Education can take a back foot when a teen becomes a parent. Teen Parent Units are schools for young mums and dads.
What is a Teen Parent Unit?
A teen parent unit, or TPU, is a ‘young parents school’ usually attached to a regular school. It is a centre that teen parents attend when they are having difficulty accessing education and may be at risk of educational failure because they are parents. This means it may be too difficult for them to attend a mainstream, or face-to-face school, because of their duties as a parent.
In brief, a TPU is a school that teenagers attend to further their education if they cannot attend a mainstream school because of parental responsibilities.
How does it work?
A TPU is basically a ‘school within a school’. What this means is that they exist as part of a mainstream secondary school but are run independently of that school.
In terms of the management and overseeing of the TPU, the mainstream or normal school becomes the ‘host school’. The Board of Trustees of the ‘host school’ is also responsible for the TPU including the employment of staff, reporting and providing resources for the TPU. The Principal of the ‘host school’ is responsible for the management of the TPU.
There is a teacher in charge appointed to a TPU who develops learning and teaching programmes that meet the needs of the teen parents who attend the unit.
As far as the teaching and learning go, TPUs offer students an informal environment within which they can complete studies. The units provide learning programmes to students through a range of education providers including TPU teachers, host school teachers, The Correspondence School, polytechnics, and the STAR (Secondary Tertiary Alignment Resource) scheme.
Students in TPUs have a wide range of learning and personal support needs. Some students need assistance to develop basic literacy and numeracy skills, while others need more advanced individual programmes. Teen parents’ education consists of a combination of academic life and practical skills — all designed to enable them to make a better future for themselves and their children.
TPUs provide tutors and teachers for the teaching and learning of academic courses. Students are often required to take pre-tests and, once they have completed their studies at the unit, a post-test in order to measure their progress. They are encouraged to take responsibility for their own learning and the learning of others by setting goals and keeping logs of daily activities. Together with a teacher the student develops an Individual Education Plan (IEP) for themselves, which details educational goals and a plan for how to attain them.
The creation of programmes at TPUs is guided by The New Zealand Education Curriculum document, from the Ministry of Education.
TPUs work in a flexible manner, which is the way parents need to work when young children are involved. They also work alongside many community groups and support agencies to provide all support possible for the young parents who attend the centre. It may be that they have budgeting, health, self-defense, or legal needs and they may not know how to access help or support.
The expectation is that students attend TPUs on a full-time basis. Students under 16 years of age are legally required to attend a unit full-time. Full-time enrolment is a minimum of 20 contact class hours per week. A medical certificate is required for absences of more than five days.
Who looks after the children?
One of the specifications for setting up a TPU as set down by The Ministry of Education is that they are located as close as possible to a licensed and chartered Early Childhood Education (ECE) Centre. (For more info on this click here). This is so young parents are able to focus and work on their education knowing that their children are close to hand so that they can continue to breastfeed and care for their children in the manner they wish.