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ERO Report No Surprise To Skylight

News Release 3 October 2008

ERO Report No Surprise To Skylight

A Recent Education Review Office (ERO) report highlighting the need for initiatives that help schools manage students at risk is no surprise to Skylight.

Skylight, a national charitable organisation that provides unique support and services to children, young people and their families/whānau, recognised the need for helping students. Skylight developed and piloted their Travellers programme in 2001 and it has been shown to be the type of programme schools need.

Travellers helps schools identify young people whom have not yet been recognised as ‘at risk’, and fills a gap in schools’ ability to support these students. The programmes unquestionable value is reflected in an increasing number of schools picking up the programme and the positive impact it is having on students’ ability to learn. Sadly, not enough schools know about, or are utilising, this programme.

Skylight’s Travellers programme is school-based and helps year nine students cope with the stress of the transition from primary to secondary school, by teaching skills that will help them through their life, and subsequently enhancing their ability to learn.

Skylight’s National Manager for Travellers, Phil Smith, says “Young people have two major educational transition periods in their life – starting school at age five, and starting secondary school. Travellers provides students in their first year of secondary school with the skills and tools they need to cope with changes in their life, including the immediate changes they are facing at college.”

Travellers’ unique approach recognises that external factors such as stress, including personal issues and home life, can affect learning. The ability to cope with change is a beneficial life-skill for students.

Mr Smith says that through Travellers, students build resilience and learn skills they will carry with them for the rest of their lives. Knowing how to cope in stressful times and having healthy self-esteem is extremely beneficial to their learning.

He says, “More often that not the young people that participate in the programme are those who are flying below the radar: perhaps doing okay, but not as well as they could be.

“The impact of low self-esteem or grief, both on a young person’s emotional wellbeing and their ability to perform and learn in a classroom, should not be underestimated.”

Travellers, now in its seventh year, is being rolled out nationally. Currently, 58 schools are running Travellers, with 7,139 students completing the initial on-line survey this year. Based on preliminary results, about 15% of the year nine students at each participating school are taking part in the programme – students who might have otherwise slipped through the cracks.

A Travellers School Principal has commented that he sees Travellers as a very valuable addition to the work they do and that early identification is really valuable and effective.

“It allows counsellors to engage with young people in a more positive way to begin with and then if they need to unpack some of their concerns, they’ve already got the relationship.”


Skylight is a national charitable organisation that provides unique support and services to children, young people and their families/whānau through trauma, change, loss and grief, whatever the cause.


Travellers was developed, researched and piloted by Skylight under contract to the Ministry of Health. It was then evaluated by the University of Auckland’s Injury Prevention Research Centre. Due to its success as a pilot programme Travellers is now being rolled out to schools nationwide.

Travellers, a targeted small group programme, operates by identifying students with support needs through a confidential, computer-based survey of the school’s year nine students. From this the school can determine which students participate in Travellers. Students, in groups of 8-10, take part in a 90 minute session each week for eight weeks, where they talk through issues and develop resilience skills and life maps with the support of one another, and two trained facilitators.

Travellers is also being trialled in Denmark through the Danish Centre for Suicide Research.


• 58 Schools currently run Travellers

• 7139 year nine students have undertaken the survey to date

• Self reported “Feel good” factor is 93.5%

• Self reported “Not feel good” factor is 6.5%

• To date an estimated 15% of year nine students have participated in Travellers programmes.



“Travellers helped me deal with feelings and understand what they mean.”

“I feel happy with myself now. I didn’t talk to people much before and now, since Travellers I do, and that’s added to my self-esteem.”


“I was really concerned about how my son was settling, after moving countries and starting a new school. Travellers has really helped him settle and feel more positive about himself and his life here.”

“I was really impressed by the visibility and quality of the programme, the research background, and the activities that were really relevant to the kids.”

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