Findings

Findings

An overview of findings

In most villages, the education, social workers and support teams work together well to consistently implement therapeutic and care programmes for children that have experienced trauma. Many of the children have a range of complex emotional and social needs that are carefully prioritised to focus on what is most important for the child to succeed in the future. Consistently applied information gathering and sharing processes, and selection and orientation procedures ensure each child’s needs and strengths are known and responded to by staff. Children are provided a range of interesting and enjoyable activities to help them experience success and develop positive and supportive relationships with adults and peers. ERO spoke with many children currently or previously attending the villages that enjoyed their time at the villages. They liked the people, the facilities and the food, and many wanted to attend again.

Although the programme rightfully focuses on the therapeutic needs of children, more could be done to understand and respond to the education needs of the children. As many of the children are achieving at levels below their peers, it is vital that their time in the children’s village is used to build each child’s confidence to apply new strategies so they can quickly accelerate their progress when they return to their school. The villages’ education teams and the children’s schools need to share more information about the child’s learning before, during and after the child has attended to help tailor deliberate individualised teaching actions and feedback to further benefit each child.

One isolated children’s village (Roxburgh) is not as successful as the remaining six. Staff in the village correctly implemented many of the processes and practices found across the other villages. However, the geographic isolation of the village has a major impact on their ability to recruit and retain enough experienced residential social workers to provide high quality therapy and education for a full intake of students. The issues at the Roxburgh children’s village are outlined later in this report

This report shares good practices, development areas and recommendations related to:

  • pre-enrolment practices and processes
  • the children’s transition into the villages
  • the programmes in the children’s villages
  • the children’s transition from the children’s villages
  • Stand Children’s Services’ accountabilities, evaluation, and improvements related to the villages. 

Pre-enrolment practices and processes

Clear expectations guide what information should be collected about the child and how decisions are made about who should attend each village. In most of the villages, the referrals come from a wide range of social and health agencies, and schools.  Principals ERO spoke with, agreed that the children in their schools who met the criteria were selected.

Collecting information from the child and their family

Expectations about the collection of information are rigorously applied across the villages. Once a child is referred, community social workers meet with the family, the child and people from other agencies involved with the child to comprehensively identify the child’s and family’s strengths and needs. A variety of quantitative measures such as a parenting inventory, surveys and questionnaires are used extensively with the family and the child to determine strengths, difficulties and interests. When a child’s stay in the village has been confirmed, the child’s and the family’s expectations for the visit are also documented. In some villages this high level of focus on the child’s and family’s perspectives meant that children were clear about why they were at the village and what they wanted to improve. 

Selecting children

Selection expectations are consistently applied. Selection decisions are generally made jointly by the regional manager and team leaders at each village.  In these instances the regional manager, education team leader, community social worker, team leader and residential team leader meet together to discuss the strengths and difficulties of children referred to Stand. Discussions include consideration of the best time for the child to attend. They also take into account the dynamics of the group to ensure that they avoid unnecessary clashes between individual children. Children selected meet the criteria of having experienced trauma and come from families with multiple complex problems. 

In some of the villages, a much wider team makes the selection decisions to increase transparency and knowledge of the child. In these instances the manager and team leaders are joined by all the community workers and some of the residential social workers. Each child’s situation, strengths and needs are fully discussed and their community social worker is questioned to clarify any concerns others have. Some of the children have already attended the village previously for a full intake or a short‑term holiday programme and are known to other staff. Robust discussions in these selection meetings ensure that the children with the greatest needs are selected for the village stay or for another of Stand’s programmes.  

Keeping information about children up to date and useful

Information about children and their situations is up to date when children come into the village. Having community social workers keep in contact with families and children between the referral and during the village stay helps with the need to have up-to-date information. If a residential social worker needs any further information they contact the community social worker or go directly to the family. Children’s social, emotional and health needs and strengths are well known.

Most villages are using or are developing their confidence with electronic records that bring together ongoing information about the child. The information can then be accessed and added to by the community social workers, residential social workers, the education staff and the managers in the village. In most of the villages every phone call home is logged along with information from different residential shifts, community social workers and education team members. The information is accessed frequently and provides a detailed account of the child’s progress and issues.  Where the software is used extensively it encourages adults to respond appropriately to each child’s and their family’s issues, to jointly celebrate their successes and to provide consistent expectation about what they should do to keep making progress. 

The vast amount of information about each child is carefully analysed to develop a therapeutic care and education (TCE) plan. Although each village has someone responsible for developing the TCE plan the most successful were those plans jointly developed by the education leaders and social workers. The plans cover what is working well and what is not working, along with goals and actions for each child in all or some of the following aspects:

  • safe and nurtured
  • being healthy
  • achieving and active
  • participating and contributing
  • belonging and trust.

