The potential of this concept trial to bridge whānau and school efforts to support learning through community member support, and to overcome challenges to education success, was welcomed and responded to positively by most schools in the Wairoa/Gisborne/East Coast region. At the end of the first year, Year 9 Plus appears to have improved the chances of educational success for many in this cohort of students whose secondary education was deemed likely at risk.
ERO has seen a positive impact on many Year 9 Plus students in their engagement and progress during their first year of secondary schooling. Champions working alongside and supporting each student and their whānau has kept a substantial group engaged at school and experiencing various levels of achievement and progress. In some cases, whānau have also become more educationally connected to their children's learning.
A concept trial such as this can be seen to accrue immediate benefits to a finite group of students. However, the real value of such an initiative is in providing opportunities to trial new approaches, which if successful can be embedded in practice. The concept is providing participating schools with different perspectives on managing the transition, early engagement of vulnerable students into secondary education, and new possibilities in developing educationally powerful connections. The challenge ahead for schools is how the learnings emerging from the concept trial can be sustained, grown, and become a part of business as usual practice.
At this stage of the trial we have seen limited evidence of sustainable improvements to school processes for transition, and response to vulnerable students. The Ministry and participating schools should now consider how support for vulnerable students, similar to that provided by champions, can be provided through current resourcing models. In future investigations ERO will focus on the impact of the trial on developing schools' understanding, attitudes and practices.
The Ministry may also consider the extension of the Year 9 Plus concept trial to spread the successes seen in this region in terms of engagement of parents, whānau and students, and the educationally powerful connections created. If this is considered, issues of clarity in the conceptual model that have been raised through this first year of the evaluation should be taken into consideration.