Hutt Valley Activity Centre - 13/12/2017

Background

Introduction

Hutt Valley Activity Centre is one of 14 Activity Centres in New Zealand that cater for secondary school students (Years 9-13) who are at risk of disengaging from mainstream schooling and at risk of low educational, social and vocational outcomes.

Activity Centres provide a specialised learning programme which will lead to increased attendance, engagement and achievement at school, social outcomes and successful transition rates. Registered teachers support students to increase their achievement and engagement in education guided by an Individual Learning Programme (ILP) which is responsive to the needs of each student. The ILP details the student’s learning goals and is developed in partnership with the student, teacher, parents/whānau and enrolling school.

A key component of the programme for activity centre students is to successfully transition back into the enrolling school or move on to further education or employment.

Hutt Valley High School is the managing school for this activity centre. The school Board of Trustees holds governance responsibility for the Activity Centre and is responsible for providing high quality educational service in a physically and emotionally safe learning environment.

Terms of Reference

This review is based on an evaluation of the performance of Hutt Valley Activity Centre in relation to the terms of reference developed with the Ministry of Education. The terms of reference are:

  • management and governance practices including planning, internal evaluation and professional capacity building

  • the use of information to plan and implement individual programmes for, and with, students, and to monitor their progress

  • support for students to achieve improved social and educational outcomes

  • educational and social outcomes for students, including the extent to which students’ learning has been accelerated

  • students’ experience of interagency support for them and their families

  • transitions in and out of the Activity Centre.

The key evaluative question is:

How effective is this Activity Centre at achieving positive outcomes for students?

Context

Hutt Valley High School (HVHS) took over the management of the Hutt Valley Activity Centre (HVAC) in 2017. A new director and teacher were also appointed. The director is responsible to the principal and board of trustees of the managing school. The HVHS deputy principal has pastoral oversight of the centre, strengthening the supportive partnership that has already been established.

The centre is open to all secondary schools in the area, although only three schools have enrolled students during the past three years.

Most students attend the centre for less than two terms with the goal of transitioning back to mainstream education as soon as practical. At the time of the review, there were 14 students on the roll, eight were Māori, three of Pacific heritage and three Pākehā.

Staff at the centre include the director, a teacher, a teacher aide, a youth worker and two university students on social work placement.

Local agencies are accessed to provide specialised pastoral support.

Findings

How effective is the Activity Centre at achieving positive outcomes for students?

Most students in 2016 made a positive transition out of the centre. Attendance rates have been improving during 2017.

The goal of the centre is to equip all students with the learning strategies and knowledge they need to successfully return to a mainstream school setting. Data shows that in 2016 most students attended the centre for less than six months. Eighty-nine percent of students continued their education or moved into employment.

Daily attendance figures for 2016 indicate that only 19% of students achieved 80% or higher. In 2017, attendance data shows that in term one 33% of students achieved 80% or higher, and in term two 53% achieved 80 percent or higher, a steady improvement over that period.

Hutt Valley Activity Centre is not yet able to show positive academic outcomes for students. No achievement data from 2016 was available when the new director was appointed. Midyear 2017 data had not been collated nor sent to the Ministry of Education when ERO was carrying out its review. The systematic analysis of data to show the impact and effectiveness of the centre’s programme of learning is a priority. This would inform teachers’ planning and provide valuable information for the enrolling and managing schools. The Activity Centre is now part of the managing school’s systems which require analysis of student achievement.

The new director has established the concept of whānau which guides the centre’s culture, ways of working and learning. The values of: whakaute, respect for all; ako, learning together; ūkaipōtanga, sense of identity; and whānaungatanga, belonging, have been newly developed with students. Te ao Māori and tikanga are evident. Visitors are welcomed respectfully and te reo Māori is often and appropriately used.

What is the quality of governance and leadership of the Activity Centre?

HVHS Board and leadership have identified the need to improve systems and processes to guide and manage the centre. To enable more effective governance by the managing school, the next step is to include the centre in the school’s strategic and annual planning. HVHS trustees should be receiving regular reports on the effectiveness of learning programmes and on progress made towards identified valued outcomes. This will give them the information they need to support the leadership and students, and to make informed resourcing decisions.

A management team of three principals from local enrolling schools is expected to meet termly to review operations and discuss student progress. At the time of this review this team had met once. It is timely to review the structure and processes of this team, including ways to involve more of the enrolling schools.

Positive relationships and collegial support between the managing school and centre staff is evident. Key staff members based at HVHS provide the director with specialised support. Some policies have been written specifically for the centre and relevant HVHS policies and procedures also guide practices in the centre.

Appraisal processes have not been completed for the director or centre staff. Aligning professional learning and development (PLD) with appraisal is an important next step.

How effective are the selection and transition processes?