When the social worker and education team leaders jointly develop the TCE plan each team has a better understanding of their role in supporting the child to achieve their identified goals.  

Development Areas

Information about the child at school

Details about each child’s strengths and needs at school are not known as well as their social, emotional and health needs.  Much of the information from the school is collected by the community social worker and is often very general, focused entirely on social and behavioural needs or has no schooling information recorded. Schools are only asked to provide very brief information about some learning levels and in some cases, their strengths and interests. More information is needed about the child’s current learning focus, achievements and next steps, any strategies that are already working for them or have been tried, activities that trigger negative responses and their strengths to build on.

The extent to which the education leaders seek further information from the schools varies. In the best instances the community social workers remind schools about sending in the information. These reminders have resulted in the village receiving some information from the schools of almost all the children attending. At the other extreme, information is received from less than 30 percent of the schools. Schools should expect to be fully involved in sharing the assessment information they have about the child and the development of the child’s plan.

Some of the school leaders and teachers ERO spoke with would like to be more involved in the assessment and goal setting before the child attends the village. Although some school leaders and special education needs coordinators (SENCO) felt confident about referring children and communicating with Stand, some teachers were not clear where the child’s goals came from or what they meant.  Others mistakenly believed that parents referred children to the Stand village and when a decision was made about the timing of the child’s stay they had no power to intervene. As a result we found examples where the timing of when a child went to the village may have impacted negatively on the child. In one example the child went to the village when she was due to start intermediate and then started five weeks after the intermediate school had finished their orientation activities. In another, a child with poor social skills was just beginning to successfully make friends in his school when he went to the village. The friendships didn’t survive his time away from school.                                                                                                   

Referrals to the villages

In two of the villages there are no waiting lists for children to attend. In one case few of the enrolments come from schools in the village’s local community. A few of the local schools’ principals indicated they were not confident that children’s schooling would benefit from a stay in the village. In the second village, referrals come from a narrower range of schools and agencies than those found in the remaining five villages. More work is needed to help schools and other agencies understand the concerns of local school leaders in one village’s community and to ensure that schools and other agencies understand the changes made from health camps to Stand villages and the benefits for children.  

Recommendations

ERO recommends that Stand education leaders work more closely with schools when developing children’s individual plans before a child attends the village. Schools should be fully involved in sharing their assessment and achievement information along with details about what is working for the child, their strengths and next learning steps. 

Stand leaders should also:

  • further investigate and resolve issues with referrals in the two villages
  • develop and implement a communication strategy to help schools understand the role of the children’s villages and schools’ referral and pre-entry responsibilities.  

Transition into the Village

Getting to know and planning for the children

Well established protocols ensure that every staff member knows each child, their situation, social and emotional strengths, needs and interests well and how they can respond to them. Two days are allocated before each intake to learn about the children and plan actions to meet their needs and interests. Although each village does this slightly differently they all focus on having the community social workers helping the residential and education teams to plan programmes for each child and for the group as a whole. Staff work together to analyse and prioritise needs and negotiate time for children to participate in additional therapy programmes taught by social workers. Although children interact with all staff, each child is allocated a key adult they can go to when they choose. 

Where the physical environment makes it possible, children are all in small whānau groups in the residence that flexibly cater for the different ages and needs of the intake. In some villages sleeping areas are arranged so that seven or eight girls or boys of similar ages are in one area with residential social workers allocated to each group. The intake groups vary with some entirely for one gender. These care arrangements help to provide a sense of family for the children and help to recognise their progress and respond to their needs and interests.

Residential and education teams planning together

Good working relationships between the education and residential teams in most villages provide children with shared expectations and consistent messages and strategies.  Programme overviews in most villages are developed jointly by residential and education teams. Some villages develop an intake plan that covers activities and programmes for the whole time frame that can be adapted when needed. Others plan week by week. One village has carefully ordered the activities across each day to ensure that calming activities follow highly exciting or energetic activities. A strong working relationship between the residential and education team leaders is pivotal to having consistent expectations and strategies for children.

Carefully planned orientation activities that involve both residential and education staff help children quickly feel secure. The activities in the first week are designed for the children to get to know the facilities, staff and peers. The children enjoy the excellent facilities and visiting places in the community and the environment surrounding their village. Residential staff usually ring the parents to get to know them, seek more information and assure them about how their child is settling and progressing. Considerable time is taken talking informally with children to hear more about their goals. Children ERO spoke with said that the activities at the beginning of their stay made them feel welcome and cared about. 

