Key features necessary to support students in STPs

ERO identified key features that contributed to overall success of the STPs in raising student engagement, achievement and effective transitions. 

Leadership and partnership

ERO found several aspects of leadership within the STPs that were working well and some aspects that could be strengthened. These came under four broad headings: leadership in schools, leadership in the TEO, partnership and self review.

School leadership

When TEO and school leaders were closely involved in the STP decision making, the partnerships were stronger and collective decisions determined the courses offered.

Most TEOs held an annual meeting with representatives from partner schools to talk about the past and future programmes. The increasing complexity of opportunities for students made it critical that school leaders 1 were closely informed of the progress made and any tensions that arose between the STP and the school. Effective school leaders found solutions to the tensions, ideally in consultation with their TEO partners.

School leaders supported and improved the STPs by having good systems in place to:

  • identify students at risk
  • develop meaningful learning pathways (or ILPs) through academic counselling
  • enhance parent and whAnau involvement
  • share the ILPs with the TEO partner before the students started the programme
  • lead curriculum change in the school and curriculum integration in the STP
  • monitor STP effectiveness in terms of student outcomes
  • plan ahead in response to findings.

No schools in this review had all these features in place.

TEO leadership

Generally the leaders within the TEOs were very supportive of the STPs and responsive to difficulties as they arose. However, there were examples of things that arose that were not discussed with the partner schools. Clarification of expectations and responsibilities should be negotiated with partners and clearly documented to guide future practice to maintain and promote the partnerships.

Whether or not the TEO was a lead provider, it was a considerable advantage to have a designated person with responsibility for the STP partnership. When there was no such person, as was the case for one TEO, problems arose both internally and with partner schools. People did not know who to contact in the first instance, who was responsible, or who had authority and the limitations of that authority.

Partnerships

ERO found schools and TEOs worked together to develop stronger partnerships. Effective partnerships depended on strong leadership, particularly by the STP director working with TEO and school leaders. As the STPs matured, staff involved have taken opportunities to enhance their partnerships and deal with challenges that arose.

Examples of challenges addressed:

Reporting to schools - often the final assessment was at the end of a long-term project and by then it was too late to discover that a student had been struggling. Many TEOs changed and reported progress part way through the project. This signalled whether any intervention was required and students were then supported appropriately.

Delays in registering standards - when there were delays in registering standards gained by students it made it hard for anyone to monitor students’ progress in real time. The TEOs changed their practices and passed information more promptly to the schools. 2

Disciplining a student - often, when a school disciplined a student, they did not take into account the implications for the student in the STP. Some STPs found that communication between the TEO and the school improved when coordinators travelled with students. This meant that most discipline or pastoral issues were dealt with promptly and collaboratively.

Students are not your students or my students, they are our students.

Director TEO led STP

Some challenges are yet to be resolved and leaders in schools and TEOs need to negotiate solutions for other issues:

If students wanted to exit the programme or transfer fully to tertiary - funding agreements differed between TEC and the Ministry. This created some tension in how secondary and tertiary chose to deal with the transfer and the resulting change in funding.

Issues with the tutors changing - in some cases, changes of tutors seriously compromised the relationships necessary for adolescent students to succeed.

The TEO was unable to meet its work placement commitments for some students or when a tutor was absent - students had to stay at school where there was nothing planned for them,

Information was not shared between the school and the Institute of Technology and Polytechnic (ITP) - information transfer was difficult between the schools and ITP because of the different SMS used, ILPs were commonly not completed in time and literacy and numeracy information was not always available for the ITPs or accurately measured, 3 ERO questions the need for any ITP test if the ILPs are properly developed and literacy and numeracy information shared between partners,

ERO found that the memoranda of understanding between the lead providers and the schools or tertiary providers were generally limited, formal documents that did not define roles and responsibilities or guide practices within the partnership.

Self review

Self review was an area where the partnerships could be strengthened and information better used to inform future planning, However, ERO noted that providers expressed uncertainty over a number of issues that made long-term planning for sustainability difficult, Uncertainty arose around funding structures (generated in part by the introduction of STP Pilots), TROQ, the courses that could be offered and student numbers changing from year to year,

Robust, formal self-review processes were evident in most of the TEO-led STPs but otherwise they were not common, ERO found that two of the TEO-led STPs had particularly well-embedded self-review cultures, These STPs understood the benefit of focussing on continuous improvement, Both STPs interviewed students during the course of the year, They additionally measured students’ progress against their ILPs and responded appropriately to that information,

Most other STPs relied on whatever processes existed in their partner schools for self review and the quality of this was variable, Several schools clearly monitored the success of the STPs in terms of student outcomes, However, this was not necessarily reported to the board of trustees nor used to inform any ongoing improvements either within the school or the STP, It would be timely to do this, given that the academy students were often the ones in the school most at risk of disengaging from education and given the overall impact the STP had on school funding and entitlements.

