staff to student ratio in the residential schools it is possible that students could have an even more highly differentiated programme based on their interests and abilities.

Student transitions

ERO evaluated the quality of the transitions made by students into and out of the CYF residential schools. The quality of student transitions was evaluated at a time when a new service model was being implemented by CYF. This service model is designed to improve each student’s transition to an educational and residential placement following their time at a CYF’s residence.

CYF’s new service model

During the course of this review the CYF residences were implementing a new service model. This model is expected to be fully operational later in 2010. The service model represents a greater emphasis on student outcomes than in the past. It aims to place a more multi-disciplinary support structure around students while they are present at a residence and in the months after they have left the residence. [12]

The model is expected to involve a closer relationship between the CYF staff and the staff at the residential schools. Teachers and support staff in the residential schools can be expected to contribute to the multi-disciplinary approach that connects a student’s pathway from inside the residential service to future education or training.

Student Induction

In evaluating the quality of student inductions to the residential schools ERO examined the extent to which:

  • the school’s induction process was organised and welcoming for students and their families
  • the induction programme worked well at all times of the year (ie during ‘school holidays’ if possible)
  • multi-disciplinary and/or special educational support was identified as early as possible
  • the school used valid and reliable approaches to identify the educational strengths and weaknesses of new students
  • the school had processes in place for identifying and supporting the needs of students in relation to any physical, sensory, psychological, neurological, behavioural or intellectual impairments.

ERO found that staff at the residential schools generally managed the induction of students well. The quality of induction depended on how much notice staff had before a student’s arrival. This could depend on a variety of factors beyond the control of the residential centre including instructions from the Youth Court. The quality of information sharing between CYF and education staff is at an early stage in some situations too – although this is expected to improve with the new CYF service model.

The residential schools all had good processes for making students feel welcome and for building strong relationships between staff and students. Staff made their expectations clear to students while also actively forming positive relationships with new students.

The IEPs of students were developed soon after they started at a residential school. These IEPs included a wide range of information about each student’s current levels of achievement, plans for the future as well as social and educational goals. Different assessment tools were used by different residential schools to identify the numeracy and literacy skills of students.

The early stages of the CYF service model was seen in some of the ways CYF and education staff worked when students were transitioning into residential schools. ERO found some areas for improvement in the way CYF and education staff shared information about young people starting in a residence, in particular at the Lower North Youth Justice service.

At Kingslea School ERO found the effectiveness of practices connected with the induction of students to be mixed. Kingslea was the first centre to introduce aspects of the new CYF service model. It had, for example, developed some good processes for sharing information across multi-disciplinary teams (featuring education staff, health professionals, police and CYF staff).

Kingslea school’s internal information processes were, however, at an early stage of development. For example teachers who were not present at multi-disciplinary meetings have not always received information from their colleagues about in-coming students.

School at any time of the year?

An ongoing issue at the state residential schools (ie those not operated by private providers) has been the hours the schools are open. Residential Services considers it desirable to have educational services operating at all times of the year, including times when teachers are traditionally on leave, such as over Christmas time and during January. The benefit would be that it provides an opportunity for young people who are often disengaged from school to start learning as soon as they enter a residence, even if it is outside of normal term time.

Several factors make such an initiative a complex proposal. Nevertheless there are obvious advantages for students in having educational services available at all times of the year. It should be possible, in line with the multi‑agency cooperation principles of the new service model, to find a solution to this issue.

Exit transitions

There were several aspects of exit transitions that required improvement at most of the residential schools. These aspects are expected to improve with the new CYF service model and a stronger relationship between CYF and education staff. Currently education staff have very little input into the transition planning of a student as this has been seen as the domain of CYF.

The most effective transition planning was seen at Te Poutama Ārahi Rangatahi where educational staff, residential staff and clinicians had a highly collaborative approach focusing on the successful transition of a student back into the community. These staff had exemplary processes for sharing information and working with a community team to ensure that the transition of each youth was successful. Their work could serve as a model for CYF and the other residential services.

The intention under the new service model is that all the residences have effective exit transitions. This involves a focus on supporting both a young person’s placement into a new home and his/her move to a new education or training environment or employment. Under this approach education staff can expect to be included in the processes to transition students into new education and training following their time in the residence. This may require more resources, for education staff to visit a student’s new school and so on, although it is not clear at this stage how such resources will be provided.

Supporting the CYF plan for each student

ERO examined the extent to which the teaching and learning programmes at the residential schools supported the overall CYF plan for each student. This included the extent to which:

  • IEPs took into account the goals CYF staff had facilitated or coordinated to support the development of students
  • teaching staff adapted the learning programme based on the identified needs of students via their CYF-based goals or information
  • education and CYF staff met regularly to review the progress of students
  • education and CYF staff developed joint strategies to support the learning and development of students.

ERO found that the alignment between teaching and learning programmes and the CYF care planning for students varied from residence to residence.

The most effective approach was found at Te Poutama Ārahi Rangatahi where education, CYF and health staff shared a strong collegial relationship. Staff from the different disciplines were able to work together on student education and welfare because of the quality of the established relationships and the way in which the school’s Wairua model built collaboration between staff. The important features of the Wairua model underline the importance of staff from different disciplines seeing students in terms of their wider social context and not just in terms of their education, health or social situation.

CYF and education staff had good relationships within the other residences, although these relationships did not always result in effective collaboration between education and CYF planning. For example, ERO found that:

  • the education staff at most residences had yet to learn how the new CYF service model was to operate
  • some IEPs did not relate to the CYF’s care plan for students
  • some CYF staff were not assisting student learning during class time.

The challenge for education and CYF staff is to use the good informal relationships they have developed in the new CYF service model to ensure the best outcomes for students.