Planning for individual children in one classroom

The teacher has been given or has used informal assessments to find out each child’s reading and mathematics level and plans individual programmes for them. In reading “we are learning about” (WALTs) are decided and shared for each child and the reading strategies children engage with match the WALTs. As a result children are well engaged in purposeful learning.

I like it here but I miss my Mum. I can ring her though. I like maths here and I like how much I have learnt here. I am learning my three times table and I found out that 3 times 4 is the same as 4 times 3.  The eight year old girl then shared her writing with the reviewer and explained that she had learnt where the full stops go but needed to practice it more.

Valuing Māori Culture

Each village places considerable emphasis on valuing Māori culture. Each has a kaumatua who regularly visits the village and in some cases has helped established close relationships with the local marae and places of significance. Kaumatua are also involved in governance.  Although in most villages many of the children are Māori, the Pacific and Pākehā children ERO spoke with also talked with pride about the pōwhiri where they were welcomed and the different karakia and waiata they enjoyed at the start of the day and at meal times.  

Development area

Education programmes focus

Education leaders are individually grappling with how to best plan an education programme that caters for children with multiple therapeutic needs. In some cases villages plan completely different approaches where some try to integrate therapy into other literacy and numeracy learning while others focus on building relationships or having the children experience success with predominantly hands-on activities.

In a small number of classes, teachers had children take a battery of assessments such as a numeracy diagnostic test and the Burt Reading test to get more information to tailor the learning to the child’s literacy and numeracy levels.  This practice was found despite Stand discouraging additional testing for children who have complex social and emotional issues and are trying to settle into a place away from their family. Such testing is not needed as schools already have this information and should be providing it to teachers at the education centres in the villages.

Much of the education planning difficulty occurs because of a lack of information about the child’s achievements and next steps at school.  A further issue is that some teachers’ understandings about how to respond to therapeutic care and education (TCE) plan goals are limited as the child’s social development actions are clear but links to the education programme are not always obvious.  In some cases all the actions for a child are stated as specific therapy programmes or health interventions.

Recommendation

ERO recommends that Stand leaders work together to ensure the TCE plans provide more information about the specific education actions teachers should respond to. 

In the children’s village

Balancing education and therapy

A few teachers successfully implemented high quality teaching practice across a range of curriculum areas while integrating a therapeutic approach. This is achieved through:

  • integrating therapy in high interest literacy, numeracy and other curriculum learning task
  • showing a genuine awareness and responding to children interests
  • providing clear expectation about what is to be achieved
  • effective questioning to motivate and extend children
  • ongoing development and reflection of the children’s individual learning and behaviour goals
  • opportunities for children to both work in groups and manage their own tasks independently
  • the use of information technologies for individual work and for facilitating class discussions
  • providing opportunities for children to talk about feelings and behaviour or to act out scenarios
  • the use of formative assessment practices to make their learning and progress visible to the children, and
  • teachers’ quiet and unobtrusive manner enabling children to self manage some of their learning. 

Examples of effective teaching practice 

Integrating therapy and education in one classroom

During the orientation programme teachers and social workers talk to children about the behaviours outlined in the ‘Circle of Courage’ (see Appendix Two). Teachers get individual children to determine the aspects they are already good at and those they can work on while at the village. They skilfully ensure that each child only has three or four aspects to focus on in the education centre.  These self-assessments and the actions from the TCE plan are used to set weekly goals in their education centre classroom. Children are highly aware of the social aspects they need to focus on while at the education centre.

Individual and class goals that emphasise self management at the education centre are prominent in the class displays and in children’s books and are well known by the children.  The weekly goals are negotiated each week with the child and closely link to the Circle of Courage and the key competencies of The New Zealand Curriculum. The success criteria for the goals are documented and are referred to incidentally and during daily celebration discussions and weekly reflections with the child. The documented goal for the week and how the child can achieve the goals take account of the child’s view. At the same time teachers are extending the range of learning strategies along with the child’s repertoire of social and emotional skills.   The class goal for the week gave children specific guidance about what to do when someone annoys them.  Children were generally supporting each other and highly engaged in learning.

The teacher uses high quality classroom management skills and carefully steps children through learning activities they are not confident with. ERO observed the children coming into the room and responding negatively to some mathematics examples displayed on the white board. Children called out that they couldn’t do that work.  Two children were so anxious they sat at the back and hugged each other. The teacher calmly got the children to talk about why it looked hard and why they thought they couldn’t do it. Next they were taught to look into the examples and find the ones they could do. Different children then talked about those they could do and all the examples were covered and explained by them. When the teacher sent the children to do the work all of them rushed to start and there was silence in the room as they all concentrated on completing the task. Later a boy requested harder stuff as he had completed it so quickly.

A next step activity that the teacher should consider for the future is to get the children to more deliberately reflect on what self-management and social skills they had learnt that they could use again when something looks too hard.  

