Reviewing Child, Youth and Family (CYF) schools

CYF residential facilities cater for some of the most vulnerable young people in New Zealand. Adolescents are placed in these residentices because of their serious criminal or welfare issues. Students in these services can be dealing with complex social problems, including a history of drug and alcohol abuse or as victims and/or perpetrators of physical, emotional and sexual violence.

The educational services at these residences form an important part of the rehabilitation and support for these young people. They offer students an opportunity to develop literacy, numeracy and the wider educational and social skills for a more positive future. It is important that the education services provided are of the highest possible standard. ERO’s reviews of these services highlight aspects that are working well and offer specific feedback on what each service needs to improve. This national report brings together the findings of these individual CYF residential reviews to give an overview of good practice, specific areas for development and suggestions for the future.

Seven CYF residential schools are discussed in this project.

Kingslea School[2]

Christchurch and Dunedin

Te Poutama Ārahi Rangatahi


Epuni Severe Conduct Disorder Unit (SCDU)

Lower Hutt

Epuni Care and Protection Unit

Lower Hutt

Central Regional Health School: Lower North Youth Justice

Palmerston North

Korowai Manaaki Youth Justice North


Whakatakapokai Care and Protection Unit


These schools include ‘Youth Justice’ and ‘Care and Protection’ services along with the Epuni SCDU.[3] Youth justice facilities are for those young people who have been placed in a CYF residence because of their criminal offending. Care and protection services include young people whose safety has been at risk in their previous living arrangements. These two very different pathways to a CYF facility underline the diverse nature of the young people in residence.

Educating vulnerable students

The life experience and backgrounds of the children and young people at the CYF residences can mean that they have a history of limited success at school. They are likely to have been in conflict with teachers and principals in the past and may see school as a place that is unsupportive and a waste of their time.

The 2001 Ministry of Education literature review on Alternative Education[4] (which included residential schools) provides an overview of the teaching that can support students in CYF residences. The literature listed several conditions and actions that could improve students’ attendance, engagement and behaviour. These were:

  • a warm, nurturing and safe atmosphere;
  • staff intuition in responding to student needs;
  • warm reciprocal relationships between staff and student;
  • small classes with individual programmes and support;
  • educational activities to take place in authentic settings, such as, shopping malls; real work situations;
  • peer induction and support;
  • close relationships with adult educators as role models;
  • recognition that previous structures have not worked for students; and
  • non-authoritarian structures where the power is shared between the student and teacher.

The importance of employing high quality teachers for alternative education is emphasised in this literature review. In particular, attention is drawn to teachers’ skills in developing literacy, numeracy and life skills as well as their ability to manage students’ transition, into and out of their alternative educational.

The Ministry’s literature review on Alternative Education cites the following as important for developing effective transition processes for students:

  • multi-disciplinary support for students;
  • transition and exit plans that set goals based upon informed decisions;
  • collaboration between mainstream and alternative settings;
  • co-ordinated linkages between school, family and social service agencies; and
  • post-programme support that is ongoing until the student is well established in further training or the workforce.

These points influenced the indicators ERO used as the basis for the review of each residential school. These indicators are found in Appendix 1 of this report.