Since the inception of secondary-tertiary partnerships (STPs) in 2011, there has been significant progress in establishing a programme that is clearly meeting the needs of a large number of students.
In 2011, students, teachers and tutors talked about students going from school ‘to the Trades Academy’. The term ‘Trades Academy’ became synonymous with going to the tertiary education organisation (TEO). The ‘Trades Academy’ was viewed as a separate add-on to the school curriculum, as shown in Figure 3.
Figure 3: 2011 Trades Academy as an 'add-on'
ERO found that students often had to cope with their ‘Trades Academy’ work in addition to a full timetable of school work. This proved especially difficult for many as the school curriculum continued even when the students were away from class attending their tertiary programme.
The perception and understanding of the value of STPs had shifted over time. Some schools became more aware that only a limited percentage of their students went on to university. They saw how the academies provided suitable pathways for many of the remaining students. As systems for the STP improved and teachers could see the benefits for students, in terms of improved engagement in learning and achievement, they became more supportive of the academies. By 2014, the overriding enthusiasm and commitment of tutors, schools, teachers and students was evident, as were higher levels of cooperation between schools and TEOs.
ERO noted that the STPs were maturing and the expectation was that academy students were shared. This was further reinforced by the Flexible Funding arrangements for most STPs.
When the partnership was effective, the schools and TEO worked together so that STP students experienced a fully integrated curriculum, with some components delivered by the school and some delivered by the TEO, as shown in Figure 4. Students’ learning plans reflected the partnership and their pastoral care needs were the responsibility of both partners. The STP was an entity in its own right. Students now ‘belong’ rather than ‘go’ to the STP.
Figure 4: 2014 Secondary-Tertiary Partnership
ERO noted the following examples of progress since 2011 in partnership formation, collaboration and processes, which all support that move towards the STP identity.
The features outlined in the ‘towards fully effective STPs’ column were observed to varying extents across STPs, Two of the STPs visited 1 had these features substantively in place, Other STPs have their strengths and areas for further development.
From ‘Trades Academies’
Towards fully effective STPs
The lead provider or TEO made most decisions.
A collaborative group of all partners made decisions.
TEOs offer a list of courses for schools to select from.A single tertiary provider was involved in the STP.
Collaborative, student-centred decisions meant that courses offered responded to the needs identified.
STPs worked in isolation from their communities.
Links with the community, in terms of identifying needs and opportunities, played an important part in the development of the STP curriculum.
Most students were expected to engage in a full course at school while also involved in the STP.
The STP was recognized as a valuable part of students’ planned learning pathways.
Students ‘missed’ school work when they are away from school.TEO’s course was a standalone addition to the student’s course at school.
School timetables and school and TEO curriculums were adapted to ensure students’ participation in the STP fitted with their learning in other subjects.
Schools made disciplinary decisions without considering the TEO, and vice versa.
Decisions about ‘our’ students were shared.
Funding model was inflexible and clearly disadvantaged some schools while being generous to others.
Funding recognised the complexity of the models and the unique contexts for some school and lead providers.
Separate and different reporting requirements to the Ministry and TEC.
Common formats used for reports and general aspects of memorandum of understanding (MoU). Data reported was useful and used. (At the time of review, reporting still responded to two sets of legislation for roll returns).
In this evaluation, ERO’s judgements were focused on how well the STPs served students. The findings highlight student success, then discuss the selection processes in place and students’ experiences in STPs including the pastoral care provision.
ERO found the most significant outcomes were students gaining qualifications and the development of capabilities and competencies that prepared them for the future and helped them to make smooth transitions to further education, training or work.
The Ministry of Education’s 2013 data shows the STPs were meeting their intended purpose (see Appendix 2). ERO found that programmes resulted in overwhelmingly positive outcomes for students.
Just what they need to get over the hurdle of Level 2 for many of them.
Some students said they could not see the point of some of the school curriculum before they were in the STP.
