Hutt Valley Activity Centre - 08/02/2013

1 Background


Hutt Valley Activity Centre is one of 14 activity centres in New Zealand that provide alternative schooling for students in Years 9 to 11.  Students are referred by their enrolling schools to activity centres because they are likely to benefit from a specialist programme that will meet their social and educational needs. 

Once accepted at an activity centre, students remain on the roll of the enrolling school, and attend the centre for periods that vary in length depending on students’ readiness for a successful return to schooling.

The programme of learning for students at an activity centre should improve:

  • the attendance of students
  • students’ academic achievement
  • students’ personal and social skills, through a programme that is based on the core competencies of The New Zealand Curriculum or the graduate profile in Te Marautanga o Aotearoa.

A key component of the programme is the successful and planned transition back into enrolling school or on to further education for activity centre students. 

The host school’s Board of Trustees is responsible for the governance of this activity centre.

Terms of Reference

This review is based on an evaluation of the performance of Hutt Valley Activity Centre in relation to the terms of reference for this review.  The terms of reference are:

  • educational and social outcomes for students, including the extent to which students’ learning has been accelerated
  • the use of information to plan and implement individual programmes for, and with, students, and to monitor their progress
  • management and governance practices including planning, self review and professional capacity-building
  • support for students to achieve improved outcomes
  • students’ experience of interagency support for them and their families
  • transitions in and out of the activity centre. 

2 Context

The Hutt Valley Activity Centre provides education for up to twenty students in Years 9 to 11 who need personalised support to re-engage them in learning.

Students remain on the rolls of schools that refer them to the centre. They receive academic, social and personal mentoring until they, their parents and teachers judge that they are ready to return to mainstream schooling or move on to further education and training. Ten of the current 17 students identify as Māori and three as Pacific.

The centre operates as an attached unit of Taita College which, as current host school, has overall responsibility for governance. The centre director works closely with the principal of the host school and the guidance counsellors of contributing schools. The environment is attractive and well maintained, with appropriate resources for teaching and learning.

Two out of the three ERO reports since 2006 have been supplementary reviews, indicating a background of poor quality governance and management and unsatisfactory outcomes for students. ERO’s November 2011 review found that governance, management, education programmes and self review required substantial improvement. During 2012, an action plan was developed to address the issues identified. Progress has been made, but significant work is still needed to embed the changes and further promote student learning.

3 Findings

Centre staff manage the transition of students into the centre well. Clearly documented procedures guide referral processes and subsequent planning and decision-making. Before students arrive from contributing schools, the centre is well informed about their achievement, attendance, and individual needs. This information is used to develop learning programmes for each student.

Individual Education Plans (IEPs) provide a sound basis for setting goals, monitoring progress and facilitating smooth transitions. They are regularly reviewed through a collaborative process that involves students, teachers, parents, whānau and other key people. The next step for continued development of the IEPs is to specify actions that each of these people will undertake to help the student achieve the targets.

Students who spoke with ERO said that they enjoy coming to the centre and feel well supported by staff and other adults. The environment is secure and responsive to their needs. A reward system gives them an incentive for meeting expectations and goals. Successes and achievements are celebrated in a variety of ways.

Teachers take part in host school professional learning and development to build their familiarity with a nationally normed tool for assessing literacy and mathematics learning. They use this information to identify gaps in students’ capabilities and goals are set to address these. Students know what they need to focus on to improve. Behaviour goals, linked to the key competencies of The New Zealand Curriculum, are also set and monitored. 

Students understand what is expected of them in terms of attitude, work habits and behaviour. They are encouraged to take increasing responsibility for their own progress. Most students gain confidence in their own ability and changed attitudes contribute to improved outcomes for the majority. Successful reintegration into mainstream schools or transition to other education providers is understood to be the overarching objective for students at the centre.

There is a trend for more students to remain at the centre for part or all of Year 11, and this has necessitated changes in the way teachers gather, use and report information about progress towards National Certificates of Educational Achievement (NCEA). In 2012, five students gained credits in Level 1, including the required literacy credits, and two gained credits in Level 2.

