Stand Children’s Services is effectively responding to the wellbeing of children that have experienced trauma. Children’s therapeutic care and education (TCE) plans are well known by all staff and identify clear actions to assist the child develop socially and emotionally. Now that all the education units are fully staffed in each village priority should be given to ensuring children’s learning needs are responded to and are evident in the TCE plans. Priority should also be given to resolving enrolment issues in three of the villages. Two have no waiting lists and the third has staffing issues that limit the number of children that can attend the village.
The relationships between the team leaders in each village is pivotal. ERO found that the closer the education team leader and the residential social workers team leader worked together the more likely children would be engaged in relevant and interesting activities through the whole day and their whole stay. Joint planning and ongoing reflection and reporting about what was working for each child maximised the child’s success with their goals. These positive and trusting relationships gave children consistent expectations about what they needed to do to improve and provided them with regular praise and feedback about how they were progressing with their goals.
The child and their whānau/family voice is key and is heard right from the time the child is referred to Stand. Considerable information about the child’s social and emotional development is sought before, during and after they attend the village by community and residential social workers. Children are allowed to opt out of the programme and a very small number do. Systems such as having children phone and/or write home helped them settle and stay connected with the families/whānau. Teachers from a few of the children’s schools helped them stay connected to their class by sending regular emails to the education team and/or having children in their class write to the child attending the village. ERO found many children who really enjoyed their time at the villages.
Curriculum and teaching improvements are needed to make sure every child has the opportunity to improve their school readiness and cognitive abilities. As many of the children are achieving at levels below their peers it is essential to ensure that they develop confidence with specific learning strategies that will accelerate their progress when they return to school. Curriculum guidance should be simplified to outline what practices and programmes are needed to improve each child’s school readiness and cognitive abilities. Simplifying the appraisal system and increasing access to teachers’ professional development and other school resources should also help to improve the quality of teaching.
Considerably more information is needed from the child’s school about the child’s achievements, progress, behaviour triggers, successes and next learning steps before teachers in the villages can fully implement tailored individual programmes aligned to children’s therapeutic care and education goals. It is essential that Stand education team leaders work with leaders and teachers in mainstream schools to maximise the benefits for the children attending the villages. Providing schools with more information about the role of the children’s villages, and schools’ referral and pre‑entry responsibilities should also assist with building a stronger relationship with schools.
Ongoing internal evaluation usefully identifies areas to improve in the education centres. Recent evaluations of reports back to schools and teaching practices across all the classrooms in each village outline many of the development areas ERO also found. The next challenge is to establish a process to implement and monitor the changes suggested in the internal evaluation reports. Identifying, further investigating and sharing the effective teaching practices already evident in some classes should also help teachers who are not yet confident about what or how they should be teaching. Children attending the education centres at the villages need the best possible teaching practice to fully engage them in learning.
A concern identified in many of the villages was the amount of energy Stand spend trying to find schools to take children who had been suspended from school. In some cases the children turned away from schools had made positive improvements or had moved to live with extended families where they were more settled and away from negative influences. Stand also offered and provided extended transition support to help children settle successfully. Stand work closely with the Ministry of Education staff but had many refusals from schools where people were not prepared to build on the child’s positive changes and give them a chance to show their improvements. ERO commends the school leaders who worked closely with Stand to make sure children who were suspended could transition successfully to their school to engage in the education they needed to be successful as adults.
Stands focus on improvement is commendable. Considerable progress has been made in developing and implementing consistent systems to support the social and emotional development of children that have experienced trauma. A major next step is to develop, implement and monitor consistent approaches to developing children’s cognitive abilities and their ability to learn. Working more with mainstream teachers before and after children attend the village is vital to help them build on what they have learnt previously and increase the range of successful strategies they can apply to their learning in the future.