Previously children with behavioural and social needs were referred to and attended one of six health camps situated across New Zealand. Each of the health camps had an associated school attached. In 2008 ERO evaluated the quality of provisions for children at the health camps and found the following significant areas that needed to improve:

  • The children referred to health camps had multiple needs. The separation of responsibilities between the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Social Development: Te Puna Whaiora 2 highlighted the need for a high level of coordination between the intervention strategies of both organisations.
  • There was an overall lack of clarity about the purpose and objectives of health camps and health camp schools. ERO stated that it would be appropriate for the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Social Development: Te Puna Whaiora Children’s Health Camps to establish a general agreement on this.
  • Different health camps and associated schools had developed their own ways of working together and, to a large extent, their effectiveness relied on the quality of relationships and practices at individual sites rather than a generally agreed set of protocols for all health camps and their associated schools.
  • There were no common mechanisms to hold camp managers and health camp school principals accountable for their performance against a common set of criteria or objectives.

ERO recommended that the Ministry of Education examine the role of health camps and their schools within the wider network of services provided for students with moderate to severe behaviour difficulties. 

Since ERO’s 2008 report, the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Social Development have worked together to make considerable changes to the governance and provisions for children who have experienced trauma. The Health Camp schools were closed. The service is now contracted to Stand Children’s Services (Stand), a charity that provides specialist home and school social services including therapeutic care and education to children aged five to twelve years.

There are now seven sites called ‘children’s villages’ where teachers and social workers are expected to work together to develop children’s capacity to live in healthy, hopeful relationships with others. The seven villages are in Whangarei, Auckland, Rotorua, Gisborne, Otaki, Christchurch, and Roxburgh. Children usually stay for about five weeks. In some instances, families/whānau will stay for part of the time their child is there. Approximately 178 children (generally from six to twelve years old) attend across the country at any one time.

Each village has four teams with team leaders that support the children and their families/whānau.

  • Community social workers are responsible for supporting the children and their families in their community before and after they come to the village. They also undertake most of the assessments and collect information about the children and their circumstances. 
  • Residential social workers support the children while at the village, providing therapeutic programmes and activities and care when the children are not at the education centre. They also provide support when needed during the education programme.
  • Teachers, support teachers and team leaders make up the team working in the education centres. Children attend the education centre for the same time they would normally attend a school. 
  • The support team is responsible for all the administration, meals and accommodation and other necessary support for children.

A new governance and management structure is in place with one board and a Kahu group made up of kaumatua from each village. The governance board is responsible for the services Stand provide with a regional manager in each of the seven villages. An operations manager works with the seven regional managers responsible in each village. An education adviser works across the villages supporting the quality of education. The new structure aims to have teachers and social workers supporting the children together. This is a change from the more separated structure ERO found in 2008.

Evaluation Context

Stand Children’s Service (Stand) has an agreement with the Ministries of Social Development and Education to provide a service integrating the social and educational needs of children that have experienced some type of trauma. They endeavour to provide a planned and consistent therapeutic environment where the care community is intrinsically linked with the education culture. Stand also employs community social workers, many of whom are social workers in schools. Referrals come from a variety of agencies including social workers in schools. 

Stand has a range of other support programmes and activities that children can participate in. Once an assessment of the child and their family’s needs are completed, decisions are made about whether a child should attend a children’s village or access one of the other support programmes.

In each of the villages four teams are in place - an education team, residential social worker team, community social worker team and support staff team.  The education team leader is not a principal (as the Children’s Villages are not registered as a school). They are expected to be transformational leaders that support teachers and make sure the connections between education and the other teams are strong. The Ministries of Social Development and Health undertake checks of hostels and other aspects.

The Ministry of Education and ERO have jointly funded this evaluation to investigate how the service responds to children’s wellbeing and learning. One of the intents of the service is that the child should return to their school in their own community, with improved school readiness and cognitive abilities. 


A team of four ERO reviewers visited the seven villages (two per site) during March and April 2016. The reviews were scheduled to be undertaken when the intake groups were in the middle of their stay in the village. Data was collected onsite through interviews, observations and document analysis.  Interviews included talking with educators, managers, social workers, children and, where possible, whānau/family. System-wide guidance and internal evaluation documents were also reviewed.

The evaluation included a focus on the child’s transition from and back to their own school. Where possible ERO spoke with some of the teachers and leaders from the schools the children had previously returned too. 

The evaluation framework was developed in consultation with the Ministries of Education and Social Development, and Stand Children’s Services.

Evaluative question:

How effectively does Stand Children’s Services respond to the wellbeing and learning of children that have experienced trauma?

ERO focused on pre-enrolment practices, the children’s transition into and from the children’s villages, the programmes in the children’s villages, and Stand Children’s Services’ accountabilities, evaluation, and improvements related to the villages.

See Appendix One for further information about the evaluation framework.

2 The Ministry of Social Development contracted the management of the health camps to Te Puna Whaiora (also known as the New Zealand Foundation for Child and Family Health and Development, and previously as the Health Camps Board).