Using deliberate teaching strategies

The class had children ranging in age from six to nine years old. The teacher was focused on getting them to successfully start and complete work and having opportunities to talk about feelings. The children ERO spoke to in the class all knew why they are at the village and what they are trying to improve.

“I am here because I don’t usually behave well but I like school here because it’s more interesting so now I am working on my independence. That means that I have to try to do more myself, but I still have to ask for help when I am really stuck.”

Each child has a variety of short-burst literacy tasks to complete in any order that morning. The tasks include individual reading with the teacher. ERO observed children: with headphones; using an automatic levelling reading programme on the computer or iPads; writing stories; doing simple spelling activities from the essential word levels; or reading to the support worker. The teacher has time to rove, she notices and praises children completing something and moving to get started on their next task. Children were proud to show us how much work they had completed during their time at the village.

High expectations that children will manage themselves meant the teacher could unobtrusively give time to a child when a disruption occurred. Just as the teacher had drawn the class together to start a new activity she noticed that one child had gone out of the class. She calmly gave the rest of the class an activity to do and said that when she came back she was going to see how well they managed the task. When she left the room, the other children were purposefully engaged in the activity. This gave her the opportunity to go to the child outside, talk with them and bring them back into the class without the other children making a fuss. Children’s increasing independence reduces any disruptions to their learning. 

Although children are encouraged to work more independently they have many opportunities to contribute their ideas in whole-class discussions. The teacher shared a video clip selected to encourage talking about feelings and linked to the focus on courage. The teacher often paused the clip to ask questions and hear the children’s predictions. When a child volunteered a prediction the teacher asked who else thought the same. This helped affirm the suggestion and encouraged others to join in. Children were praised for using descriptive words. The children decided together why the girl might be feeling scared and decided that her being frightened came from her imagination. Children felt safe to discuss their own and others’ feelings.  

Providing a range of opportunities for children to succeed

When we observed in the classroom the children were in four groups taking turns to participate in each activity run by the teachers and the learning support workers. These were short-burst activities to keep children engaged, motivated and to give them many opportunities to succeed.

In one activity where each group made a batch of cheese scones they were learning to be creative and active and to achieve. By working together quickly each of the groups made the scones in the 10 to 15 minutes allocated. The children were proud of their achievement.

In another group, the children were given a design brief to make a Lego item. The boys in the group were especially engaged in their opportunity to use their imagination and be creative. A third group was using simple science equipment to encourage their curiosity and to make imaginary cupcakes.  Their teacher also talked about famous people such as Einstein who was told he wasn’t good at things but kept trying and was successful.

In the final group, children enjoyed using pipe cleaners to make puppets. Children worked together well and enjoyed their success while developing their problem solving, creativity, exploration and curiosity

Residential and education staff working together

Well-established routines where all staff regularly come together with children are inclusive and help children feel they belong and are cared for. In all villages staff come together with the children at key times when they are moving from being predominantly cared for by residential staff to when they will move to the education centres. In most villages children join staff in karakia and waiata and then discuss the values focused on by Stand. During these communal times some villages have additional thera-play and/or celebrations of what the children have achieved.  

Break times during school hours enable children to interact positively with peers and staff. One village has the children eat lunch at the education centre to try to mimic the school life they will return to. In most of the other villages children eat lunch in the dining room, and education and/or residential staff supervise and interact with the children. ERO observed occasions where residential and education staff managed minor playground issues using the same strategies as each other.  Consistent expectations and strategies helped the children get along well with staff and their peers and minimise disruptions. 

Working together to provide experiences that children can recognise from their own school

In one village the activities and the ways the residential and education staff work together are designed to mirror some of the things that happen in schools and with families. Children are placed in whānau groups of about seven children that each have a residential social worker leader. The children’s bedrooms are situated together and the seven children remain together for many of the afternoon and weekend activities.

Children have their lunch at school and are supported by education and residential staff during lunch times. After school each of the three residential social workers from the whānau groups sits outside the education centre rooms to pick up the children as parents would.

On one occasion we observed one child stay in the class with the teacher after school as he was upset.  The residential social worker sensibly elected to stay outside with the other children in the whānau group for five minutes trusting that the teacher would call on them if needed. When the child came out with the teacher, they briefly discussed the issue with the social worker before the whole whānau group went the very short distance to the residence.  This behaviour mirrored the likely actions of a family and teacher at school.

Children take a reading book home to read to an adult or read by themselves if they prefer. Teachers check that they have a book and the next day the teacher in the junior room talks to the children about who they read to last night and how well they managed.

The family environment helps children know who they can talk to and helps them settle in the village well.

