The overall quality of pedagogical leadership

ERO classified the quality of pedagogical leadership in terms of a four-point matrix specifically developed for this evaluation. This matrix is summarised below, along with the number of clusters that were judged accordingly. [11]

Table 1: The overall quality of pedagogical leadership


Characteristics of the cluster


Highly effective

Pedagogical leadership supports high quality teaching and/or is making significant contributions to student outcomes and/or the quality of AE teaching, planning, assessment and evaluation. The pedagogical leadership model is sustainable and works for the provider and other stakeholders (ie the managing and enrolling schools). Pedagogical leadership is improving the provider’s ability to engage students.

1 cluster

Mostly effective

Pedagogical leadership is providing satisfactory support for the provider although significant change is required in one or two areas - or small changes are required across several areas – to make a consistent difference to the quality of teaching and learning.

6 clusters

Partially effective

Pedagogical leadership is providing satisfactory support across some areas but there may be significant limits related to other aspects.

1 cluster

Limited effectiveness

Pedagogical leadership is providing few, if any, real benefits to the quality of teaching and assessment.

2 clusters

Table 1 shows that most of the AE clusters in this evaluation (eight out of ten) demonstrated a degree of good pedagogical leadership practice. Two clusters had misjudged what was required in providing effective pedagogical leadership. One of these clusters did not provide sufficient support for their provider, while the other had appointed a pedagogical leader who did not have the experience or expertise necessary to effectively undertake the role.

Student outcomes in Alternative Education

The student outcomes data available during the time of this evaluation was variable in quality. Many pedagogical leaders were focused on improving the quality of this data so that they have solid baselines for future analysis. Once the data has improved better conclusions will be able to drawn. Until then the Ministry should be wary of drawing too many conclusions from the current achievement data presented through accountability reporting.

Despite this lack of comparable achievement and destination data, ERO also found evidence of improved teaching and learning as a result of the pedagogical leadership initiative. Examples of improved teaching and learning included:

  • better programme planning with more focused objectives and teaching sequences
  • more specific IEPs for students
  • more accurate and useful assessment tools being used (eg asTTle for reading and maths) in the classroom and shared with students
  • better use of Te Kura (The Correspondence School) resources and also more use of resources beyond those supplied by Te Kura
  • more recognition and provision for teaching of key competencies
  • the use of a wider range of teaching resources
  • greater emphasis on making learning meaningful and integrated, such as the provider using aspects of mathematics within a carpentry programme
  • a broadening range of teaching strategies
  • introduction of “teaching as inquiry” practices, including the use of student surveys and reflective journals
  • more professional discussions about learning, with regular prompting by pedagogical leaders regarding what students are learning
  • greater tutor confidence and professionalism
  • more organised and predictable classroom routines.

More examples of effective practice are covered in the discussion of the ‘implementation principles’ in this report.

The diverse approaches to pedagogical leadership

At the time of this evaluation schools and clusters were in the early stages of implementation, having had approximately 18 months to develop their approach to pedagogical leadership. The Ministry has also provided a broad scope for schools and providers to develop their own processes in line with the diverse ways in which AE operates across the country.

In light of this, ERO found that pedagogical leadership was managed or organised in many different ways across each cluster. These differences included:

  • how pedagogical leaders were appointed
  • who was involved in the appointment – school personnel, AE coordinators or providers
  • the pedagogical leadership objectives
  • the focus, approach and background of staff appointed to pedagogical leadership positions
  • the status of pedagogical leadership within the AE cluster
  • how pedagogical leadership was overseen and supported
  • whether or not staff in pedagogical leadership roles had an existing role in AE, such as an AE tutor or coordinator, or were an external appointment.

In summarising the overall ways in which clusters responded to these diverse issues, ERO has identified three different management approaches:

  • the managing school develops the cluster-wide objectives for pedagogical leadership and appoints a person to the role of ‘pedagogical leader’
  • the managing school delegates the cluster objectives and development of the pedagogical leadership function to the coordinator or the provider who also appoints a person/or people in the role(s) of ‘pedagogical leader’
  • the managing school and provider work together to develop and manage an approach to pedagogical leadership.