The enrolment process is consistent and enables the student, their whānau, the enrolling school and the centre to ensure that the best placement is made. Successful transition and engagement of new students with learning is a key focus for the director and centre staff.

Paperwork on entry is thorough and conveys well-defined responsibilities and expectations of students, whānau and the centre. Testing at the centre adds to information shared by enrolling schools. The quality of this information from schools is variable, which reduces the effectiveness of transition and the development of learning programmes.

The centre’s programme is flexible and responsive to the needs of each student enabling them to settle quickly into routines, understand expectations and engage in learning. Regular communication with each school’s liaison person about learning, attitudes and behaviour is maintained by the centre.

Processes to identify and support the needs of Māori students and their families are culturally responsive and embedded in the tikanga of the centre. The director is aware of the importance and value of parents being actively involved in their child’s learning and has identified this as an area of focus for the centre.

How well does the Activity Centre identify the social, emotional and academic needs of each student?

Teaching staff are responsive to each student’s needs. Students are given many opportunities to share where and how they learn best, their strengths and the areas they need to work on. Together students and staff work closely to support positive outcomes.

Staff develop whānau relationships with students and identify social and emotional needs. Students are encouraged to manage their learning and self-regulate their behaviour. Teachers and students have worked together to describe what the values and expectations for learning and behaviour would look like in the centre. These expectations need to be consistently reinforced and evident in practice.

Whānau Time at the beginning and end of every day allows students and staff to reflect on learning activities and the events of the day. Positive Behaviour for Learning (PB4L) strategies are employed to promote positive behaviour choices. This is still at the development stage. Staff encourage students to think of constructive solutions to challenging personal situations.

Students’ emotional and wellbeing needs are well supported by centre staff, the resource teacher of learning and behaviour (RT:LB) based at HVHS and external sources. Regular access to counselling, the nurse, dentist and other specialist services is provided. A new afternoon social learning programme provides students with positive role models to interact with and learn from.

How well do the specialised learning programmes meet the needs of each student?

In 2017, no formal individual learning programmes (ILPs) have been completed for students although the process has been initiated. A priority for the centre is to prepare ILPs for each student that follow the guidelines of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed with the Ministry of Education (the Ministry). This should enable the development of plans that set challenging and appropriate expectations for learning, and for social and emotional growth.

Regular review should allow evaluation of progress and achievement. Involving the student, their whānau and the enrolling school in this process should encourage ongoing reflection and support. The development of ILPs is likely to assist teachers to better shape the curriculum, align teaching programmes to student’s individual learning needs and allocate resources.

Learning programmes support an inclusive culture and give opportunities for students to achieve. Within a broad curriculum, priority is given to English, social studies, mathematics and science. A focus on wellbeing, relationship building and social skills prepare students to successfully return to school. A clearly defined timetable provides security and predictability and students appear to be engaged in their learning tasks. Achievement and completion of learning tasks are celebrated.

Te ao Māori underpins the curriculum. It acknowledges students’ culture and identity and provides them with learning topics and strategies likely to assist success once they return to their enrolling schools. The director has developed learning topics using local contexts that are meaningful for the students.

Students work at their own pace using online-learning programmes, supported by the teachers. They monitor their own progress and receive immediate constructive feedback. Students also access Te Aho o Te Kura Pounamu - The Correspondence School (Te Kura) life skills programme online. Greater use of Te Kura’s programmes and support should provide further opportunities for students to follow their interests and extend their learning options.

How effectively are students prepared for their future pathways?

The centre has a strong focus on establishing future learning and career pathways for students. Transition plans that allow for a gradual reintegration back to school are devised with input from the student, whānau and the enrolling school. A next step is to measure the success of the programme by tracking students’ reintegration back to school and their progress.

ERO recommends that:

  • the director systematically analyses data to measure the impact and effectiveness of the centre’s programme

  • the activity centre is included in the managing school’s 2018 strategic and annual plan and trustees receive regular reports on the impact and effectiveness of the centre’s learning programmes

  • the management team reviews its structure and processes and includes representatives from enrolling schools

  • the principal of the managing school ensures that appraisal systems are in place for the director and staff

  • the director ensures that ILPs are prepared for each student that follow the guidelines of the MoU signed with the Ministry

  • each student’s attendance, progress and achievement is tracked on leaving the centre.

Patricia Davey

Deputy Chief Review Officer Central (Acting)

Te Tai Pokapū - Central Region

13 December 2017

About the Activity Centre

Location

Lower Hutt

Ministry of Education profile number

6117

Activity Centre roll

14

Gender composition

Male 8, Female 6

Ethnic composition

Māori
Pacific
Pākehā

8
3
3

Review team on site

August 2017

Date of this report

13 December 2017

Most recent ERO reports

Education Review Supplementary Review
Special Review

February 2013
November 2011
May 2009