In most villages when any disruptive behaviour happens in the classroom, residential staff come and calmly support the teacher and the children. In some cases they may work with the individual child to get them engaged in the tasks the other children are doing. Only on rare occasions is it necessary to remove the child from the class. The calm and supportive manner of the residential social workers in class helps children in these villages to keep focusing on learning. 

Village time (also known as circle time) where everyone is together at one village

All the children come together at the start of the day and are joined by teachers, residential and community social workers and any parents that are onsite involved in one of Stand’s parenting programmes.

In this village, after karakia and waiata the therapy leader had children discuss what the terms generosity, belonging, independence and mastery (from the “Circle of Courage”) means to them.  Children suggested the following and other ideas:

“Belonging is when we join each other and are friends.”

“You make the friend know they are your friend by sticking together and helping each other.”

“Independence is when you show your own skill and are happy that you can be responsible for something and take the responsibility away from others.”

“Mastery is when you’ve achieved something and you are being yourself.”

“Generosity is all about sharing, caring, respect, honesty and using kind words.”

The therapy leader asked the children to share things they had recently mastered and children listed dancing, respect, story writing, cricket, fixing a motorbike, painting and craft making.

The residential social workers team leader facilitated the next session, assisted by a community social worker who was leading the parent programme. The two leaders modelled what was expected in ‘check-in time’ and then the parents and the other adults talked with groups of three children.  ‘How are you today…?’ ‘That’s great’ etc. Everyone in the group was also practicing looking at who is talking and other conversation skills. Touch was encouraged and a four-people handshake was modelled and enthusiastically tried by each group. The leader brought the group back together and everyone contributed to a discussion reflecting on and modelling some of the interactions evident in their conversations. Children and the parents reflected on which of the skills they had used and decided they had practised self-managing, generosity, teamwork, respect and trust.

A learning support worker then used the five terms above to reflect on their class treaty and discuss the actions they had used and could use to further practise each of these skills in the education centre.

Working together like this helped to promote consistent expectations for the children and enabled them to see when and how they could use positive behaviours. Including the parents in the ‘village time’ helped them to see what their child was learning and was capable of, and helped to develop parenting skills and confidence.

Processes to keep all staff aware of each child’s successes, progress and issues are well managed through high quality handover processes in most of the villages. This is done through either formal meetings where education and residential staff share information or through electronic records about each. Information is shared about the child’s responses to the activities of the day, details from the night staff, any phone calls to and from home, and specialists or health appointments the children may have attended. In some villages, staff write comprehensive notes about each child at the end of each shift. In others, formal meetings between the education and residential teams enable information to be shared and views to be clarified.  Such comprehensive processes mean that children’s issues and successes are known and can be responded to consistently by all staff.

Most villages also have a good relationship with Ministry of Health staff.  Parents’ permission is sought for health checks before the child comes into the village.  Children’ vision, hearing, dental and immunisations are checked and completed. This process has resulted in some children getting glasses or getting other aides to help with their learning.  

Development areas

Curriculum implementation

The quality of teaching varies considerably within and between villages. Different expectations about the intent of the education contributes to this variability. The Stand curriculum is a comprehensive document. It explains the similarities between the Stand and The New Zealand Curriculum principles and vision. However, it is left to the teachers and education team leaders to decide how to weave the two similar visions and principles together as a coherent programme.  As a result some of the practices, such as a strong focus on project work or class programmes that bear little resemblance to the programme in the children’s schools, are not likely to help the child succeed when they return to school.

Although one of the key outcomes of the Stand programme is to have children improve their school readiness and cognitive abilities, it is not clear what teaching and learning should be implemented to achieve this and how education leaders and teachers would know if they are successful. Some of the best teaching practice we observed comes close to realising this outcome. It is timely for education leaders to work together to develop clear guidance about how to achieve improved school readiness and cognitive abilities, and implement tailored programmes across the villages to meet this outcome for every child. 

Many children had a much greater awareness of the behaviour improvements they were attempting to make than they had of strategies they could apply to help them with learning. More deliberate teaching and feedback is needed to ensure every child has some ‘take home’ learning strategies they can confidently apply back at their schools. As many of the children attending the villages achieve at levels below their peers it is vital they receive the highest quality teaching and feedback that helps them to accelerate their progress as soon as possible.

Recommendation

ERO recommends Stand education leaders design and fully implement a curriculum and incorporate high quality teaching practices to:

  • increase the likelihood that children will return to their school with improved school readiness and cognitive abilities
  • build on children’s previous learning.

Transition back to family and school

Transition activities

A variety of activities and approaches implemented across the villages help the children to stay connected to their family and school. Teachers and leaders from the child’s school are invited to open days or other visits to the villages to see what the children are doing. A few take up this opportunity.