A stand-out practitioner was TOTSTA. 4 Unlike other STPs, this STP had strong formal collaboration among its schools. The programme design is school driven and based on the needs of the students and local contexts.

  • A Governance Group, made up of representative principals and the Chief Executive Officer of the Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology, met twice a year to establish direction for TOTSTA, set policy and oversee the financial management.
  • Policies were reviewed annually and the management documents were reviewed and amended this year.
  • A Management and Curriculum Advisory Group, made up of school STP coordinators, tertiary partners’ liaison staff and programme leaders met to consider curriculum matters, management issues, local and national labour needs, and student outcomes and to provide advice to the Governance Group, TOTSTA and tertiary partners.
  • Every course had a curriculum alignment meeting which responded to feedback to improve content and delivery.
  • Students’ feedback was actively sought twice a year.School coordinator’s role was clearly defined and included monitoring student progress and reporting to the TOTSTA.
  • Teachers and tutors were developing a shared understanding and appreciation of each others’ worlds.

As in many of the STPs, the director was a critical appointment and key driver of success of the programme. This STP was planning for the future and ongoing sustainability. It was negotiating with the Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology to establish and clarify how to best meet the pastoral care and learning needs of its students. The staff plan to consult with their partnership schools and then formalise the system that has worked effectively over the past two years.

This should ensure, as they grow, that there are robust systems in place and will help reduce the dependence on key individuals.

ERO recognised that such collaboration is not always possible in other STPs; that geography and numbers can make combined meetings very difficult. However, where such meetings had occurred, ERO found stronger shared visions that led to positive student outcomes.

STPs delivered effective secondary-tertiary programmes in many different ways.

For example, sound self-review processes resulted in some STPs delivering programmes in a block of time while other STPs moved from blocks to one or two days a week,

In each case, the decision was responsive to the local context, Similarly, there were advantages of having school-based tertiary programmes where teachers could monitor students and had a clear understanding of the learning happening, There were also advantages to travelling to another site, ideally a city, where students had more opportunities for socialisation and to become familiar with the tertiary setting.

Funding and staffing

Flexible Funding

For many schools, this funding model enhanced school budgets and meant they could better resource their schools, Resourcing choices were frequently equipment, personnel or transport for students, 5 Not all schools used their funding to support the academy students, The guidelines for spending this money allows schools to allocate it according to their needs,

The funding model itself appears simple, However, schools found it hard to calculate the overall impact of participating in the STP, when taking into account loss of staffing and other entitlements, School leaders had to consider the effects on staffing and their capacity to offer some courses, The effects of the funding model generally had more impact in the smaller schools, Lead providers and schools welcomed help from the Ministry of Education to understand the overall funding, They particularly appreciated having continuity of contact with people who had a deep knowledge of Youth Guarantee and STPs, The Ministry also exercised discretion to assist some schools to access the STPs, This was important, for example, for those schools distant from the STPs who also sent a staff member to accompany students,

In two of the single school model STPs ERO visited, students’ experiences were limited by the available physical resources and equipment, Students were still engaged in their learning but they did not enjoy the same opportunities as students in well- resourced workshops,

Although most TEOs did not report any direct financial advantage through involvement in the STPs, they saw them as an investment in the future, Many full-time enrolments have come from ex-STP students,

STP Pilots

ERO found clear funding difficulties for both of the STP Pilots, While there was a very strong commitment to the concept of an STP, the funding posed a barrier to some schools’ participation and presented a risk to sustainability, One director noted that they could not afford to increase student numbers under this model and described their involvement as a “leap of faith”,

The Pilots sought additional funding from community sources and one used the Student Achievement Component (SAC) funding to resource an Agriculture course, It was considerable local goodwill that enabled this STP model to operate in its initial stages.

Workload

ERO noted that participation in the STP increased the workload for school and TEO coordinators and tutors,

Being part of an STP generally involves additional work for the careers adviser, Staff organised and monitored students, liaised with the lead provider and/or TEO, entered NZQA data and frequently acted as mentors, While ERO found that some schools employed administrative support, more commonly this role was undefined, with no formal recognition of the extra time involved.

