Overall the quality of education in CYF residential schools has improved since ERO’s 2013 evaluation. One school was more effective since being managed by a new provider, and another school had, as of recently, benefited from much improved relationships between residential and education staff after a period of significant disruption.
In the most effective schools, teachers catered well to the individual strengths, needs and interests of students, provided a culturally responsive and engaging curriculum and pedagogy, and regularly and robustly evaluated their own practice to inform ongoing improvements.
However, five of the nine schools needed to make moderate to significant improvements in order to provide the best possible education for these at-risk young people. Teachers and leaders could benefit from considering and observing effective practice in other CYF residential schools, and, in some cases, having greater exposure to teaching approaches used in mainstream education. Strengthening internal evaluation should also help schools to focus their activities on what is working well, and address areas of poor performance.
Exit transitions remain a systemic weakness that should be an improvement priority for the Ministry of Education and CYF. While some of the schools have supported transitioning students well, this is to some extent reliant on the personal and professional networks of the principals. For some students, outcomes were better when the education staff worked outside of their specified roles in the transition process.
ERO recommends the Ministry of Education take a more active role in monitoring and feeding back the outcomes of student transitions, and the Ministry of Education and CYF review the roles and responsibilities of education, residential and other CYF staff during transition.