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Education In Care Failing Some Of NZ’s Most Vulnerable Children

The Education Review Office (ERO) has found that education for children and young people living in Oranga Tamariki residential care facilities is not good enough.

"While education is important for all tamariki and rangatahi, it is even more critical for students in residential care. These students are among the most at risk of poor outcomes later in life - and education can change this," says Nicholas Pole, ERO Chief Executive and Chief Review Officer.

Over the last decade ERO has consistently found that the education these vulnerable students receive is too variable, dependent on which residence they are placed in. ERO’s new review has found that a quarter of sites are not providing students with quality education.

ERO also found that, across all the residences, students are too often studying subjects with limited pathways and many can’t continue to study the same subjects when they move out of residences back to their local school.

80% of these students are Māori and whilst there is a commitment to improving outcomes for Māori and have culturally responsive practice, currently practice is variable. Over half the sites were not performing well on culturally responsive practice.

"There is a committed workforce who work with these children and young people - and these students told us how much they liked learning and working with their teachers in residences," says Mr Pole.

"Yet, commitment isn’t enough. Achieving good outcomes for students in care will require significant change.

"We know that teaching these students requires a specialist set of skills. Teachers in residence told us they need more support to improve their teaching practice and there needs to be more opportunities to share good practice across sites - something that isn’t supported in the current model.

"We need to have a clear picture of what good education in residences looks like, something that is currently lacking, and deliver this consistently across sites. We also need to ensure students have access to good support when they move out of residence, so they don’t lose the progress made with learning while in residence."

ERO has made recommendations for changes that have the potential to significantly improve the quality of education and improve outcomes for these priority learners.

It will take coordinated and focused work across agencies and providers to take forward these recommendations and ensure positive change occurs in a system that has served these children and young people poorly for too long.


- ERO is responsible for reviewing and reporting on the performance of early learning services, kura and schools. As part of this role, ERO looks at how the education system supports students’ outcomes - in this case we are looking at education for students in Oranga Tamariki residences.

- Students are placed in residential care when they are at risk of harm from others, or to themselves, or to others within the community. They are more likely than other students to have experienced trauma, and to have behavioural, emotional, mental health and learning difficulties.

- There are 700-800 students in residential care each year, in eight sites run by three providers. These students are mostly male and 80% are Maori.

- ERO’s expert team visited the eight residential sites, interviewed and surveyed students, and teachers, spoke to leaders and social workers and government representatives, and analysed a wide range of data and documentation.

- ERO’s recommendations for changing the system to better support these kids are in three areas:

a.) To improve the quality of the students’ education while in residence - developing a clear picture of quality practice, ensure teachers have access to specialist training and professional networks and enable information to follow the student.

b.) To grow expertise and reduce variability - re-examine the how education is provided and develop new options including an overarching provider with local sites or a strong network of providers.

c.) To ensure students have access to high quality education when they move out of residence - plan pathways earlier, have experts to help students find the right schools and courses to move on to, and investigate additional in-school support for students.

Visit ERO's website to read the full report, Learning in residential care: They knew I wanted to learn, and the summary report.

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