I keep hearing I’m in charge,

Teacher in charge of careers

Tertiary tutors’ workloads rose as they improved reporting student progress to schools, Reporting STP roll numbers to comply with the different legislative requirements of the Ministry of Education and the Tertiary Education Commission (TEC) created additional work for the TEO coordinators,

Furthermore, the incompatibilities of the two different SMSs (secondary and tertiary) complicated the sharing and transfer of information for coordinators,

STPS' engagement with the wider community

Some STPs were working closely with their communities and developing courses in response to local needs and opportunities, For example, TOTSTA offers popular programmes on aquaculture and aviation engineering, the MIT runs courses in refrigeration and logistics, and the Canterbury Tertiary College (CTC) has an emphasis on construction.

The government’s Youth Guarantee policy encourages different parts of the education sector and industries to work together innovatively to meet the needs of students,

While STPs have a clear vision of preparing students for employment opportunities within their local community, under the Youth Guarantee Scheme, some regions have developed a coherent, community-based approach that incorporates STPs. The STPs in these regions are an integral part of local initiatives committed to meeting the wider needs of their communities. The common goal is to develop employment opportunities, and the skills needed for these, that would allow young people to remain in the community. The TEOs in these areas have developed a strong sense of their social responsibility to support this goal. Secondary schools, TEOs, representatives of industry and, sometimes, local politicians worked together to enhance future opportunities for the region’s young people.

Two examples of STPs operating with particularly strong community links follow:

  • Taranaki, where the STP is an integral part of community strategic planning.Tairawhiti, where the community has worked with the STP to make sure that the STP is supported and meets the needs of the community as well as its students.

Taranaki

The Taranaki Trades Academy functions as a part of a wider Taranaki strategy that brings together schools, tertiary providers and local industry. It is one of a number of local initiatives for the benefit of students in Taranaki. The Taranaki Futures Education Consortium, which is driven by the local Member of Parliament, brings together industry leaders, tertiary providers and schools to ensure that clear pathways leading to local employment are available and are understood by students.

Its mission is to:

“create a clear line of sight from education to employment here in Taranaki..........

employers who work with local education providers to facilitate, develop and provide programmes and initiatives across a range of industries and employment categories”.

The local council’s strategic-planning expert has assisted the group.

A related Youth Guarantee initiative is the Skills Squad. In partnership with schools, tertiary providers and industry partners, the Skills Squad provides annual, hands-on learning projects that offer vocational pathways for secondary school students.

The 2014 project, Build a Bach, is one of these. Local businesses donated all the materials and students received pastoral support and gained NCEA credits in the process of building their bach.

The mayor’s task force also promotes community development models based on the predicted demographic needs of the region. These models include the education community.

Tairāwhiti, Gisborne 6

Hawkes Bay Schools Trades Academy at the Eastern Institute of Technology has developed a very effective STP in Tairāwhiti through strong community connections.

This academy is branded the Tairāwhiti Schools Trades Academy @ EIT (TSTA). 7

The close, collaborative relationship established between all schools and EIT has been fundamental to the success of the academy. Strong leadership of the schools, bringing them together to work as a group, and EIT’s commitment and responsiveness to requests have all contributed to the sense of community and common purpose. Using community contacts, the EIT engaged two additional providers for Tairāwhiti and has been able to meet the requests of the schools, including offering an agriculture course on the East Coast. Learning tasks, taught in the community 8, are often defined by the needs of the community providing authentic learning for students. Some tasks, such as working on the Gisborne Operatic Society’s building, gave students a sense of pride in contributing to their community. Tutors have been especially effective in finding these opportunities for students.

Given the geographical isolation of the East Coast schools, engagement with parents and whAnau is challenging and yet important for the demographic of mainly Māori and Pacific families. TSTA has two main strategies to achieve this. TSTA runs a Trades Academy Field Day at Ruatoria in October. Each course arranges a series of activities to showcase a “day in the life of an academy student”. Hospitality students cater for this event. Parents and whAnau can talk with TSTA tutors and see the projects being worked on and the day generates ongoing community interest and pride. A graduation ceremony at the end of each year further enhances community engagement.

Attendance and participation had been an issue in this area. EIT and Tolaga Bay Area School worked closely together on a number of initiatives that address these concerns. One example is providing breakfast to help students who may travel considerable distances to reach school and may have to start as early as 4.30am on STP days.

Pastoral care money is used to reduce student to tutor ratios, helping to establish supportive relationships. A support person interviews and monitors all students, ensuring that all ILPs are completed. Her timely follow up of any concerns and the personal contact has resulted in significant improvements throughout the academy. Student outcomes have been extremely positive.