These three broad management approaches did not, in themselves, determine the quality of pedagogical leadership. The features that most affected the quality of pedagogical leadership were linked to the background and expertise of those people who were in pedagogical leadership positions.Organisational and implementation principles for pedagogical leadership

ERO identified two domains for considering the effectiveness of pedagogical leadership. Organisational principles are concerned with the various ways pedagogical leadership was organised or managed, in particular the appointment and management of staff in pedagogical leadership roles. Implementation principlesare concerned with how pedagogical leadership was actually undertaken, and the key features leading to improved student outcomes.

Organisational and implementation principles for pedagogical leadership

ERO identified two domains for considering the effectiveness of pedagogical leadership. Organisational principles are concerned with the various ways pedagogical leadership was organised or managed, in particular the appointment and management of staff in pedagogical leadership roles. Implementation principlesare concerned with how pedagogical leadership was actually undertaken, and the key features leading to improved student outcomes.

Organisational principles for pedagogical leadership

Despite the diverse ways in which pedagogical leadership was organised, ERO identified that some organisational practices were more likely to contribute to success than others. In evaluating the work of the clusters, ERO identified three key organisational principles:

  • Managing schools have a responsibility to support pedagogical leadership
  • Managing schools and AE providers need to work in partnership on the organisation and purpose of pedagogical leadership
  • Pedagogical leaders need to have a high status in AE.

Managing schools have a responsibility to support pedagogical leadership

This organisational principle supports the existing processes that the Ministry has in place concerning the roles and responsibilities of managing schools. Under the current Ministry contract with managing schools, boards of trustees are responsible for the provision of an AE learning programme that will lead to the:

  • improved attendance of AE students
  • improved academic achievement for AE students
  • improved personal and social skills based on the core competencies of The New Zealand Curriculum or the graduate profile in the Marautanga
  • successful and planned transition into further education and training options for AE students. [12]

Linked to these broad responsibilities is the obligation of managing schools for pedagogical leadership in AE:

The Managing School will ensure the use of registered teacher/s to provide pedagogical leadership. [13]

In meeting its legal responsibilities, managing schools, especially those in larger clusters, may employ an external AE coordinator to oversee their programme. This can have the effect of removing the school’s leadership from the day-to-day management of AE. ERO observed examples of effective AE coordinators working in large clusters. While this approach may be necessary in managing the workload of busy school leaders, such an approach does not diminish the responsibilities of the managing school to ensure that the processes around improved learning and transitions of AE students are effective.

There is a risk to the quality of education in AE, if managing schools are too ‘hands off’ in their management of AE. Managing schools are expected to provide professional knowledge and quality assurance systems to oversee the appointment and professional support of pedagogical leaders, as well as the wider quality of teaching and learning in AE.

The involvement of the managing school should positively contribute to the quality of pedagogy. While there were some managing schools that were removed from much of the running of AE, there were also two schools where their involvement did little to support either pedagogical leadership or the quality of teaching.

Reviewing the quality of pedagogical leadership

As part of this evaluation, ERO did not find any high quality examples of schools or providers reviewing the quality of pedagogical leadership. Over time, schools and providers will need more robust evidence about the quality of their pedagogical leadership. The evaluation of pedagogical leadership should use a similar framework to other evaluations of school-based professional learning and development. ERO has previously reported how such an evaluation can be managed. [14]

Managing schools and AE providers working in partnership on the organisation and purpose of pedagogical leadership

ERO found that more sustainable cluster management practices were likely where schools and providers collaborated on the appointment and objectives of pedagogical leaders. ERO observed a range of practice, including effective pedagogical leadership occurring where managing schools had very little involvement in the appointment and support of pedagogical leaders through to where AE providers had taken full responsibility for this work. However, ERO identified fewer risks where schools and providers collaboratively made decisions regarding the nature and objectives of pedagogical leadership as well as the personnel to be involved.

