Count me in supporters guide

Supporting Māori and Pasifika young people to re-engage in learning and attain relevant qualifications.

Purpose and terms


This Guide is for those working with young people to support their re-engagement in learning and attainment of relevant qualifications.

This is based on the Facilitator’s Guide developed for the Ministry of Education’s Count Me In initiative, 2015-2017. Count Me In supported Māori and Pasifika 16-18 year olds, that were outside the education system, to reengage in learning and attain NCEA Level 2 or an equivalent qualification.

The most important thing in working through the steps in this Guide is to ensure that the young person is fully engaged, understands each step, and can make informed decisions.

Feedback from Count Me In Facilitators and partners (including numerous agencies, community groups, parents and families) helped refine the advice and tools in this Supporters Guide.

Although it is mainly focused on supporting young people that are outside the education system, this Guide may also help those working with young people that are still in the education system (e.g. at school, in Alternative Education, or enrolled with Te Kura/The Correspondence School) but are struggling to find a pathway or direction.

Step-by-step guidance is provided along with:

  • helpful video tips from supporters, young people and their families;
  • links to helpful digital tools and more detailed information; and
  • templates to capture key discussions.


NCEA – The National Certificate of Educational Achievement is the national qualification system for New Zealand’s senior secondary school students. It is made up of three Certificates at Levels 1, 2 and 3 and usually studied in Years 11, 12 and 13 at school.

An equivalent qualification – The New Zealand Qualifications Framework (NZQF) is divided into 10 levels, and covers a range of qualifications from certificates to doctoral degrees. NZQF Certificates at Levels 1, 2 and 3 can be attained through tertiary providers e.g. Private Training Establishments (PTEs) and Wānanga.

Alternative Education – Alternative education is a short term intervention which supports students between 13 and 15 years of age who have been alienated from mainstream education.

Te Kura/The Correspondence School - Te Kura is a distance education provider offering personalised learning programmes to students from early childhood to Year 13.

Literacy - is the ability to read and write. It means being able to use language, numbers, images and other concepts to communicate with, and be readily understood, by others in your community.

Numeracy - is being at home with numbers, and knowing the smartest way to solve mathematical problems. Being numerate is being able to use mathematics well at home, at work and in the community.

1. Building a relationship

This step involves you building a rapport with the young person and demonstrating your commitment to helping them move forward.

If you already have a relationship with the young person, skip ahead to Step Two.

Sitting down and having a lot of eye contact may be awkward for some. Taking them outside for a walk where you don’t have to make as much eye contact may provide a more comfortable environment for the young person to talk about themselves at the beginning of your relationship.

Why is it important?

It is important to communicate, to listen, and to value the young person as an individual. Focus on the positive achievements that the young person has already made and how they can progress, rather than on the negative aspects of their past experiences.

It is also important to help the young person identify barriers to their re-engagement in learning, which may include:

  • motivation to learn
  • ability to read
  • an ingrained sense of failure
  • having the right information, advice and guidance, and
  • support from parents/caregivers and other adult and peer role models.

Building a relationship with the young person may take time, developing over the course of several engagements.

Tools and Resources

  • Use the Key Information Template to capture details, including the young person’s contact details, and the names and contact details of any people who are their supporters/influencers including parents, family members and peers.
  • Read a helpful article on Engaging Young People in Learning.
  • Learn tips through Christain’s journey on building relationships with young people:

2. Building a support team

This step involves you building a support team around the young person you are working with.

This is a critical part of your role, as it is not intended that the young person become dependent on you. The more you can involve others, and encourage them to provide more long-term support of the young person, the better.

Why is this important?

It is important that you meet with the young person’s parents/caregivers and family to gather background information, determine their interests, explain how you will be supporting im/her, and encourage everyone to take active roles in supporting the young person (to be formalised in Step Seven).

If you are a parent, encourage others in your family to help support your child.

The young person will also have a range of supporters/influencers around them, which may include family (direct or extended), friends/peers or ‘role models’. Engage with as many of these as you can, and seek their agreement to support the young person.

If the young person has had contact with any agency, they may have important background information, and processes that you may need to support the young person through (e.g. Family Group Conferences or Youth/District Court appearances).

Agency staff may also be encouraged to join the young person’s support team (e.g. as adult role models) if they believe they can be of help.

