Supporting the education of tamariki and rangatahi

Published: November 6, 2023

This research is a literature scan of the support children and young people who are or have been in care have for their education. It examines international best practice. It then identifies approaches that may have relevance for New Zealand.


As a group, children in care fall behind their peers in their education. But this is a complex and multi-facetted issue to address. Overseas efforts to close this gap have seen limited success, although some initiatives show promise.

We sought a literature scan to understand best practice responses for those with previous or current involvement with Oranga Tamariki. The literature scan identifies responses that can inform areas for driving change. One example of which are systems that enable good practice, support, and services.

Key findings

Increasing engagement and attainment

There were 6 prominent findings in the literature on how to increase educational engagement and attainment:

  1. Uphold the rights of children in care to a quality education and expect more for and from them.
  2. Build (more) effective collaborative inter-agency arrangements.
  3. Strengthen the child’s relationships and sense of agency with professionals and family.
  4. Prioritise school and care placement stability. This should also include provision of necessary education supports. Support should include tutoring, help with school transitions, school funding, and mental health services.
  5. Recognise that those with care experience are not a homogenous group.
  6. Address gaps in research and monitoring across agencies.

Enabling achievement

The literature scan also found educational achievement was enabled for those with care experience by:

  • upholding well-developed care standards
  • ensuring educationally rich placements
  • enrolling children in better resourced state schools. Such as those that have supported learning programmes and high NCEA achievement rates
  • increasing the knowledge and understanding of children in care and their education needs. This include both the childcare and school system and in areas of trauma effects and impacts of ADHD and FASD
  • robust individualised education assessment, planning, support and monitoring
  • holistic whole-school policies
  • alternative Education and Specialist Schools.

Next steps

The literature scan is being used to:

  • inform ongoing work on the Oranga Tamariki Action Plan and engagement with the Ministry of Education
  • inform and reinforce the role of education as a protective factor in youth justice and the prevention of re-offending.