A partnership approach involves schools and providers working together on aspects such as the goals for teaching and learning and the objectives of pedagogical leadership. Such processes worked especially well at one cluster. This cluster’s pedagogical leader was also the lead tutor at the AE provider (and a registered teacher). She mentored and supported the development of the other two tutors/teacher-aides in the programme. The partnership approach meant that the managing school was not only well informed about teaching and learning issues in AE, but also actively supported the professional development of this pedagogical leader. As such the pedagogical leader was also included in the school’s middle management team and was an active member of the school’s professional development community.

Pedagogical leaders need to have a high status in the AE cluster

The various approaches clusters took to pedagogical leadership meant that the staff fulfilling this function had different levels of status. Some pedagogical leaders had clear management status in the cluster. Others were more collegially positioned, for example as fellow tutors in an AE programme. ERO found that pedagogical leadership staff with a relatively low status in a cluster had more difficulty developing ‘buy-in’ or momentum for their development plans.

Conversely, pedagogical leaders who were seen to be in a management or leadership role had more opportunities to influence teaching quality. While having a high status is not enough on its own to guarantee effective pedagogical leadership, the transformational potential of pedagogical leadership means that is more likely to succeed where it is valued, or seen as important in a cluster.

Teachers’ Council Registration

ERO has identified a potential difficulty concerning the teacher registration of a minority of staff in pedagogical leadership positions. While the Ministry has mandated the use of registered teachers in pedagogical leadership roles, there are uncertainties about how staff in these roles actually maintain their registered teacher status. This is especially the case for staff in pedagogical leadership positions who are not regularly teaching.

Additional challenges linked to the organisation of AE

Getting enough hours of pedagogical leadership

One of the challenges facing AE clusters, especially those with fewer student places, is having enough hours of pedagogical leadership to develop a range of suitable strategies and programmes to improve practice. One way in which clusters in this evaluation solved this problem is by working with neighbouring clusters to pool resources and/or collaborate on the appointment of a pedagogical leader.

By combining resources, neighbouring clusters were able to have a pedagogical leader work on a more regular basis, for example 20 hours per week. AE staff subsequently had more opportunity to build relationships with AE tutors and develop a professional learning culture.

The resources available for Alternative Education

AE providers have limited resources with which to improve student outcomes. While the resources which clusters have for AE were not a focus for this evaluation, it is worth noting that per‑student funding is not the only useful resource AE providers can draw upon. Through their relationships with managing and enrolling schools, AE providers could expect to have greater access than that which they currently enjoy to library resources, NZQA moderation and assessment tools, science labs and materials, information communication technologies equipment, and careers advice and guidance.

The implementation principles of pedagogical leadership

ERO identified a range of factors that affected the quality of pedagogical leadership. One of the key assumptions of these principles is the ‘change-agent’ or ‘continuous improvement’ dimensions to this work. Pedagogical leaders should be focused on improving the education and destination outcomes of AE students.

The four overarching implementation principles of pedagogical leadership are that it:

  • has staff with credibility and expertise
  • is ethical, creative, strategic and focused on improvement
  • uses effective professional learning and development processes
  • should be part of an effective set of networks.

Pedagogical leadership staff need to have credibility and expertise

Effective pedagogical leaders brought a range of personal and professional skills to their work with AE tutors and students. They formed good working relationships while also having the skills and disposition to support tutors to improve their practice. ERO identified four aspects that contributed to the credibility and expertise of pedagogical leaders:

  • relevant background and experience
  • the ability to build effective working relationships
  • an extensive knowledge of education theory and practice
  • knowledge of how to improve Māori education outcomes.

Background and experience

ERO found that pedagogical leaders benefited from having previous teaching experience in such settings as special education, residential schools and youth work. Staff with pastoral care and academic leadership experience also had useful context knowledge for this work. AE tutors face many pastoral and academic challenges working with students, and pedagogical leaders needed to relate to this context and then knowledgably discuss how improvements could be made.

Where staff had experience in settings comparable to alternative education, ERO found that it was easier for them to establish themselves as leaders. While the organisational principles above highlight the need for pedagogical leaders to have a high status in a cluster, staff in these roles also needed the background knowledge and expertise to be accepted as leaders by AE tutors. The following quotes reflect the opinions of a group of AE staff towards the input of their pedagogical leader.