Tools and Resources

  • Christina and her mum talk about the importance of family support:

  • Swanie explains how critical it is to build a good relationship with whānau:

3. Identifying the young person’s aspirations, interests and needs

This step involves identifying the young person’s aspirations, interests and needs, to ensure that pathway options (at Step Five) are relevant.

As young people (and adults too) may find it difficult to talk about career or life goals, it may be more helpful to start with some general questions:

  • What things do you like doing/are you good at? Writing? Sports? Designing or building things? Hobbies? Art? Helping others?
  • How did you find school? What did you like about school? What didn’t you like about school? When and why did you leave school?
  • Is there anyone you admire or want to be like? Why?
  • What is your dream job? Why is this your dream job?
  • Are there any reasons why you aren’t pursuing qualifications to get your dream job?
  • How much do you know about qualifications? How much do your parents/family members know about qualifications?

If the young person is finding it hard to describe what they want to do (career-wise), go to the Careers website and work through the prompts.

Or browse through Careers NZ’s Oompher web-series videos

Careers NZ provides many tools and resources:

  • Know Your Skills helps people identify what skills are, and how they can discover their own skills and use them towards their career
  • CareerQuest recommends jobs based on young people’s actual interests 
  • Skill Matcher generates job ideas based on the skills young people enjoy/are interested in learning. It shows how their skills could apply to many occupations within New Zealand, and provides tips on what steps to take next.

Tools and resources

  • Use the Interests Template to record key points for future use
  • Hear how David turned his life around:

  • Zane aspires to be a Head Chef at his own restaurant. Watch his story:

4. Establishing the young person’s ‘starting point’

This step involves establishing the young person’s starting point. To do this you will need to view (with them) their Record of Achievement (ROA).

First, you will need the young persons’ National Student Number (NSN) and password.

Forgotten their NSN and/or password? Phone 0800 697 296 or send an enquiry to the NZQA Call Centre HelpDesk, answer several questions, and the NSN will be provided.

Login at NZQA Student Log in.

The ROA will show all NCEA (achievement) credits and/or NZQF (unit standard) credits that the young person has achieved. Identify and record the number of credits the young person has achieved at NCEA Levels 1, 2 and 3, and any NZQF credits they may have attained whilst at school. This will help inform thinking on pathway options, so they do not repeat credits already attained, and know how many credits are needed to attain qualifications at different levels.

Image showing the Record of Achievement homepage.

To attain NCEA Level 2, young people must have 10 NCEA Level 1 literacy credits, 10 NCEA Level 1 numeracy credits, and 60 NCEA Level 2 credits.

Unpaid fees?

Youth Guarantee learners that access fees-free places are eligible to have their unpaid fees paid through a process administered by the New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA).

Credits not showing?

If the young person believes they have attained credits but these are not showing on the ROA, contact NZQA to report the school that has withheld these credits. Schools cannot withhold (not report) credits due to unpaid fees.

Attained literacy and numeracy credits?

To determine if the young person has the required 10 Literacy and 10 Numeracy NCEA L1 credits, you will need to click on the ‘Vocational Pathways’ tab on the menu to the left of the ROA. If the young person has achieved the required NCEA L1 Literacy and Numeracy credits, ticks will appear against these.

Image showing the Vocational Pathways screen.

If the young person has not achieved the required Literacy and Numeracy credits, crosses will appear against these. You will need to go back to the young person’s ROA and scroll through the attained NCEA/NZQF credits to determine if the young person has achieved any Literacy and Numeracy credits.

Literacy and Numeracy credits may be attained through traditional subjects like English and Maths, but can also be attained through other subjects. Use the Youth Guarantee Literacy and Numeracy Calculator to determine where literacy and numeracy credits have been attained through other subjects.

Tools and Resources

Use these resources to help the young person and their support network members develop their understanding of qualifications.

  • Hear how Taylor turned a negative schooling experience into a positive pathway opportunity:

  • What’s NCEA all about? Let’s break it down:

  • The importance of choosing good credits!:

5. Identifying pathway options

This step involves collecting relevant information on the options the young person may have to attain qualifications and realise their career aspirations.

The first place to start is with their career aspiration(s) and identifying the qualifications required in these industries/occupations. Your first useful reference is the Careers NZ jobs database.

Enter the desired job(s) that the young person has identified in the search box, or find jobs by industry and interest area. Each job profile includes information about the job, how to enter the job, and job opportunities.