ERO noted that belonging to the STP influenced positive changes in:
Because tutors related theory to practice, balancing hands-on practical work with theory, students appreciated the place of theory in their learning. They were given the autonomy and time to focus on their projects and learnt by working through challenges they might encounter. Students gained belief in themselves as learners, got to know when they needed to ask for help and developed a real sense of pride in their work. This is consistent with best practice evidence which clearly shows that responsive curriculum engages students and allows them to develop as confident learners.
It was mostly the TEO-based curriculum that contributed to the changes in attitude. However, the improved attitude of many students carried over to school as indicated by improved attendance, motivation and achievement.
This is the first positive for some of them in their learning.
Students learnt from their mistakes, demonstrated resilience and recognised that they were developing skills and competencies that prepared them for the future. Tutors treated students as young adults and held them to workplace expectations. Students worked in mixed-age settings, often developing tuakana-teina 2 relationships. All of these factors helped them establish a mature work ethic.
A saving for lots of students who would have dropped out.
(We) seed something in students’ minds, often turns them around.
Many students reported that they could now see a clear pathway and future for themselves. They chose to stay at school, now seeing a point in it, and gained qualifications:
The longer periods allow us to take responsibility for ourselves
...someone who can talk to you about what work is like and guide you
...can make more decisions, take risks, free to fail
They treat us like adults - they trust us
Once we put on the overalls we are men
Time is more precious
Most students were confident, articulate young adults with qualifications (NCEA Level 2 and National Certificates), work skills, clear learning pathways and, above all, belief in themselves as learners. Those who chose to pursue tertiary education made smooth transitions as they were already familiar with that environment.
Trades Academy students are more motivated than the same age, pre-trade students who have already left school.
TEO Head of faculty
Most of the STP students achieved NCEA Level 2 or became more engaged and motivated as learners (see Appendix 2). In 2013, just under half of all students attained NCEA Level 2 in their first year of the STP programme and over 80 percent achieved it if they completed the full programme (which for some was a two-year programme). Some students did not complete their time in the STP - these students left to take up employment, an apprenticeship or full time tertiary study, or decided it did not suit them and returned to school. A few left school altogether without going straight to employment.
Maori and Pacific students who were either still involved in the STP programme or had just completed it had a higher achievement rate than students who identified as Pakeha. Many factors may have influenced these outcomes, including aspects of the selection process and whether the schools had developed learning pathways specifically suited to engage and extend Maori and Pacific students.
Many of the students’ comments reflected an emphasis on their working with a purpose, other than just gaining NCEA credits. The opportunity to get a head start on their career pathway, at no cost to them, was also an important consideration for many students.
You know, I’m really good at something after all
Carpentry made me realise that I needed to concentrate more on maths at school
Realise that we need school qualifications so that we can get on an apprentice course
We can get Level 3 (industry) qualifications without having to pay for them
Referring back to Figure 2, page 8 to summarise:
Processes for and decisions about student selection varied considerably across and within the STPs. This variability meant that students selected in one school might not have had access to the STP if they had attended one of the other partner schools. The variability also meant that ERO could not determine how many of the students selected were at risk of disengaging from education or not making effective transitions. Most STP students indicated that they were now more engaged in education, many also that they would have left school without the STP. A few, however, viewed their work in the STP as developing skills that could support them through university.
Sometimes schools were limited in the numbers who could attend the STP by the size of the school van available to transport the group.
While it is important for schools to be able to select according to their specific contexts and needs, this must be achieved without denying students the opportunity to access whatever is the most appropriate learning pathway for them. STPs should determine agreed criteria for selection, while still maintaining the flexibility to enrol students on a case-by-case basis.
Most STPs had no specific guidelines for schools, or agreed selection criteria and left the selection entirely to the schools. The selection criteria varied enormously across all of them (irrespective of which model) and within those STPs with multiple partner schools. Students accepted were mostly Year 12. Where the STP offered a two-year programme, student numbers from Year 13 were similar to Year 12.
One STP director identified the students they enrolled.
We enrol three types of students:
- the intelligent, focused ones
- the intelligent, bored ones and
- the bored ones who think they are not intelligent.