Quotes from the tutors in one of the clusters about the support provided by their pedagogical leader

The Pedagogical Leader has helped us to get direction.

Without the PL we would be really struggling to find students’ appropriate level of learning.

This is a whole new world for me.

She has brought mana to the AE programme.

We can now speak about our programmes, assessments, planning and student achievement like any other school.

ERO also found instances where pedagogical leaders did not have sufficient experience in AE-type settings. This limited their confidence and effectiveness in the role. These staff had to spend time understanding the social and behavioural issues of some AE students, as well as the specific teaching and learning dynamics in such a setting. The limited knowledge of AE‑type settings also made it difficult for these staff to be accepted as leaders by AE tutors.

Building effective working relationships

ERO identified that pedagogical leaders needed to establish effective professional relationships with AE tutors and create joint goals and plans for improving teaching and learning. ERO observed pedagogical leaders were more likely to be effective when they listened to AE tutors, understood their issues and worked with them in developing a professional development programme.

The importance of building effective working relationships with AE staff was underlined when many of the pedagogical leaders were first appointed. In most of the clusters, ERO found that many AE tutors and managers expressed initial reservations about the appointment of a pedagogical leader. Subsequently, pedagogical leaders needed to ‘prove’ themselves to provider staff before they could all work confidently and constructively towards better student outcomes. In this regard, where pedagogical leadership had been effective, AE staff reported to ERO that it had increased the professionalism of their work.

Knowledge of educational theory and practice

Pedagogical leadership benefitted from staff having a sound understanding of educational theory and practice. For example, pedagogical leaders with backgrounds in counselling, special education, adult literacy and teacher education demonstrated the sorts of knowledge of educational theory and practice that supported work in AE.

The sort of educational knowledge that was useful included, for example, an accurate understanding of how young people learn, why AE students have succeeded and failed in the past, and the type of learning activities that will engage diverse AE students. ERO found that it was also advantageous if pedagogical leaders had an awareness of learning issues for students with special needs, including when specialist help may be needed to improve a student’s literacy, eyesight, hearing and other aspects of their health and wellbeing.

Improving Māori education outcomes

Māori make up approximately two-thirds of the students in AE. Therefore, pedagogical leaders need to have a good understanding of Māori education issues. This includes how AE tutors can respond to the diverse range of abilities and interest in te reo Māori and Māori knowledge and culture, as well as recognising learners’ strengths, abilities and aspirations.

An example of effective practice with Māori students involved the work of a provider at a main urban centre. A high proportion of the students at this provider were Māori and had an interest in urban street culture and music. The pedagogical leader, in combination with other AE tutors, [15] involved local musicians and artists and developed a programme that not only aligned with student interests, but also allowed them to achieve NZQA credits.

Pedagogical leadership is innovative, ethical, creative, strategic, and focused on improvement

As ERO observed in the more effective cases, pedagogical leadership that has these features supports AE to improve learner’s academic, social and destination outcomes. In this section, distinct aspects of pedagogical leadership are discussed. These are:

  • developing innovative practice
  • an emphasis on student outcomes
  • creative, flexible and persistent leadership
  • ethical values and action
  • the strategic use of data to inform change.

Developing innovative practice

In ERO’s 2010 report Good Practice in Alternative Education, one of the pedagogical challenges facing AE providers was linked to developing authentic learning opportunities. Such activities are a way to make education more relevant to learners and provide greater links between learner’s career aspirations and their classroom activity.

This challenge remains. While ERO observed some innovative programmes during this current evaluation, pedagogical leaders need to consistently support teaching that is linked to learners’ interests, strengths and aspirations. Similarly, pedagogical leadership should support approaches that give learners opportunities to learn in interesting and relevant ways. [16]

An important feature of pedagogical leadership involves a focus on continuous improvement. Effective pedagogical leadership involves understanding the priorities for improvement and finding ways to work with tutors to make these changes.