Student achievement and attendance are reported to the host school board. However, collation and analysis of assessment data are not yet sufficiently comprehensive and robust. For students In Years 9 and 10, responsibility for this rests primarily with Te Aho o Te Kura Pounamu-The Correspondence School (Te Kura). The expected role of centre teachers is to interpret the information for students and closely monitor the suitability of learning resources for each individual. Clear evidence of students’ accelerated progress is limited and measures of social and personal development are yet to be well defined.

In order to ensure that students experience the full benefit of being in the centre, the host school and management committee need to carefully monitor the director’s performance in relation to the action plan and the effectiveness of his professional leadership.

The key to improving learners’ engagement, progress and achievement is the use of assessment information to guide teaching and learning.

Positive relationships between students and adults are evident. Staff know students well and model respect and empathy in their interactions with them and among themselves.

Levels of student engagement in learning are highly variable. Students work on Te Kura programmes in the morning, supervised by staff. Completion of sets of work is monitored and rewarded. ERO’s evaluation found that some students are enthusiastic about learning and have a genuine commitment to their goals. Others told ERO that the sets are not at the right level or lack meaning and purpose for them. Most approach their academic programme with a sense of obligation or reluctance. Teachers should take greater care to ensure that correspondence programmes are matched with individual students’ needs and interests.

Expectations of quality and quantity of student work need to be higher. Greater focus on engaging students as active, independent learners is likely to increase their self-motivation and support them to take increased responsibility for their own progress. Further development and use of the IEP process should contribute to students’ gaining greater ownership of their learning pathways.

Students enjoy the afternoon programmes, which consist of a range of activities aimed at increasing their social and physical wellbeing. Community groups and organisations make a valued contribution by providing resources and personnel.

Adults and peers help students to identify their beliefs and values and gain confidence in themselves as young adults. Through restorative practices, students become aware of the triggers and consequences of their behaviour and how it affects other people.

The centre provides a secure environment and a broad curriculum, which combine to assist students to re-engage in education. Students express confidence in the supportive relationships with centre staff to help them personally and to call on community agencies when appropriate. Transition plans include a close partnership with schools and training providers, as well as ongoing mentoring. 

Māori students benefit from the supportive environment and holistic care provided by the centre. Staff demonstrate culturally responsive practices in day-to-day routines and interactions.

The host school’s strategic plan and the centre’s action plan both recognise the importance of improving outcomes for Māori learners. To promote educational success for Māori students as Māori, key steps for teachers is the continued development and implementation of the effective teaching profile and integration of Tātaiako: Cultural Competencies for Teachers of Māori Learners, the Ministry of Education’s framework of cultural competencies.

Considerable progress has been made during 2012 to address the areas identified by ERO as needing development. The host school principal has led the positive changes, reviewing and strengthening systems and procedures at governance level. He also assists, guides and mentors the director as improvements in centre operations are implemented.

The centre, however, is not yet well placed to sustain and improve its performance. Several crucial elements in the action plan are yet to be put in place and little progress has been made with others.

To ensure that all centre students are successfully re-engaged in education, the host school, managing principals, and director need to give high priority to:

  • developing and using self review to evaluate the effectiveness of the centre
  • continuing to build the professional leadership and management capabilities of the director
  • raising expectations of student learning and behaviour
  • implementing robust appraisal of all staff, to reflect and align with the centre’s strategic goals.

4 Future Action

ERO intends to carry out a special review in one year to determine progress made with the actions outlined in the centre's action plan. 

Joyce Gebbie
National Manager Review Services
Central Region (Acting)

8 February 2013

About the Activity Centre 


Petone, Lower Hutt

Ministry of Education profile number


Activity Centre roll


Gender composition

Male 10, Female 7

Ethnic composition

NZ European/Pākehā


Review team on site

October 2012

Date of this report

8 February 2013

Most recent ERO reports

Supplementary Review

Special Review

Supplementary Review

November 2011

May 2009

June 2006