The Ministry of Education says alternative education for teenagers who have been kicked out of mainstream schools is "largely ineffective".

This conclusion, from a review of the country's 91 alternative education centres serving almost 1900 teenagers, points towards stronger moves to help schools keep the most at-risk teens in mainstream school classes.

"Our review of alternative education has shown it to be largely ineffective at helping the most at-risk students experience positive educational and social outcomes," the ministry says in a briefing to incoming Education Minister Nikki Kaye.

"Contracts for alternative education have been put in place for 2017 and 2018. The sector would need to be informed about any forthcoming changes by August 2018, ahead of the contracts ending in December 2018."


Alternative education caters for the country's most disadvantaged teenagers. Data released under the Official Information Act shows that of its 1888 students aged 13 to 15:

• 77 per cent are in families that have spent at least five years of the teenagers' lives, and an average of 10.7 years, on welfare.

• 69 per cent were reported to Child, Youth and Family by age 13.

• 56 per cent were suspended or stood down from mainstream schools by age 13.

• 40 per cent experienced significant drug or alcohol use at home.

• 30 per cent had experience in or around gangs.

• Most have experienced some form of domestic violence, and nearly all were involved in violent incidents either at home, at school or in the community.

Predictably, many of them face bleak futures. Sixty per cent have no qualifications by age 18, and 43 per cent of prisoners have spent time in alternative education.


A briefing prepared for Principal Youth Court Judge John Walker last August said the ministry was "reviewing the way in which the education system supports at-risk students, with an emphasis on supporting students within the schooling system wherever possible".

It said most alternative education students said they enjoyed primary school but felt "lost and disconnected" at bigger intermediate and secondary schools.

The students felt teachers "didn't know or understand them", they "did not develop effective relationships with teachers", and felt teachers were "teaching 'too high' and the students couldn't keep up".

The briefing said the ministry planned to put "stronger emphasis on prevention before the need for intervention" and improve "the effectiveness and connectedness of interventions for students who have disengaged".

"This involves early identification of students at risk of disengagement and provision of tailored supports designed to keep young people in school," it said.

• An earlier version of this article was published with a photo and caption of a specific alternative education provider. We apologise for the error.