Emphasis on student outcomes

Approximately 40 percent of the students who leave AE go on to either further education or training or employment. The low proportion of students returning to school is, at least to some extent, linked to the relatively limited engagement of some enrolling schools once students have been enrolled in AE.

ERO found that the most effective pedagogical leaders were clearly focused on improving student outcomes, including student destination outcomes. In essence, pedagogical leaders saw it as their role to improve the quality of the academic, social and destination outcomes of students. In line with this obligation, pedagogical leaders worked with tutors to set clear goals and develop suitable strategies for reaching these goals.

For example, in one cluster the pedagogical leader worked with provider staff to identify their individual areas for improvement with an emphasis on numeracy and literacy teaching. With the help of analysed achievement information and the feedback from classroom observations, the pedagogical leader worked with tutors to identify how each of them could develop their teaching. Strategies were also put in place to support this development, such as observing high quality numeracy and literacy teaching at the managing school and providing time for AE tutors to meet together and discuss effective teaching and learning strategies.

I’ve got goals I want to achieve now. I want to be able to do my NCEA and get a job.

(Comment from an AE student about the change in the quality of teaching in AE since the pedagogical leader started working with tutors)

While academic outcomes are widely understood in terms of success in curricular and, arguably, extra-curricular activities, it is not always clear what the social outcomes of Alternative Education refer to and what, if any, role there is for AE providers to support students to develop positive social outcomes.

In the context of this report, social outcomes relate to the range of emotional, health and interpersonal skills and dispositions that support the wellbeing of young people in Alternative Education. AE providers typically provide a considerable amount of pastoral support for young people in an attempt to build both a student’s sense of themselves as learners and as a basis for the positive transition of students to further education, training or employment.

Positive social outcomes are an established part of The New Zealand Curriculumthrough, for example, the key competencies of Managing Self, Relating to Others and Participating and Contributing. Positive social outcomes also link to a student’s success in dealing with drug or alcohol addiction, as well as issues arising from physical, mental or reproductive health. In the case of a student dealing with serious social issues, it is expected that a provider and/or managing school would seek the support of the appropriate agencies.

Creative, flexible and persistent leadership

Pedagogical leaders need to be able to respond quickly and constructively to the variety of issues or situations that can occur in AE. The context of AE means that there are a variety of social, academic and logistical issues that can complicate the professional development of tutors. Pedagogical leaders need to work around these issues, yet retain their focus on how learners’ outcomes can be improved. The variety of backgrounds of staff and students, including the high level of social need of some learners, also means that innovative or novel approaches may be required.

ERO observed pedagogical leaders who were facilitating professional development and support for tutors, some of whom were trained teachers, while others were experienced AE tutors without a teaching qualification. The diverse capabilities of these tutors required quite different approaches in developing cluster-wide approaches to Individual Education Plans (IEPs) for learners or the development of numeracy and literacy teaching. AE staff were also found to have different capabilities in terms of dealing with material such as Te Kura learning materials.

Some AE staff had not had regular professional development opportunities in the past. Pedagogical leaders in such a context required some finesse in identifying the specific next steps of staff, and also patience in working to develop a professional learning culture. This included having staff become accustomed to being observed as well as receiving feedback. Experience in establishing or maintaining a professional learning cluster in the past is useful knowledge for someone offering pedagogical leadership in AE.

Ethical values and action

Underpinning the different qualities of pedagogical leadership is the importance of applying ethical approaches to teaching and learning in AE. As ERO has found in other evaluations, [17] the ethical qualities of teachers and leaders can be a key factor in their drive to improve education and ensure that others follow their example. Features underpinning the ethical values and action of pedagogical leaders include their:

  • commitment in the face of challenges (persistence)
  • aroha or caring towards AE students and tutors
  • belief in the potential of each student to succeed.

The strategic use of data to inform change

The use of data to identify professional development priorities is a key way in which pedagogical leaders can help improve AE. ERO observed pedagogical leaders working with AE tutors to use analysed achievement data and other self-review material, including classroom observations, to improve outcomes for students. Effective pedagogical leaders were found to be contributing to a stronger self-review culture in AE.