Director of TEO led STP
Schools selected primarily on interest, commitment (especially when the programme was two years) and who they thought would benefit the most, although this was rarely clearly defined. Those who would most benefit ranged from students clearly at risk of not gaining NCEA Level 2 (some had not yet gained NCEA Level 1) to students fully intending to study engineering at university and who ‘would benefit’ from the practical experience.
As well as attributes, selection criteria included qualifications and school-based judgements. The following table outlines the criteria and the attributes that were most commonly sought. However, ERO found that all STPs tended to be flexible in practice.
Very few TEOs turned students away who had been approved by the school, even if the quota for STP-funded students was filled. Schools and TEOs found ways to support these students either through fees-free places that had not been filled (as in the STP Pilots) or, more commonly, through Secondary Tertiary Alignment Resource (STAR) funding. 3
There were only a few instances where STPs were unable to cater for all students who applied. One STP had a waiting list.
STPs were well promoted in the partner schools and sometimes through advertising by the TEOs. Students found out about the STP from a variety of sources, including school staff, students currently participating in the programme and their school’s course choice booklet.
Students identified their reasons for enrolling in STPs as being advised to (including by parents) because it related directly to a career students were interested in pursuing, wanting some more hands-on experiences, their friends recommended it, or thinking it would be a good way to get out of school. Not one student who spoke with ERO, or who responded by survey, said they regretted entering the STP.
Just came here for a day off school, realise it is opening doors now and it’s worth it
Careers teacher has opened up choices for us
...because I wanted to discover what it was like and if I wanted it as a career option
I heard it was good
Several schools in the STPs refined their selection criteria yearly as they became more familiar with the STP and which students could most benefit. Interviews helped students make pathway choices leading into Year 12. These school-based decisions often involved the careers adviser, form teacher, dean or mentor, and a technology teacher.
Improved capacity and use of student management systems 4 (SMS) over recent years enabled staff to better monitor students’ progress in Years 9 and 10. This data formed the basis of identifying students at risk of disengaging from education. A high proportion of the schools also made use of Vocational Pathways 5 to help identify students’ learning pathways. Many schools had started the learning pathway process with Year 10 students which helped to identify possible STP candidates.
Several STPs recognised that Year 10 was a critical year for many students, as this is often when they start to disengage from learning.
To help students look to the future:
One school had provision for Year 10 Maori students to participate in a carving course and for disaffected Year 11 students to be involved in ‘Build a Bach’ projects - both led to the STP in Year 12.
Another school was one of several that had planned placements with local businesses for Year 10 students to help them develop career goals. Others used Gateway 6 placements in Year 11 as a ‘taster’ for possible pathways.
Parental involvement in the selection processes was a key contributing factor in success for many students.
STPs in South Auckland had worked hard to engage parents and whānau to help them understand what the STP was about and the opportunities it offered students. This was particularly important if the concept of an STP was new to parents and whānau, if parents and whānau had not experienced tertiary education themselves, were not in employment or had quite different aspirations for their children. Once reassured, most parents and whānau were happy to have their students involved in the STPs.
Pathway to employment is what is really getting whānau buy-in.
School liaison teacher
The learning pathways constructed with parent and whānau involvement had the most impact on student success. This is in keeping with ERO’s findings 7 about the positive impact of involving parents and whānau in academic counselling. ERO recommended that academic counselling should start early in secondary schooling, and this is especially important for early identification of students at risk of disengaging from education. Students enrolled in STPs at the last minute had less well-considered pathways and tended to be less successful than others.
All the applicants for STPs were interviewed, whether at school as a part of their regular academic counselling, at a careers or deans meeting, or by the STP coordinator at the school or staff at the TEO. Many TEO personnel commented that the formal interview helped to sharpen the focus and commitment of the students to the programme and especially so if parents and whānau attended.
Targeting students at risk of disengaging
Students at risk of poor educational outcomes
STPs generally targeted students who were at risk of disengaging from education if their only choice was school and the school curriculum was not sufficiently developed to meet their needs.
These students were often Māori and Pacific learners and in particular, Māori boys. In the partner schools associated with one STP, for example, 45 percent of students on their rolls identified as Māori. In the STP itself 65 percent of students enrolled identified as Maori.
