Secondary Tertiary Alignment Resource (STAR)

Purpose of STAR

The Secondary Tertiary Alignment Resource (STAR) delivers additional operational grant funding to all State and State-Integrated schools with Year 11-13+ students to assist schools, to provide students with relevant, coherent learning experiences aligned to the Vocational Pathways (external link) .

The objectives of STAR are to:

  • provide flexible funding for courses which will better respond to students’ needs, motivate them to achieve, and facilitate their smooth transition to further education, training or employment
  • support students to explore career pathways and help them make informed decisions about their schooling and future work or study.

As with the other components of operational grant funding, schools have discretion in how STAR funding is used. However, it is expected that schools will seek to provide students with the range of learning experiences needed to support their engagement and achievement and successful transition to further study and employment.

STAR is an operational grant component, to be used on operational expenditure. Please refer to your school’s accounting policies to determine the rules regarding operating and capital expenditure. 

STAR should be seen in the context of the Youth Guarantee (external link) , which contains initiatives that aim to build the skills and core capabilities of young people.

STAR is designed to support a coherent Vocational Pathways programme by enabling

  • schools to form partnerships with tertiary education providers and employers to provide vocational education and work experience
  • student exploration of pathways to work or further education
  • engagement with learning by highlighting the relevance of learning to future employment or study
  • achievement of NCEA and tertiary qualifications on the New Zealand Qualifications Framework.

Well-structured programmes reflect the goals in the following strategies:

The information provided below is primarily a resource for school curriculum leaders, but includes information for external providers, boards of trustees, principals, teachers, and parents and caregivers.

STAR review and what it means for schools

We reviewed STAR and Gateway to make sure these longstanding programmes aligned with more recent initiatives such as Youth Guarantee, Trades Academies, and the Vocational Pathways.

The review found that the sector strongly supports both the STAR and Gateway programmes and maintaining flexibility within both programmes to meet student needs. 
As a result of the review, we have taken the following actions:

From the start of the 2015 school year we have:

  • improved STAR reporting by identifying students in Student Management Systems (SMS) 
  • increased the average expected credit achievement student for Gateway from 10 to 20 credits but maintaining average credit expectations per student for STAR at 10 credits 
  • promoted the alignment of STAR and Gateway to the Vocational Pathways.

From the start of the 2016 school year: we will be

  • equalising weightings for STAR funding between year 11 to 13; with a higher weighting provided for students in Teen Parent Units.

What this means for schools

Improved STAR reporting

From 2015, schools receiving STAR funding have been recording students participating in STAR funded courses in their Student Management System (SMS). This information is provided back to the Ministry of Education through the regular school roll returns, and will help to:

  • ensure that STAR continues to be used to meet the needs of students
  • monitor the effectiveness of STAR on student achievement, retention and transition
  • identify and disseminate effective practice

Increasing expected credit achievement for Gateway

Average expected credit achievement per student for Gateway funded programmes has increased to 20 credits. On average Gateway is already delivering close to the proposed credit expectations, so most schools should experience little impact. Information on credit achievement will continue to inform TEC funding allocation decisions. 

Aligning STAR and Gateway to the Vocational Pathways

Using the Vocational Pathways will bring STAR and Gateway in line with Youth Guarantee opportunities, such as Trades Academies and fees-free tertiary programmes. It also means that STAR and Gateway can support learning and assessment based on the national curriculum, since the Vocational Pathways include credits derived from the national curriculum as well as from generic and industry standards.

Schools have kept their present flexibility to provide learning opportunities at higher levels, and/or opportunities outside the New Zealand Qualifications Framework, such as for driver licence training.

The Vocational Pathways have provided an important new framework to ensure that programmes are relevant, coherent, and support students to make effective transitions to further study and employment. For further information on designing coherent programmes go to Vocational Pathways (external link) .

Reweighting STAR funding

Currently, STAR funds Year 12 students at 1.5 times the rate of year 11 students and year 13+ students at twice the rate.

From 2016 we will equalise weightings for years 11 to, 13+ students at one unit per student. Teen Parent Units will be weighted at 1.5 units per student.

The reweighting of STAR funding units will shift funding from schools with high retention rates across years 11 to 13+ to those with lower retention rates.

The reweighting reflects the fact that schools currently use STAR funding across the senior secondary school. Prioritising STAR funding towards year 13+ students seems unjustified given that students in year 11 or 12 can equally benefit from STAR experiences.

The equalised weightings means that there will be fewer STAR funding units, so each STAR unit will generate a higher value of funding than at present.

The first 30 (rather than the current 40) STAR funding units will be funded at a higher rate than subsequent units. 


 2015 STAR funding rates ($)2016 STAR funding rates ($)
First 40 units 718.62  
First 30 units   996.27
Subsequent units 126.29 175.08

The STAR funding rates are published with the other operational grant rates (external link) annually.

For an indication of how the reweighting is likely to affect your school’s STAR funding, enter your expected Year 11, Year 12 and Year 13+ rolls into this spreadsheet and it will calculate what your STAR funding would be under the indicative 2016 rates compared with the current funding rates.

Background to the STAR review

In August 2013, the Ministry of Education released a discussion document and survey to key STAR and Gateway stakeholders. The discussion document proposed the following 4 proposals for stakeholder comment:

  • increasing expected credit achievement for STAR and Gateway 
  • aligning STAR and Gateway with the Vocational Pathways 
  • re-weighting STAR funding across Years 11 to 13 
  • improving reporting about STAR. 

More than 500 submissions were received, 84% of responses from the school sector, and around 10% from the tertiary sector.

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