Pedagogical leadership uses effective professional learning and development processes

Effective professional development and support processes are needed for pedagogical leaders to support continuous improvement in AE. The principles of effective PLD for teachers and schools have been well promulgated through the Ministry of Education’s Teacher Professional Learning and Development: Best Evidence Synthesis Iteration (BES). [18] These principles include the need for PLD to:

  • be focused on student outcomes, with links between classroom activity and the desired outcomes
  • use assessment information about the performance of teachers and students to make a difference in the classroom
  • provide many different sorts of activities for teachers to learn and apply newly acquired knowledge
  • work with and challenge teacher assumptions about learning. [19]

Integration with PLD plans of provider

Clusters need to ensure that the work of pedagogical leaders enhances the professional learning and development plans of AE providers. ERO found increased professional development momentum where AE providers and pedagogical leaders collaborated on specific priorities and worked together to achieve specific improvements in teaching and learning.

Ministry of Education professional development courses

ERO found that almost all of the clusters expressed doubts about the usefulness and/or quality of the Ministry’s professional development courses on offer. This was an area for frustration for some pedagogical leaders, as the messages coming from these PLD courses were not aligned with plans they had developed for their clusters. In the future, better links between the pedagogical leadership plans of the clusters and the professional development providers could lead to better PLD processes and better teaching and learning for students.

Release time for tutors

Some pedagogical leaders were frustrated that their efforts to support provider staff had to take place outside of normal school hours. This situation suggests that insufficient value is placed on the work being done to support improved pedagogy in AE. Release time for tutors should be considered as part of the overall professional development process and planned and budgeted for by managing schools, AE coordinators and provider management.

Improving Qualifications for tutors

AE tutors have a variety of different qualifications, many of which are not actual teaching qualifications. ERO has also found that pedagogical leadership has clearly helped to improve the knowledge and ability of some AE tutors. There is the potential for more formal recognition for the skills and abilities which AE tutors develop with the support of pedagogical leaders. Such recognition could provide a professional pathway for tutors and also support the retention of skilled staff.

In light of this, a challenge for the development of AE is how more formal qualifications could be developed via on-the-job or workplace assessment processes. Potentially such a programme could work in tandem with other forms of learning and qualifications and would recognise the growing professionalism of many AE staff.

Pedagogical leadership should be part of an effective set of networks

ERO found that pedagogical leadership was more likely to make a difference for learners when all stakeholders in a cluster fulfil their obligations to the AE programmes. For example, clusters are more likely to be effective for learners if the pedagogical leader can concentrate on their leadership and support functions and not be involved in carrying out tasks that might more readily be undertaken by the AE coordinator or the enrolling school. Similarly, where pedagogical leaders can work with other education specialists, including Resource Teachers: Learning and Behaviour, Group Special Education, staff of Te Kura (The Correspondence School), there is more likelihood of the cluster having an effective network that will support better teaching and, subsequently, improved learner’s outcomes.

It was also the case that some pedagogical leaders were at risk of working without suitable mentoring and support. This was much more likely to occur where there was just one pedagogical leader. One very large cluster had several pedagogical leaders and, rather than isolation being a challenge, this cluster faced challenges in terms of coordinating their work. In most clusters, however, where there was a single pedagogical leader, there were limited opportunities to discuss their professional development requirements or to even clarify the key tasks required in their role.

Managing schools

Managing schools have some defined roles and responsibilities under the AE contract with the Ministry of Education. In addition to these formal duties, there are other ways in which managing schools can support pedagogical leaders with their work of facilitating improved outcomes for students.

One way in which these responsibilities are met is in ensuring that AE providers have access to special education specialists, including RTLBs. Other ways include supporting the professional development of pedagogical leaders. For example, one of the managing schools in this evaluation included the pedagogical leader in both the school’s middle management team and its school-wide professional development processes.

Enrolling schools

The key roles of an enrolling school in AE are set out in the Ministry’s Memorandum of Agreement for AE. [20] This document states that:

The enrolling school retains overall responsibility for the student who is in an AE programme including the provision of the curriculum and for ensuring the environment is physically and emotionally safe as per the National Educational Goals and National Administration Guidelines, and all other legislative requirements pertaining to schools. Literacy and numeracy must be provided for all students.