These proportions are consistent with ERO’s findings across all of the STPs. Nationally, students who identify as Māori make up 19 percent of students in Years 11-15. Students who identify as Pacific make up nine percent. In STPs almost 40 percent of students identify as Māori and 11 percent as Pacific.
These are groups of students who have been identified as historically not experiencing success in the New Zealand schooling system.
... never used to come to school
Trades work is keeping me at school
Smaller group, more personal, tutors are really good
If you’re passionate about your work you learn quicker excited about learning
More confident - definitely
Opportunities in school
In 2013, ERO noted 8 that very few schools were developing courses specifically targeted to increase the numbers of Māori and Pacific students gaining University Entrance. Such courses would take into account the teaching and learning best suited to the cultures and needs of these students. ERO’s concern was that there is a risk that the processes used to select courses for Māori and Pacific students may, in some instances, limit their choices and their sense of worth as learners.
Many Māori and Pacific students were clearly succeeding in the vocational courses offered in the STPs. To make sure that these are the best choices for students, STPs should explore the underlying reasons behind the higher proportion of Māori and Pacific students who participate in STPs compared with overall school populations.
Student selection summarised:
The curriculum for the STPs is an area that needs considerable further development. Generally, STP partners did not work closely together to identify the overall curriculum experienced by each student.
ERO found examples of close collaboration where the curriculum offered by each partner complemented the other, but these were the exception. Each aspect of the students’ experience in the STP is addressed individually below.
Individual learning plans (ILPs) varied considerably in relation to timeliness, quality and usefulness. Overall the construction of meaningful ILPs is an area for further consideration. In the absence of clear guidelines, the value and purpose of ILPs designed specifically for STPs are not clear. Many ILPs that were developed simply to meet legislative requirements were of little use.
Some TEO lead providers gathered useful information during their enrolment interviews. This covered any learning difficulties students had and support they may require.
This information was then passed onto the TEO’s support network who took the necessary actions. Many schools already had robust systems to help students develop learning pathways, although goal setting was often completed part way through Term 1, well past the 31 March deadline for completion of ILPs.9
Current school and TEO processes should be aligned to reflect best practice, to establish valid learning pathways, personal goals, and record achievement (both academic and competencies) and any support the student may require. These should come together in one place, forming the ILP (or Learning Pathway) and then be shared with relevant STP partners. This would sensibly occur before students started the programme. Best practice shows that parents should be involved in the process.
Confidence in the STPs was a consistently positive feature for students. While many spoke of the two different worlds of secondary and tertiary education, they were comfortable with and appreciated the differences.
Most TEOs had an enrolment interview and an induction programme to orient the students to the tertiary environment. Some TEOs also ran tertiary-specific study skills and personal development programmes which helped new students to settle in and meet the expectations of tertiary study.
ERO found most TEOs selected tutors suited to work with young adults and many provided professional training to help them learn to work with academy students.
The relationships that students developed with their tutors helped to motivate them in their learning.
You can bond with tutors more than teachers because you are together all day
Gave me more independence in decision-making
Increased self understanding and self management
Parents see that we are more grown up
More confident, definitely
ERO found that the curriculums of the schools and the TEOs rarely informed or complemented each other. The courses were not integrated and tended to stand alone; with each programme taught completely on one partner site or the other. Students most often made the connections for themselves between the learning in each place.
Where some integration was evident, courses were developed together by partners. Sometimes this resulted in partners sharing delivery of the STP curriculum.
One STP had run a National Certificate course which included a First Aid component. As a result of some changes in the time available for the course, they were no longer able to meet all the course requirements in the TEO. They talked to partner schools and agreed that the schools would deliver the First Aid course. This meant that students were instructed for the requisite hours and could still gain their National Certificate in the one year they attended the STP.
An exceptional example of cooperation was seen in one STP where staff developed a curriculum that enabled students to work on the STP programme in their school. Students also had good work experience placements through other programmes, such as Gateway, which complemented their study.
