National report summary

Teenagers explore relationships with others to determine who they fit in with. They want to successfully navigate the risks that come with increased freedom and independence to determine which risks they are comfortable with, which cause harm and which lead to greater opportunities. They want their friends, family, teachers and other important adults to value and accept them, care for them and be trustworthy. They do this with much humour, creativity and panache.

Most teenagers in New Zealand thrive during these years – but 20 percent exhibit behaviours or emotions or have experiences that put their wellbeing at risk.

ERO evaluated how well secondary schools promote and respond to student wellbeing. By understanding and improving this, it is hoped that all young people will experience a higher level of wellbeing during their teenage years.

What are effective schools doing?

Leaders at the most effective schools understood that students needed opportunities to:

  • develop relationships with peers and adults that were based on mutual respect
  • learn and take risks in a safe environment
  • develop goals and experience success
  • develop leadership skills and a sense of their own ability

be “confident, connected, actively involved, and lifelong learners".

Students in these schools were seen as inherently capable and expected to contribute to, and be accountable for, the experiences of others. Students said they felt supported by teachers and that they valued being treated as resourceful young adults.

These schools had cohesive systems to ensure school values, curriculum and responses to wellbeing issues were designed in consultation with the school community. These systems were adequately resourced to be a key part of day-to-day practice and were regularly reviewed to monitor their effectiveness.

What are the issues?

In many secondary schools the only people who understood the school curriculum and competing demands on them, were the students.

Assessment overload

Students in all schools were experiencing a very assessment driven curriculum and assessment anxiety. Achieving academic success is a part of wellbeing but is not the only factor. Very few schools were responding to this overload by reviewing and changing their curriculum and assessment practices.

Opportunities to explore wellbeing issues

For most students, the health curriculum is only up to Year 10 and is no more than two hours a week. Because of the subject choices older students make many do not have opportunities to explore wellbeing themes outlined in The New Zealand Curriculum.

What can secondary schools do?

Develop a definition for student wellbeing

Schools, with their school community, could use the Wellbeing for Success: Draft Evaluation Indicators for Student Wellbeing (draft) 2013 to develop a wellbeing definition that works for them.

Develop a framework for promoting and responding to student wellbeing

The ‘promoting and responding triangle’(discussed in the draft indicators), that describes the provision of support for all students (see Figure 1) was used as the framework to evaluate the secondary schools for this report. Schools may find it a useful framework to explore in their context.

This image is series of three parts the first is a reverse pyrimad from the top down it reads promoting wellbeing, responding to issues and responding to a crisis. The second part is three boxes which read school values curriculum, having systems to notice and respond to issues and having systems to notice and respond to individual high risk issues. The third is three boxes which read, All adults provide guidlines for students to make good choices, classroom teachers, form teachers/deans and co-curricular teachers.  All adults to provide support for students that has been developed through the care system, classroom teachers, form teachers/deans and co-curricular teachers. The last box reads highly skilled adults who often need to work with outside agencies to provide support for students, Guidance counsellor and school health practitioners.

Review, implement and monitor

Secondary students would benefit from their school leaders and teachers:

  • involving students in reviewing and making decisions about the quality of their school experiences
  • reviewing their curriculum using The New Zealand Curriculum, in particular the key competencies and the health and physical education learning area, and senior secondary guidelines
  • reviewing their NCEA assessment programme
  • connecting learning areas with sport, culture and leadership opportunities
  • deliberately mapping and reviewing the opportunities for students to explore wellbeing issues, and develop and use key competencies and leadership skills
  • engaging parents, family and whānau in decisions that affect the wellbeing of their young people
  • finding solutions within the school community
  • reviewing the effectiveness of actions by looking for patterns and trends.

The draft indicators are found on