Discussion and implications

Teen Parent Units provide education and support for some of New Zealand’s most vulnerable students. ERO found that overall improvements across the 24 TPUs supported students who previously struggled in mainstream education, and following the birth of their children, would have been unlikely to return to normal secondary schooling.

The highly effective TPUs focused on supporting students and their children to gain better health, social and wellbeing outcomes. Teaching and learning programmes were specific to the strengths, interests and career pathways identified by the students. Leaders and teachers considered all aspects of the students’ learning priorities and provided for these with an approach that was well monitored, cohesive and strategic. Partnerships with support agencies extended the available learning options and supported the students’ health and wellbeing. Where ERO saw these conditions working well, there were better outcomes for the TPU students and their children.

However, a number of systemic issues remain.

Inconsistencies in the collation of data and information about attendance, engagement achievement and destination remain areas of improvement for all TPUs. In some instances, ERO found a paucity of data about such information from both the TPUs and the Ministry.

Leaders and teachers in both the host schools and TPUs need to work with a strengths‑based approach, and have a shared understanding about the philosophical value, function and place of teen parent education. Teachers need to deliver a curriculum that is engaging and uses a variety of teaching approaches, builds on the students’ interests, strengths and aspirations, and supports them to succeed as both students and young parents.

TPU students identified positive interactions and relationships as levers of change for them. Some host schools need to build better relationships with TPUs, support TPU teachers’ professional learning, provide TPU students with access to learning programmes at host schools, and allocate appropriate resources to support students and their children to achieve positive outcomes. 

TPUs need to support the individual learning priorities of students, engage them in education and guide them on the path to success. These students’ priorities are often complex, and they require expert support to develop personally and socially as well as academically, and to establish meaningful future pathways. The Ministry is currently exploring support programmes for young parents in mainstream schools.   

These highlighted issues are not specific to one or two TPUs; most are systemic challenges that require a systems‑based response. Provision of high quality education for these vulnerable students requires a strong vision, commitment and shared responsibility by the leaders and teachers of both host schools and TPUs, policy makers and external partners.