One principal and a teacher aide from a remote and distant school came to the village twice while three children from their community were at the village. The whole school visited later as part of a school trip. The principal saw the benefits of knowing what the children were doing at the village. When they returned to school she was able to use some of their experiences as contexts for writing and oral language activities.

Another principal situated half an hour away from one of the villages visited on an open day and then sent the child’s teacher and a teacher aide from their class to the village when two of their children were attending. The principal recognised that one child returned to school more confident especially when talking to their class teacher. The principal intends to continue this practice when other children from the school attend and is keen to have people from Stand come to a staff meeting to share strategies for supporting students that have experienced trauma.  

One teacher who visited the village while a child from their class attended

The teacher explained how excited the child was to see her. “She showed me everything at the village - how she makes her own bed and keeps her stuff together, her work and her monitoring of daily fitness that showed she had run a total of 16km. She was especially proud of her art and reading and I could see that the teachers were doing lots with her.”

“We sent letters from the class about what we were doing so she can fit back into the class again and she knows she is still part of the class. She is going back to the village soon and keeps checking that I have filled in her forms. I am glad I went to the village to see what they do there.” 

The following successful approaches to keep a child connected to their community and family/whānau were found across the villages:

  • Children write letters home during class time. Simple templates and models are used for children who are not confident letter writers.
  • Residential staff ring home weekly and they and the child talk to their family/whānau.
  • Education leaders email teachers at the child’s school. If they are able to maintain ongoing contact throughout the child’s stay the highlights of the programmes in the village and the child’s returning school are shared.
  • Children in the class at the child’s school write letters to the child at the village. This authentic letter writing activity had a positive outcome for the child. “They all like me” is a quote from one child who had received the letters. 
  • Residential social workers ring home soon after the child has returned to check how things are going and to offer advice if it is sought. An example of the benefits was seen in one village where a parent recognised that they didn’t know how to keep the child busy. The residential social worker immediately looked at the plan for that intake and sent the parent a list of all the things the child had done after school and during the weekend.

Working in the child’s community

Community social workers play a key role in supporting the child back in the community. The ongoing information available through electronic records helps them to know where the child has progressed, what they enjoyed the most and what they need further support with. In some cases the community social workers also visit the schools to talk about how the child is settling back at school.

In extreme cases where it has been identified that the child is unlikely to settle back into their school well, education leaders sometimes visit the school before the child returns. This is most likely to occur when the pre-information reveals considerable behavioural issues that were not evident while the child was at the village. One Stand regional manager shared how discussions with leaders at the school changed teachers (from the school the child usually went to) perceptions of the child and helped considerably with the transition and the child’s success in the future.

Working with children previously suspended

ERO found many examples of Stand working with families, and the Ministry of Education working hard to get children back into school after long periods out of school after a suspension. The difficult task of finding a school to work with the child was particularly distressing when the child had been moved to extended family away from the influences that contributed to their previous issues.

In some cases the child successfully returned to schooling after suspension without further incidents. Stand regional managers and social workers knew of principals in the community who would give these children a chance and were able to successfully advocate for the child. In one case, the Stand support teacher went with the child to the new school and gradually withdrew as the child settled. However, in another case, where it was made clear to the child that he was not wanted in a new school, the transition to that school was not successful. 

Sharing successful learning strategies

Some of the Stand education reports to schools after a child’s stay in the village share a few useful learning and teaching strategies that were successful in the village and could be applied in the child’s returning school. Modelling and reflection evident in some of the scrapbooks the children used while at the village also provided a useful record of the child’s learning during their stay. 

 Children's exercise books - a useful record of learning at the village

The children’s exercise books contain ongoing goal setting and the child’s reflection about progress with both social and self-management goals in the classroom. Teacher modelling and discussions before a writing or mathematics activity are recorded on smart boards and put into the child’s book along with the completed work. These records highlight the child’s perspectives about the progress they are making with their behaviour and social skills. Children were confident to explain what is working for them in the class.

Positive changes for children

Principals in mainstream school and Stand staff have considerable anecdotal evidence of children making behavioural and sometimes health improvements while at the villages. Children’s increased self management at school and at home, their new confidence with adults and peers, and reduced danger issues are frequently recalled.

Schools, families and Stand staff were able to share examples of progress some of the children made after their time at the village. Two examples are shared here.  

Success for a seven year old when the school and Stand worked together

The child’s regular and violent outbursts meant she was stood down from school three times and excluded from many school activities. The child felt isolated, which heightened her behaviours and resulted in her eventual suspension from the school. It was decided that a new school should be found for the child and she should spend five days in the village education centre so staff could observe her behaviours. A community social worker also involved the child in a variety of social skills programmes.

