Secondary-Tertiary Programmes (STPs, also known as ‘Trades Academies’) give students in Years 11 to 13 opportunities to gain skills and knowledge across a range of trades- based and technology training options. Students combine studies towards their NCEA and a nationally transferrable tertiary qualification at Levels 1, 2 or 3.

The Ministry of Education (the Ministry) asked ERO to review 15 of the 24 STPs operating across New Zealand. The Ministry and ERO selected these as representative of the different models of operation and diversity within the models. ERO visited six of the original STPs, seven of those established since 2011 and both STP Pilots set up in 2014 to trial a different funding model.

Youth Guarantee 1 defines the intent of STPs:

The purpose of a secondary-tertiary programme is, in respect of all students, but in particular students at risk of disengaging from education and not making effective transitions:

  • to increase each student’s retention in educationto raise each student’s achievement of the NCEA Level 2 qualifications targeted by the Government’s Better Public Service target; and
  • to improve transitions from secondary to further education and training and work.

STPs operate as groups of schools and tertiary providers working together to deliver educational programmes to students. These programmes should provide more relevant learning options for young people to remain in education and acquire the knowledge and skills local communities need. Lead providers can be schools, institutes of technology and polytechnics, industry training organisations (ITO) or private training establishments (PTE). STPs deliver programmes in a variety of ways. For example, most students experience the STP learning programme in a secondary and a tertiary organisation. Some students may attend a tertiary campus full time while others may be full time in schools. Since some of the programmes involve work experience, students may also spend part of their time in industry settings.

Almost all STPs appoint a director 2 to manage the secondary-tertiary programmes, systems and operations. This director reports to the managers of the lead provider (school or tertiary) and liaises with schools and tertiary partners.

The first eight STPs began in 2011. A further 14 have been established since then, together with an additional two STP Pilot academies. Altogether these STPs provide for more than 4,200 students.

Models of STPs

There are significant differences both across and within STP models. Lead providers have some flexibility, within broad Ministry guidelines, to shape the structure of the STP to meet local needs and circumstances. More details of these variations are described later in this report.

  • Mixed model providers

In these STPs the lead provider is either a school or a tertiary education organisation (TEO). Students from a number of partner schools spend most of their week in their school and one or two days at the tertiary provider. This is the most common model, catering for more than 3,000 students. Funding is via the Flexible Funding model.

  • Single school model providers

These operate with a single school and that school is the lead provider. Students either attend school and the TEO, or remain at school all the time, and the tertiary provider comes to the school to run courses. Funding is via the Flexible Funding model.

  • National providers

These STPs provide courses, including on campus/farm block courses, for students from across the country. In some cases courses are provided at the student’s school.The tertiary providers are ITOs and PTEs. Funding is via the Flexible Funding model.

  • Secondary-Tertiary Partnership Pilots

These STPs operate in the same way as the TEO led, mixed model providers. However, they are funded according to a formula that is very different from the Flexible Funding model.


Table 1: The number of each STP model

STP model

School is the lead provider

Tertiary entity is the lead provider

Number of schools involved in the STP

Approximate number of students (2014)

Mixed model



Between 12 and 37

1,200 (in school-led STPs)

1,960 (in tertiary-led STPs)

Single school model








Between 12 and 36


STP Pilots



Between 4 and 6


Flexible Funding model

In 2013, a new funding model was introduced in response to complications noted in the early STPs. The funding components are outlined in Table 2. Students enrolled in the STPs in this funding model are not counted in Ministry calculations for school staffing and operational grant entitlements. 3 All funding generated by academy students should be used to support the retention, engagement, achievement and effective transitions of these students. However, this was interpreted broadly by the Ministry, allowing expenditure across a wide range of school operational costs. 4


Table 2: STP (Trades Academy) Flexible Funding

Funding component

Value per student


General teaching and learning


Distributed in proportion to the time the student spends with each partner

Trades- funded separately by the Government


Must be used for tertiary related education and training – pro rata funded

Pastoral care and coordination


Paid to the lead provider

Student transport costs

On a case-by-case basis

For those with identifiable high transport needs – paid on application

The Ministry explored ways to rationalise the funding to STPs and initiated the STP Pilots for 2014. Schools in the STP Pilots effectively receive less funding per student than in the other models. The school receives staffing and operational grant entitlements for each academy student, less the proportion of the time the student is involved in the STP. For example, a student in the school for four days a week attracts 0.8 of school grant entitlements for a full time student. The tertiary funding component is funded as a bulk rate to TEOs per equivalent full-time students. This includes funding for tuition, pastoral care and travel. This funding is administered by the Tertiary Education Commission in line with the existing funding model and rates for Youth Guarantee fees-free places. Some of the places available in the STP Pilots used fees-free places that had not been taken up for 2014/15.