One hospitality tutor had worked closely with the teacher at their partner school. Together they developed a course that could be delivered in the school environment and within the school’s timetable constraints. The hospitality tutor helped to source high quality equipment for the high school through TEO suppliers. The school was accredited to deliver the hospitality course and the TEO assessed it. By effectively raising the capacity of the local school, the hospitality tutor was also able to maximise the use of the TEO facilities for students from other schools. The teacher and tutor reported that, although students did not spend a great deal of time onsite at the TEO, students still made smooth transitions to tertiary study from the school- based arrangement.
Examples of collaboration were apparent when:
ERO found some examples of work completed in the tertiary part of the STP that was shared with schools to benefit students.
Understanding learning in STPs
In one STP, kaumatua 10 teach students in a Māori performing arts programme.
The tutor shared this work with the wider staff in the school who were able to identify links to assessment opportunities in both English and history
An STP coordinator gave ERO an example of powerful learning when it has a clear purpose. An agriculture student calculated the cost of seed needed to sow a particular paddock.
When his maths teacher saw the calculations he was initially surprised and then impressed at the boy’s ability. The student’s sense of worth and confidence as a learner increased as a result.
These examples were not the norm. More deliberate sharing of students’ work between the partners could lead to increased benefits for students and more integration.
Students who experienced complementary curriculums found it easier to make progress as they could see the relevance of their learning. Schools need to explore more ways to engage and motivate students. For instance, they could consider the duration of lessons, the relevance and delivery of the curriculum, practical learning opportunities, and assessment as an integral part of the learning. Some schools had already made changes along these lines and in keeping with best practice.
...a lot easier to get credits here because they are a part of whole course
Credits that are easy because you enjoy them
The curriculum offered in STPs was essentially defined by the courses offered by TEOs. This took into account the requests from their partner schools and the needs and opportunities in their communities. However, many TEOs could not respond quickly to requests for new courses, often because course approval had to go through the TEO academic council. Several TEOs are exploring ways to speed up this process.
Forward planning for courses was further complicated because of the New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA)’s Targeted Review of Qualifications (TROQ).
Any changes in National Certification will have implications for the secondary and tertiary programmes. The timing of changes is critical, as students usually make learning pathway decisions late in Term 3 of the school year.
Programme structures varied considerably across the STPs. STP directors and principals spoke of a growing need for more STP opportunities and most were exploring ways to meet that need.
There was an increasing demand in terms of continuity of courses, NCEA Level 3 qualifications and semester courses. A few schools wanted to see more possibilities for Year 11 students. The differences in the course opportunities offered were generally in response to local contexts or decisions made by the TEO.
Some teachers and tutors visited each others’ classrooms/workshops to gain a better understanding of the learning that takes place in the secondary and tertiary setting.
This led to increased confidence in each other’s professionalism and opportunities for collaboration. 13 For example, some students were unmotivated to attempt credits at school as they had gained sufficient for NCEA Level 2 at the TEO. Teachers and tutors negotiated a balance of credits being offered so that students remained motivated in both settings. However, schools need to explore ways to engage students in learning regardless of whether or not there are credits on offer.
Whole day on one topic, feels like we are going somewhere
I get to learn in a fun way like how I want
Poly helps us understand the theory
Get a taste of what work is really like
Real life opportunities for later
Classmates help a lot
Students’ wellbeing is also promoted when the curriculum is both integrated and relevant to students. ERO noted 14 the importance to wellbeing when curriculum opportunities provide a range of options that build on students’ strengths, interests and aspirations, enabling them to experience success and develop the skills necessary to become “confident, connected, actively involved and lifelong learners”. 15
ERO found an important difference in the approach to curriculum and assessment between many schools and the TEOs. TEOs tended to view the curriculum as the learning required for a vocational pathway. Students could see a clear purpose for the learning and where it led to. Assessment happened incidentally on the way. The final direction for the learning was often a qualification - National Certification in a trade.
Schools tended more towards focusing on gaining credits. The curriculum was often divided up into the Assessment Standard chunks, rather than taking the bigger overview of student learning intended by The New Zealand Curriculum or NCEA.