All students in their 11th year of schooling must have access to the National Qualifications Framework, including NCEA.

Specific obligations also described in the Memorandum include that:

Enrolling schools will:

  • report to their boards of trustees at least once a term on the progress and achievement of AE students
  • investigate the opportunities for the student to return to mainstream education
  • ensure an appropriate diagnostic assessment is carried out that defines learning and behaviour needs and develop an Individual Education Plan which outlines the goals and success measures for the student.

By fulfilling these obligations enrolling schools contribute to the fundamental purpose of AE – the transition of learners into mainstream education, training or employment. ERO did not, however, observe any examples of enrolling schools’ good practice (other than those that were also managing schools). In two cases ERO found that managing schools were recorded as the default enrolling school for all AE students in the cluster. These students were removed from the roll of the schools that had sent these students to AE, thereby releasing these schools from their enrolling school obligations. The end result for the student means that they are not supported by their original enrolling school and were essentially blocked from returning to mainstream education via this path. [21]

Despite this, there are also some significant issues that complicate the efforts by enrolling schools to support students in AE. The first occurs when a student has been excluded from his or her previous school. This often means that the managing school ‘places’ a student in AE and thereby becomes the enrolling school and the link back to the ‘initial’ enrolling school is lost.

The second issue relates to the lack government funding for enrolling schools to carry out their support role for students they have placed in AE. A student placed in AE goes onto the non-resource role of the enrolling school and the funding of their AE placement is directed through the managing school to the AE providers. While managing schools may retain up to ten percent of this funding for administrative purposes, enrolling schools are expected to support the transition of a student to and from AE from their own resources.

Both of these issues may be a factor in the relatively low level of engagement from enrolling schools. The resolution of these issues may improve the enrolling schools’ engagement and the destination outcomes of students in AE.

Alternative Education providers

The support of those who manage AE providers is crucial in developing a collaborative approach to pedagogical leadership and improved teaching and learning in AE. Ideally, AE provider management should ensure that they are able to actively support pedagogical leadership. This could include such initiatives as providing time and support for professional development processes. In one large cluster, for example, a range of AE providers worked together to ensure that the different pedagogical leaders from across the cluster had times and places when they could meet to share effective strategies and discuss the specific challenges they were facing.

Working with Te Kura

The suitability of distance learning materials for learners in AE has been previously questioned in ERO’s 2010 report. While the disadvantages of distance learning for at-risk learners are accepted, there are, potentially, opportunities for greater collaboration between AE providers, pedagogical leaders and Te Kura. AE staff reported to ERO that they had developed good liaison with the regional coordinators of Te Kura, but had experienced variable levels of communication, responsiveness or flexibility from the teachers of Te Kura. A challenge identified in this report is the development of a greater partnership between AE tutors and the staff of Te Kura.

The current model assumes that, to some extent, the Te Kura teacher’s sole relationship is with the individual learner in AE. The teacher at Te Kura sends material out to the learner, which the learner is then to complete and return. It typically takes two weeks for learners to receive back work which they completed and sent to the teacher at Te Kura. This process is far less speedy than the feedback cycle which a student in mainstream education would receive, and arguably too slow to sustain the engagement of AE students.

Te Kura reports that many AE centres do not have access to computer technology. This limits the way Te Kura can increase interaction with their students. All AEs should have the appropriate technology so they can have access online learning and other 21st century learning opportunities.

ERO suggests that Te Kura could develop a model of working more directly with AE pedagogical leaders and tutors. Potentially, pedagogical leaders could support the curriculum knowledge of AE tutors and help them develop systems whereby more immediate feedback can be given to learners. Te Kura could develop teaching materials based on a context identified by staff and learners in AE. Such an approach would alter the relationship from that focused on the Te Kura teacher and the AE learner, to a different model that involves the collaboration of Te Kura staff, AE staff, pedagogical leaders and learners. Such a teaching model could be pertinent and useful for learners enrolled in Te Kura not only from AE, but also from a wider variety of education settings.