After this, the community social worker and the education team leader from Stand and a person from the Ministry of Education met with the class teacher and the deputy principal from the new school. The triggers for the poor behaviour and the strategies the education team had successfully used were shared. A provisional plan showing a precise schedule and actions was developed by the school. Ministry and Stand personnel kept in touch with the school to support the transition. The child is no longer behaving badly and is fully participating in all school events. 

The school noticed a big difference for one child and wanted to know more about what Stand did

Before the child went to the village, people at the child’s school in their home community worried about his aggressive, naughty and rebellious behaviour. They had done a lot a lot of work with him as part of their involvement with the Incredible Years Programme.3

When he returned from the village he was ‘a completely different kid’. “He was self controlled, and he got on with his work. He has also taken ownership of his behaviour and if he does something wrong he tries to make up for it. He is now starting to develop good relationships with others in the class.” This behaviour contradicted reports his regular classroom teachers had and were still getting from home. 

The child’s regular teachers spoke with the Village education team leader who had found the child had no perception or understanding of the issues he had previously been involved with. The education leader and social workers had picked up issues with his mother who blamed him for things. “People at Stand really understood him, they treated him as a normal child, not one that was in trouble heaps. We could see that whatever they had done made it possible for him to transition back to school easily.”- child’s regular classroom teacher.

When ERO spoke with the regular classroom teachers, they said that due to a technical glitch they hadn’t got the report back from Stand.  They wanted to know more about what Stand actually did for the child and asked ERO if they were allowed to go to the village to find out more. ERO affirmed that Stand welcomed teachers’ visits.

Development areas

Sharing information back to the school

The quality of the information sent back to the child’s school when they return to their community varies within and across the villages. Most of the written reports to schools are general and lack an education focus. They tend to name the activities provided and, in some cases, name the therapeutic programmes the child was involved in despite teachers at the returning school having little or no understanding of what they involved.  Only a small number of the reports identify actions that teachers could continue in the class. Principals and teachers ERO spoke with rarely recalled any specific learning and achievement improvements resulting from the child’s stay in the villages.

The timing of when reports are sent to schools also varies considerably. Some reports are sent out at the end of the intake, with some sent many weeks after the child’s stay.  Some of the problems with late reporting arise from attempting to have one report go to all the agencies involved and time taken to get all the information entered electronically and aligned to the TCE goals. Each village collects a considerable amount of information about the child that could be quickly tailored as different reports for the child, family/whānau, and the school to help build on gains made while at the village.

Reports should focus on fully explaining student’s success with their education and social goals. Once processes are in place to work more with schools before the child attends, reports should aid transition by helping the child to continue to use successful strategies gained during their time at the village. 

Recommendation

ERO recommends that education leaders develop and implement new guidelines about reporting to schools. Reports to schools should include:

  • specific details about the child’s achievement and progress
  • specific strategies that worked and should be applied in the classroom and/or school to maximise the child’s future success. 

Accountabilities, evaluation and improvement

Evaluation for Improvement

Useful internal evaluation activities are in place to promote ongoing improvements. Late in 2015, the education advisor undertook a comprehensive evaluation of teaching and learning. The advisor’s evaluation report:

  • highlighted improvements in communication within villages
  • usefully identified the need for a greater focus on planning and deliberate teaching for individual children
  • recognised that the type of teaching required more pre-information than is already collected and visible in the TCE plan
  • accurately determined the need for more training for appraisal and more professional learning and development about specific teaching practices.

A small evaluation completed earlier in 2015 identified a considerable range of suggestions for improving the reports back to the children’s returning schools.

In one village, ongoing professional reading and evaluation is used to try to respond to and to combine the Stand values and principles, the children’s perspectives and aspects of The New Zealand Curriculum together in the education centre’s programmes. Although this is contributing to change, the education team leader acknowledges that more evaluation and development is needed to settle on the best possible practice. 

Development areas

Identifying effective practice

Internal evaluation reports by the education advisor focus mostly on what is missing or wrong without identifying effective practice evident across the Stand villages. Highlighting the effective teaching and reporting practice, the thinking behind the practice, how significant changes were made, and the outcomes for children would assist teachers and leaders within and across villages to better understand what they should focus on.

Determining outcomes for children

Education leaders have limited information about the outcomes of their programmes for children.  Leaders were able to talk to ERO about specific examples where children previously not attending schools had successfully returned to schooling. They also shared some significant changes that occurred for a small number of children. ERO also heard from principals, teachers and special educational needs coordinators (SENCOs) about children returning from the villages demonstrating increased confidence, being able to make friends more easily, or getting into trouble less often. Work is needed to determine how well all children settle back into their school and improve their learning and wellbeing, and the actions in the villages that have the most positive influence on children.