Students appreciated when their assessment was an integral part of their learning rather than when the learning was targeted to an assessment.
More work on developing learning pathways for students should provide a more cohesive sense of direction for their curriculum, in school and in the TEO.
The STPs should explore the merits of providing a range of opportunities for students. Those who were at risk of disengaging from education in the first place were often unenthusiastic about returning to full-time schooling after just one year of STP.
However, sometimes those same students were not fully prepared to move onto further training or employment.
Partners in most STPs have worked together so that their systems better enabled students to move between the secondary and tertiary environments and avoided negative impacts on learning in either place. Most students thrived in each environment, taking pride in belonging to the STP while still being members of the school community.
They experience the outside world but maintain the security of school.
TEO learning support worker
Some schools changed their systems to accommodate an STP line in the timetable.
This enabled students to work on written components of their STP programme and ensured that participating in the STP did not impact on other course work.
Most teachers understood and helped STP students, which is a considerable improvement in attitude since 2011. ERO found that although most schools still had students’ other courses timetabled on the day that these students were away from school, teachers generally did not introduce new material or run assessments on that day.
Used to be a lot of resistance but benefits of Gateway and the Trades Academy have become evident.
Overall I think the Trades Academy is wonderful - seen too many successes for me not to be happy. It’s about the kids.
School subject teacher
While the overwhelming response from students was that the STP experience was positive, there were some negative comments. Some were unavoidable, such as those related to long days for some students who had to travel considerable distances to their courses. There was occasional dissatisfaction about a tutor's delivery and ERO found a few challenges relating to the timing of course work for students, especially if this broke into their weekend. This could create pressure on parents and whānau and had the potential to curtail students' connection to school through their involvement in sport. However, overall responses were very positive and any inconvenience was generally outweighed by the advantages.
Summarising the students' experiences of the STP curriculum:
Students benefitted from pastoral care provisions in the STPs. Most STPs received pastoral care and coordination (PCC) funding. 16 STPs spent this in different ways but there were clear commonalities across the models.
They used the fund to cover:
Two STPs had a clear breakdown of how the PCC fund was spent, providing transparency to the partner schools and tertiary organisations involved. Most schools reported they were happy with the allocations received.
ERO found that the PCC formula per student resulted in an apparent inequitable provision of the resource, with the larger school-led STPs generally being better funded than their smaller counterparts. While the larger STPs were certainly more complex they experienced economies of scale, particularly for administration costs. Since this evaluation, a review of the formula has been undertaken.
ERO found that pastoral care was a strength of the TEO-led STPs. Two of these used the PCC fee to pay the salaries of support staff based at the TEO. Each support person had responsibility for a group of students and was the first point of contact for students, schools and parents. Any concerns the TEO had were first raised with the school, and then with parents if appropriate. Support staff had regular, timetabled meetings with their students. Their role was to oversee the wellbeing of each of their students, to provide mentoring and guidance, to review students’ progress and arrange any additional support that was needed. Their support work varied, including helping some students with mental health issues, such as self-harming, and coping with serious family issues.
In one of these STPs, support staff also delivered the TEO’s personal development programme which included:
In the other STP, the support person followed up on students’ destinations, providing ongoing support during 90-day employment trial periods and worked to ensure that promised apprenticeships were properly signed off.
Schools and TEO staff were all very positive about the effectiveness of the support staff, and students found them encouraging and helpful.
The [support person] followed us closely and offered help or would find someone who would help with any problem that we had.
Participating schools were comfortable with this use of the PCC resource, based on positive feedback from students about the level of care and support they received. They saw the support staff as significant adults with a strong ethos of care and a sound influence over students.
Students in STPs based in tertiary organisations had full access to their facilities, including the health services, library, gymnasium and pastoral care.
The national academy lead provider used its PCC funds in very much the same way as the TEO-led academies. The academy employed field officers who, as well as interviewing students, were responsible for liaising with providers and schools.
These field officers had an important mentoring role. They got to know the students, were responsible for work placements and, for students moving on from the STP and school, helped them find employment.