ERO evaluated the quality of education at the Child Youth and Family (CYF) residential schools. CYF residential schools provide education for young people in Youth Justice and Care and Protection services. There are four Youth Justice residences, four Care and Protection residences, and one residential treatment facility across the country.

Students in CYF residential schools are among the most vulnerable in New Zealand, and present with multiple high and complex needs. The specialised knowledge, skills and practice of teachers and leaders in residential schools needs to be of a very high standard to support student engagement and achievement.

This evaluation follows two previous ERO reports, published in 2010 and 20131. In this evaluation, four schools were found to be effective, and the remaining five needed to make moderate to significant improvements. This represents an improvement compared with the findings of the 2013 report, although significant areas for development remain.

ERO found respectful relationships between staff and students were a feature of all of the schools. Teachers created calm environments and de-escalated challenging behaviours in a non-confrontational way.

A key strength in the effective schools was that curriculum planning and teaching were both highly specific and catered to students’ individual strengths, needs and interests. Favourable staffing ratios and a high calibre of teaching staff made this individualised attention possible. Another key strength of the effective schools was cultural responsiveness. Māori students are greatly over-represented in CYF residential schools, relative to the general population. Successfully engaging these students in learning required a high degree of cultural competence along with the individualised teaching approaches.

In the schools needing to make moderate improvements, ERO found many good aspects of practice, but one or two areas for development. These schools could become more effective by improving individual and cultural responsiveness in their curriculum and pedagogy, or by extending effective teaching practice across all staff.

Schools needing to make significant improvements had multiple areas for development. Relationships between educational and residential staff were of concern, and teachers required support to implement more engaging pedagogical approaches.

As noted in previous ERO evaluations, exit transitions remain a weakness. Some of the schools had good formal and informal processes that mitigated some of these systemic weaknesses for transitioning students, particularly when students were 

transitioning to a living situation geographically near the school. However, many teachers and leaders expressed frustration they weren’t able to have more influence on student placement, or consistently provide follow-up monitoring or support. Longer term monitoring of the outcomes of student transitions by the Ministry of Education is also needed. The benefits gained by students attending CYF residential schools provide an opportunity for improved longer-term outcomes if agencies can work together effectively to support transitions into the wider community.

Next steps

ERO recommends:

  • the staff of the CYF residential schools:
    • use the findings of their institutional reports, this report and their own internal evaluation to identify priorities for improving the quality of education they provide
    • explore more systematic ways of assessing students’ progress in relation to the key competencies2
    • the Ministry of Education investigates ways to:
      • enable greater sharing of effective practice between the different CYF residential schools
      • develop feedback processes about student progress after transition out of CYF residential schools
      • provide access to ENROL and NZQA data for all CYF residential school staff
      • the Ministry of Education work with Child Youth and Family to review the transition process, particularly exit transitions, to investigate how they can work together to support better transition outcomes for students.3

1 Education Review Office, (2013). Child Youth and Family Residential Schools. Retrieved from http://www.ero.govt.nz; Education Review Office, (2010). Child Youth and Family Residential Schools. Retrieved from http://www.ero.govt.nz

2 This could include exploring the use of CYF’s Tuituia framework alongside the key competencies of The New Zealand Curriculum. Available at: http://www.practicecentre.cyf.govt.nz/documents/policy/assessment-and-decision-making/tuituia-assessment-framework.pdf

3 Child, Youth and Family will be replaced by the Ministry for Vulnerable Children, Oranga Tamariki, which comes into effect on 1 April 2017. See https://www.msd.govt.nz/about-msd-and-our-work/work-programmes/investing-in-children/index.html