Appraisal and professional development

Processes to improve the quality of teaching are limited. Stand’s desire to have an appraisal system that focuses on both teacher requirements and Stand competencies (from the social sector) makes the process difficult as people try to incorporate competencies from multiple documents. ERO found only one high quality example where appraisal was completed for one teacher that met the teaching requirements and showed ongoing reflection and professional growth. Although teachers appreciated the considerable professional learning and development (PLD) about therapy programmes they would like more PLD about teaching practices. The PLD should especially focus on deliberate teaching to support children whose achievement in literacy and numeracy is below that of their peers.

The role of the education team leaders

More emphasis is needed on working with schools before, during, and after children attend the villages.  Some education team leaders are correctly focused on inducting staff, newly appointed since the changes from health camps to Stand Children’s Villages. Others focus on trialling new curriculum or are heavily involved with a teaching load. Now that new education teams are in place, emphasis should be given to developing and implementing a common curriculum and working more with schools.

Development of a common curriculum would be enhanced by bringing together education team leaders from the education centres where effective teaching practice is already evident. Having clear curriculum and teaching guidance would reduce education leaders’ workload and provide more time for them to engage with schools. This relationship with schools is vital to make sure children attending the village gain as much from the education programme as they are currently gaining from the therapy and care aspects.

Recommendations

ERO recommends that Stand leaders:

  • extend internal evaluation of education programmes to include greater emphasis on effective practice and determining the impact of teaching programmes on outcomes for children
  • simplify the appraisal process by reviewing all the different criteria and removing similar or duplicated competencies
  • investigate increased opportunities for teachers to participate in professional development particularly to support children that need additional literacy learning support
  • review the role of the education team leader to give greater emphasis to working with schools in their region before the child begins and to contribute to internal evaluation after their stay.

Other findings

Issues at the Roxburgh children’s village

Ongoing issues with appointing and retaining staff in Roxburgh, a geographically isolated village, limit opportunities for children in the lower South Island to engage in high quality therapeutic care and education. Stand’s policies and procedures about collecting information, selection of children, the focus on values, and some of the aspects of staff working together are successfully applied. Although the facilities at the Stand site in Roxburgh should enable 21 children to attend, in most intakes the inability to attract the required number of residential social workers means that only 14 children attend. This is despite Roxburgh having a waiting list. Although contractual obligations are met through the involvement of families in the Stand family’s programmes more children would benefit from time at the village if attracting and retaining staff was resolved.

The co-managers at Roxburgh spend considerable time trying to appoint and induct new staff into their isolated community.  In the past 12 months there have been over 20 staff changes. The education team is fully staffed now that two teachers and two support managers were appointed and began during Term 1, 2016. However, a full residential social workers team is not in place. During the week ERO was on site managers were conducting interviews for social workers and a further four out of the eight current residential social workers resigned. Managers focus on meeting their contractual obligations, and appointing and inducting staff limits the time needed to build a cohesive and experienced team who have a deep knowledge of how, and the skills, to work successfully with children who have experienced trauma.

The inability to develop consistently high quality therapeutic education and care approaches is negatively impacting on some children. For part of the day children are overly supervised or contained with little opportunity to practice new self‑management and social skills or try new ways to support each other. Although the education programme is designed to interest children particularly in technology activities, ERO observed children opting out of parts of the education programme and refusing to participate despite having a team of five educators to support them. ERO also saw children seeking and gaining rewards from residential staff even when their behaviour was poor. These practices fall well short of helping all the children to develop their confidence using new strategies, and to return to their own school ready to learn.

The residential and education teams do not work as closely together as in the other villages. Although a plan is developed for the whole intake period much of this is done separately with the residential shift teams deciding what they will do with the children outside of school time before getting the education team to contribute their programme. Handovers between the education team and the residential team are not always used appropriately to share expectations or explain successes or challenges for individual children. As a result, some of the after‑school activities are similar to what children have already done during school hours, and ERO saw children arguing with staff and not wanting to participate.

Village schools’ resourcing issues

Some of the villages experience difficulties accessing resources now that the education centres are not registered as schools. In some villages, education leaders apply for resources when they find out other local schools have them. Teachers in the villages need to automatically receive the same resources and PLD as those at other primary schools so these children can have the best possible outcomes while at the villages.

Recommendations

ERO recommends:

  • the Ministries of Social Development and Education, and Stand make the necessary changes to make sure they are able to provide a full service for children in the lower South Island.
  • the Ministry of Education put in place processes to make sure the education centres in the Stand villages receive similar resources and PLD as other New Zealand primary schools.