Click on the ‘how to enter the job’ tab, and view the Entry Requirements and Secondary Education requirements. The Secondary Education section will list NCEA qualifications that are required for that job. The Entry Requirements will identify if a tertiary qualification is required, and what type(s) of tertiary qualification(s) they are.

Pathway options

Now you need to identify what pathway options are available for the young person, including:

  • returning to secondary school to gain the credits/qualifications they need for their desired career/occupation, or
  • enrolling with a tertiary provider to undertake a course to attain the required qualifications.

Returning to secondary school

If the young person you are working with has been out of the school system for some time, it is unlikely that they will want to return to secondary school. However, this is still an option that should be explored – particularly if they are 10 or less credits short of attaining NCEA L2.

If this is an option that the young person is interested in, identify and meet with local schools to determine whether re/enrolment is an option. Please note that schools may refuse to enrol young people.

Find local schools at Education Counts.

Te Kura/The Correspondence School may be an option if the young person you are working with lives too far from a school, has health issues or special requirements (e.g. lacks confidence as a result of bullying). Te Kura provides distance learning for students who are unable to attend their local school, and students aged between 16 and 19 years old are also able to enrol with Te Kura if they are not attending another school on a full-time basis.

Te Kura requires self-directed learning and support in the home, so may not be the best option for learners that need structure and social interaction.

To find out if the young person you are working with child is eligible to enrol at Te Kura visit their website.

Schools don’t get a choice about which students they educate – they have to educate everyone who is enrolled (see the Youth Law website for more information).

If you are a New Zealand citizen or resident between 5 and 19 years old, you have the right to an education at a state school of your choosing until the 1st of January after the year in which you turn 19. A state school may refuse to enrol you only if:

  • You do not qualify under the school’s zoning and enrolment scheme;
  • You have been excluded or expelled from that school;
  • The school has been established for a specific purpose which does not apply to you (for instance, attending a boys’ school when you are a girl).

Private schools can refuse to enrol you provided they do not discriminate against you under any of the prohibited grounds of discrimination of the Human Rights Act 1993, such as race, sexual orientation, disability, political opinions or family status.

Under the Privacy Act 1993, your old school cannot tell a new school information about you unless giving that information to the new school was one of the reasons your school got that information from you in the first place, or you grant your consent.

Under the Act you also have the right to know what one school has told another about you.

Tertiary education

Tertiary education and training covers all education after secondary school, including both higher education and vocational training. Tertiary providers include private training establishments (PTEs), institutes of technology and polytechnics (ITPs), wānanga, and universities.

Fees-Free Pathways

Within the Government’s Youth Guarantee programme is the Fees-Free scheme, which is designed to provide 16-19 year olds with an opportunity to study towards NCEA Level 2 aligned with the Vocational Pathways, or equivalent, at tertiary providers free of charge. Students take part in full-time study in programmes which are usually vocationally focused. There are over 10,000 fees-free places per annum for young people offered by a range of Tertiary Education Organisations (TEOs) including Polytechnics, Wānanga and PTEs.

Go to to identify fees-free providers in your area. You will need to make contact with the provider(s) to identify which fees-free course options they have available, and the number of places they have available for those courses. Note that the funding that TEOs receive includes provision for student pastoral care and travel.

Other options

At foundational levels (1-2) there may be other fees-free options available for young people, although these will not have the travel support that the Youth Guarantee Fees-Free scheme offers. There will also be fee-paying options which, whilst less attractive, offer insights into the kinds of pathways available to the young person to progress their career pathway.

If you already know the names of tertiary providers in your region, check out their websites too.

At this stage it may become apparent that the young person is not yet ready for a full tertiary course, and that ‘bridging’ options may be more suitable. These could include shorter ‘top-up’ courses that will bridge the young person into higher-level qualifications.

Tools and Resources

  • Career and Qualifications Plan template - record qualification credits attained, qualifications required, and identified pathway options.
  • Hear how Mags chose her new path after leaving school with no credits:

  • Hear from Shekinah and Jude on the importance of choosing the right pathway:

Helpful sites

  • Which Course Where, which has information about tertiary education providers, qualifications and courses
  • Careers NZ’s database for specific courses or information about training providers in different regions

6. Discussing and selecting pathway options

This step involves working with the young person and their support network members (if required) to discuss and select pathway options, and identify support needs.

