Background to Year 9 Plus

The concept trial

Year 9 Plus is a concept trial developed by the Ministry of Education in the second half of 2015.

The concept of Year 9 Plus is based on the principle that while intervening early has significant impact on outcomes where vulnerability is high, follow up is also necessary to ensure sustainable change in educational outcomes. So the trial aims to work with selected students and their whānau, from the beginning of secondary school in 2016, and to continue to support them throughout their time in secondary education. The investment in the concept trial is $2.2 million over four years.

Year 9 Plus is intended to help students and families/whānau overcome impediments to successful secondary education, in and out of school. Year 9 Plus aims to make sure those students who may previously have left school early are now supported to continue their education successfully, and have support for their involvement in school activities.

The concept trial is based in the wider Gisborne region, with students selected coming from schools located in districts from Hicks Bay south to Wairoa. Risk modelling has indicated that the Gisborne/East Coast region has a higher risk of early secondary disengagement than other regions.

Students were identified near the end of 2015 as being potentially at risk of not fully benefitting from or completing their secondary education in subsequent years. One hundred students were offered the opportunity to enter the trial. Each student selected will have the support of a 'champion', from the point of entry to Year 9.

The champions

The central feature of the concept's design is the employment of a small team of champions to support nominated students. Each student offered an entry place receives wrap-around support from a person of standing in the local community, known as a champion. The Ministry employs seven Year 9 Plus champions, led by a Lead Champion and a programme coordinator. One is based in the East Coast, one in Wairoa and the remainder work out of Gisborne. Champions are drawn from and have strong links with the local community.

The role of the champion is to help the students and their whānau to navigate their way through transition to Year 9 and their subsequent years of schooling. Champions' prime responsibility is to work with students, their families, the school, community organisations and government agencies to make sure their allocated participants, siblings and whānau are well supported through their secondary education.

Selecting the participants

In late 2015, principals of schools in the Wairoa/Gisborne/East Coast region with Year 8 students nominated those students they felt could use extra support transitioning and participating in secondary school from 2016. Schools forwarded these names to the Ministry of Education in Napier. About 180 students were nominated.

From this list of students, the Ministry used a statistical model for predicting students' non-attainment of NCEA Level 2 to prioritise the students to be offered the opportunity to enter the programme in 2016.

The length of the trial and outcomes expected

Champions will continue to work with students throughout their period of attendance at secondary school, if they remain in the wider Gisborne region. For some students this support may last to 2019. For others it may be 2020. For a few students this may end before 2019, if they leave school or the local region before then. Participation in Year 9 Plus is expected to lead to positive changes in educational outcomes for the students, particularly retention, engagement and the attainment of NCEA Level 2. Year 9 Plus also provides an opportunity to look at how a 'social investment' approach[1] might be applied through a targeted educational intervention over a sustained period, and what, if anything, the wider educational system can learn from such an experience.

Phases in the project

The evidence used by the Ministry in designing the programme indicated that each year of the trial was likely to present a range of foreseeable challenges or key risk factors that the programme will need to meet or overcome if it is to succeed. These challenges are:

  • 2016 when students transition into secondary schooling - a challenge for Phase One of the project (the 'start-up' phase) was in supporting successful transition
  • 2017 and 2018 when the opportunity is available for leaving school - a challenge for Phase Two of the project (the 'consolidation of engagement' phase) is in supporting successful ongoing engagement
  • 2018 and 2019 when participants are expected to successfully complete NCEA Levels 1 and 2 - a challenge for Phase Three of the project (the 'academic achievement' phase) is in supporting accelerated attainment and achievement
  • 2019 and 2020 when students are turning 18 and transitioning to the next life stage - a challenge for Phase Four of the project (the 'future pathways' phase) is in supporting the transition to successful adulthood.


[1] McLeod, K., Templeton, R., Ball, C., Tumen, S., Crichton, S. and Dixon, S. (2015). Using Integrated Administrative Data to Identify Youth Who Are At Risk of Poor Outcomes As Adults. Wellington: Treasury Analytical Paper 15/02.