Executive Summary

What is Year 9 Plus?

Year 9 Plus is an educational concept developed by the Ministry of Education (the Ministry) to improve the chances of educational success of one cohort of participating students, and better their future life opportunities.

A champion, employed by the Ministry and with strong contacts in the local community, works alongside each student and their whānau, to support them and their school in actions aimed at keeping them at school, and progressing and achieving.

Champions' support for participants started early in 2016 and continues while the student is enrolled in secondary schooling in the Wairoa/Gisborne/East Coast region.

This report

Our report, completed at the end of students' first year at secondary school, identifies what has worked well so far in the concept trial. It considers the processes developed to support these students' transitions between contributing and secondary school, and their subsequent participation, engagement and progress during the year. The report discusses the influence that the champions have had on these students first year at secondary school, and the lessons that can be taken from this concept trial to improve schools' responsiveness to similar students in the future.

The report also suggests ongoing improvements to the concept trial that could further support the champions work with the 2016 cohort as they move into Year 10.

ERO visited schools involved in Year 9 Plus in Terms 1 and 2, 2016, and again in Term 4, 2016. This report includes findings from those two sets of fieldwork. ERO will continue to evaluate Year 9 Plus in 2017.

Overall Findings Terms 1 and 2, 2016

Student nomination and selection

In late 2015 contributing schools in the region responded positively to the request for student nomination for the Year 9 Plus concept trial. They were diligent in their analysis of school-based information to help inform selection. Although a range of criteria were used by schools, all the students nominated were identified as being at risk of not transitioning well to secondary schools. Schools applied a mix of behavioural and academic criteria they found helpful for identifying Year 8 student leavers who would benefit from support when entering and navigating secondary school.

Subsequent Ministry statistical analysis identified those to be selected for the trial from the list of those nominated.

The role of champions

Champions were engaged by the Ministry after delays caused by decisions about their employment arrangements. This meant that the trial commenced later than originally anticipated.

The job description of champions puts greatest emphasis on them supporting student engagement during Year 9 by establishing positive relationships with the students they are responsible for and 'harnessing' the parents and whānau to help these young people achieve in education. Champions told ERO that when the learning of the most vulnerable was at risk, they saw their role as acting as proxies for parents, but not replacing them.

Schools showed mixed understanding of this role-complexity when ERO talked to them in May 2016. Some schools were using the champions as a key resource for change. Others were still working to understand how champions might contribute to improved outcomes.

Transition from Year 8 to Year 9

Some of the students were enrolled in area schools while others moved from their contributing school to secondary school. Where a physical change of setting is required in moving from Year 8 to Year 9, transition can be expected to be more complex. ERO found that in schools where staff have worked with champions during these transitions, the Year 9 Plus students were supported to continue and engage with secondary education.

However, overall, despite having identified students who were likely to have difficulty making the transition, schools did little different in transition from Year 8 to Year 9 than they had in previous years. ERO concludes that the potential of supported transition for those at greatest risk during this initial phase of implementation was not fully realised.

Student engagement in learning

The responses of Year 9 Plus students interviewed by ERO in the first half of the year indicated good initial engagement by many with secondary education. Champions played a positive part in many of these individual stories. Issues of attendance and behaviour still prevail for some students. ERO will be investigating this, and the responses of schools, in later studies.

Overall Findings Term 4, 2016

Student support

The key aspect working well in the trial at the end of 2016 was the strong support many students received from two sources:

  • the support of champions - Year 9 Plus students view their champion as having a significant influence on their 2016 educational outcomes and successes
  • school support - some Year 9 Plus students also credit particular teachers or an innovative provision at their school for their success.

Student outcomes

When looking at 2016 student outcomes, we found some progress for the most part in relation to the aims of the trial.

ERO found three groups of students:

  • a significant group of Year 9 Plus students remained present and engaged at school in 2016, often despite difficulties, and many were achieving success in their own terms, usually in those areas of schooling they found of high interest
  • another, slightly smaller, group of Year 9 Plus students improved engagement in learning over 2016, broadening their interests; and by the year's end most of these students were building solid foundations for future educational success
  • a third group of Year 9 Plus students (the smallest group) had engagement that either did not improve or dropped away over 2016, and by the end of the year any future learning success for this group was at risk.

Constraints

ERO found variable quality in how participating schools responded to the opportunity made available to them by Year 9 Plus.

The champions found the nature of some aspects of their work unrelenting, particularly as they need to support many Year 9 Plus students to deal with life challenges, both inside and outside of school.