In presenting and discussing options with the young person, it will be important to give them as much information to consider as is possible. For the various pathway options, you should identify:

  • the length and costs (if you cannot access fees-free options) of the course(s);
  • any other costs that could be incurred such as accommodation/living and travel to and from classes;
  • learning and pastoral supports offered by the course provider; and
  • whether credits can be transferred if the young person decides to change courses.

As it is likely that you will have identified several options for the young person to consider, you will need to help them make an informed decision on what’s right for them. Work with the young person, and their family if appropriate, to identify the ‘pros and cons’ of each option. Use all the information you have collected thus far to inform discussions.

If you feel it will be helpful, take the young person to visit course providers, meet with tutors and look at training facilities. Arrange for the young person to talk to people that have completed the course(s) they are interested in, or are in the job(s)/career(s) they’re interested in.

Using the Career and Qualification Plan Template, explain the options you have identified to the young person and respond to any questions they have. If they raise issues you hadn’t thought of, you may need to gather more information to help them make an informed decision. If they identify supports they require to undertake the course, capture these so you can engage with relevant service providers to wrap this support around the young person and/or their family.

Do as much as you can to ensure that the young person is making an informed decision, and not just trying to please you or their family, or is too overwhelmed by the information to make a choice. Once they have made their decision, work with them to finalise details, including confirming there is space on the (preferably fees-free) course.

Whilst accessing Fees-Free options will cover course costs (including travel – see Travel Cost below), the young person may have other needs that, if not addressed, may affect their participation in training pathways and eventual attainment of qualifications.

Work with the young person to identify if they have any other needs that you can find support for.

For example:

  • do they have appropriate identification (e.g. a birth certificate, licence or passport)?
  • do they have literacy issues or difficulties filling out forms? If they have credit issues, can you find a local budget advisor to help work on this?
  • are they accessing appropriate health or support services?

It may also be appropriate to discuss whether there are any supports that can be wrapped around their family as well – particularly if any issues may impact the young person’s ability to engage in learning (e.g. looking after younger siblings).

It will be important that you secure the support of others who provide different social services so you, and the young person, do not lose sight of the qualification (and better life quality) objective.

Other Financial Supports

Scholarships, grants and awards may be available to support your young person’s tertiary education. Go to:

  • The Careers website for information about what’s available and how to get it;
  • for a searchable database of over 2,200 awards, scholarships and grants for individuals in New Zealand;
  • Iwi, Māori and Pasifika education grants or scholarships may also be available.

StudyLink is a Ministry of Social Development service that manages student allowances and loans. 

Student Loans are not available to under-18 year olds, but some 16 and 17 year olds are able to access the Student Allowance.

Student Allowance is a weekly payment to help with living expenses while studying, and it doesn’t have to be paid back. To get a student allowance you usually have to be studying full-time or limited full-time. How much you get depends on:

  • your income;
  • if you have a partner, and their income;
  • if you have children;
  • your parents’ income – if you are under 24 and don’t have children; and
  • if you live with your parents while you’re studying.

As part of the student allowance, applicants may be able to get an accommodation benefit to help with your accommodation costs. See the Studylink website.

For detailed information, ring 0800 88 99 00 (Monday to Friday, 8am to 5pm) or go to the Studylink website.

Youth/Social/Health Services

To access the most up-to-date information, search for Youth, Social and Health Service providers in your region.

Travel Costs

The Tertiary Education Commission may reimburse cost of daily travel for Foundation-Focused Training Opportunities or Youth Guarantee learners. Payment can be made for learners’ actual travel costs from their home to the agreed training site. Learners must supply evidence of the actual cost of travelling to and from the training site.

The process for accessing these payments will need to be discussed with the chosen provider at the time of enrolment. Payments will not be made for:

  • travel costs if a learner does not spend anything on travel; and
  • extra travel costs e.g. travel from a training site to a site for workplace experience, as these are programme costs which base fees cover.

Tools and Resources

  • Career and Qualifications Plan template - record qualification credits attained, qualifications required, and identified pathway options.
  • Hineoma share tips on working with the student to choose the right provider:

7. Formalising the support team

This step involves formalising the roles that team members will play in supporting the young person’s re-engagement in learning and attainment of relevant qualifications.

Meeting with the selected provider is a first step to ensure they understand the young person’s aspirations and needs and can provide appropriate support.

If the young person has specific needs (e.g. limited literacy, transport challenges etc.) discuss these with the provider to ensure they can be addressed through pastoral care and other student support provisions.

Tertiary education organisations are expected to support students to build on their achievement and progress to higher levels of education. They receive pastoral care funding for each student to ensure their needs are met and are fully supported to successfully complete their courses/qualifications.

The young person’s parents, family and supporters/influencers can also actively support their re-engagement in learning and attainment of relevant qualifications. This could include ensuring that the young person:

  • attends their classes/course every day;
  • is engaged and supported in their learning;
  • meets class/course requirements (including assignments);
  • successfully attains their qualifications;
  • identifies any problems that could affect their ability to complete the course; and/or
  • seeks advice and support when required.

Tools and Resources

  • Use the Support Agreement template to capture what the support network members are going to do to support the young person
  • Mary explains the positive effects of letting the young person be a part of the decision making process:

  • Learn how Lucy made a positive impact on those around her:

  • Stronger pathways for our tamariki:

8. Supporting the young person’s re-engagement in learning

This step involves accompanying the young person to re-enrol/enrol and get settled in their learning pathway choice, and monitoring their progress.

In the first 4 weeks it is recommended that you check in daily with the young person to see how they are finding classes and whether they are facing any difficulties.  From then on, agree on a ‘catch-up’ system that works for you both (e.g. daily texts or Facebook messaging (free service) and weekly meetings, or other frequent contacts.

At a frequency agreed between you both, meet with the young person to check on their progress:

  • Are they OK getting to class every day? How are they finding the classes?  Do they find the tutor(s) helpful?
  • How are they finding the provider facilities? Are they receiving enough pastoral care?
  • Are they having any difficulties (e.g. understanding material or completing requirements)?
  • Are they motivated/confident?  Do they need any other supports?

It will be important to build the young person’s confidence and independence through this process.  Achievements of any kind should be acknowledged, as these are important steps in the young person’s journey.

It will also be important to keep encouraging the young person, especially if they ‘stumble’ (e.g. miss classes or do badly in an assignment).  Ensuring they learn from mistakes and move forward will minimise chances of their giving up/disengaging.

Tools and Resources

  • Use the Support Agreement template to capture what the support network members are going to do to support the young person.
  • Arii’s Nan talks about supporting your child no matter what:

9. Mobilising the support team

This step involves wrapping a strong team around each young person, to support their attendance and success.

At a frequency agreed between you, meet with the young person’s education/course provider and their supporters/influencers to discuss their views on the young person’s progress:

  • Are they getting to class every day?  How are they finding the classes and provider facilities?
  • Are they completing assignments/study requirements?  Are they having any difficulties with the classes or course requirements?
  • Are they motivated and confident?  Do they need any other supports?

As detailed earlier, it will be important, particularly for the supporters/influencers to take more of an active support role in the long-term.

  • Are they meeting the commitments they made in the Support Agreement?
  • Can they identify any other things they could be doing to support the young person?
  • Are there any others who can also help keep the young person motivated and engaged?
  • Are they acknowledging the young person’s achievements?

Having a strong support team can also help build the young person’s resilience, and their ability to cope with seemingly small issues.  These can escalate quickly, and can affect their engagement and achievement.  Team members offering advice on coping strategies could make all the difference for a young person in a stressful situation.

Tools and Resources

  • Use the Monitoring template to capture what the support network members are going to do to support the young person.
  • Having a supportive whanau and provider can make a big difference. Here’s Angel’s story:

  • Juanita is thriving thanks to support of her mother:

10. Addressing emerging issues

This step involves rapidly addressing issues that may affect the young person’s pathway progress.

All support team members may have a role to play in addressing emerging issues.  As we found through Count Me In, complacency (resulting in patchy attendance), seemingly small events (e.g. relationship break-ups) which then affected attendance and completion of assessments, wider peer/whānau pressures, and agency/Court conditions effectively limiting course attendance, were issues which, if not managed effectively, could result in young people becoming disengaged again. Active monitoring, and support team actions, can help young people through these low points.

If there are any issues emerging from your discussions with the young person, their course provider and/or supporters/influencers, it will be important to determine how these can be addressed. 

If there are ‘speed bumps’ or ‘stumbles’, they need to be addressed before they begin to impact the young person’s confidence and motivation.  If there are more fundamental issues (e.g. undiagnosed learning difficulties), you will need to find appropriate support services to wrap around the young person and/or their family.

Tools and Resources

  • On-going support is critical to keeping a young person engaged. Sue explains why:

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