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ACC Releases Mates and Dates Evaluation

September 10, 2015 at 11:00 AM

ACC releases evaluation summary from Mates and Dates pilot

*From the New Zealand Family Violence Clearinghouse*

ACC has released a summary of the evaluation of its healthy relationships programme, Mates and Dates. Mates and Dates is designed to prevent sexual and dating violence by teaching relationship skills and behaviours. It is about all kinds of relationships, including friends and family. The programme was piloted in eight secondary schools in 2014.

The evaluation, by Lighthouse Consulting, found that Mates and Dates "met best practice standards for the most part when considered in the mainstream paradigm. This was particularly evident in the course content which focused on developing and practising new skills, and the step-laddered content design of the programme, which ensured age-appropriate materials."

The programme is delivered to high school students in Years 9 to 13. Students participate in five, 50 minute sessions at each year level, with sessions building on the lessons of the previous year.

The evaluation approach consisted of six separate components: (1) a self-complete electronic tablet survey for students, (2) interviews with students, (3) interviews with key stakeholders, (4) observation of programme delivery, (5) four case studies, and (6) evaluation of facilitator training.

The survey showed that after participating in the programme, students had improved attitudes towards rape, greater confidence in their ability to recognise risky situations and inappropriate sexual behaviour and greater confidence in their ability to seek help or support for themselves or others if needed. Students participating in the pilot were only exposed to one year of the programme.

Overall students and facilitators were generally positive about the programme. Teachers were supportive of the concept of Mates and Dates though some had concerns over the effectiveness of the pilot delivery model. There was general agreement amongst teachers that the programme had had a positive impact on students.

Programme changes recommended by the evaluators include:

  • "review of the selection, training and supervision of facilitators for Mates and Dates. Facilitators are critical for programme effectiveness and require teaching skills as well as subject area knowledge
  • Kaupapa Māori principles need to be explicitly articulated in course materials. There must be acknowledgement and inclusion of the needs of Pacific participants. The needs of deaf students, students on the autism spectrum and students with other disabilities must also be acknowledged - course design should be improved to enable access, engagement, and learning. Resources need to reflect their audience if they are to resonate and have meaning"

In relation to the school setting, recommendations include:

  • "the programme needs to operate on a whole-of-school approach. A focused review is required to identify how Mates and Dates can operate as intended within a whole-of-school approach and how schools can be supported to develop and implement policies around disclosures
  • ACC needs to work with the Ministry of Education to consider options for aligning the programme with the curriculum and getting credit for programme participation" 

The evaluators recommend that if the identified improvements are made to the programme and its delivery, Mates and Dates be continued and expanded, with ongoing annual monitoring and evaluation.

The evaluators comment, "There are a number of programmes covering similar areas in the New Zealand environment, and schools are regularly offered a variety of choices in terms of these programmes. Some are evidence-based best practice programmes and some are not. If ACC and the Ministry of Education could agree on supporting an evidence-based programme such as Mates and Dates, this would ensure both consistency of messaging and delivery of best-practice programmes in schools. Schools themselves are often not in a position to decide which programme is best. ACC and the Ministry of Education are better placed to make such a decision. This would also ensure cost-effective expenditure in the sexual violence prevention area."

In response, ACC's website says it is improving Mates and Dates by:

  • "redesigning content to make sure it is relevant to young people in New Zealand
  • developing content to meet the needs of Maori, Pasifika and people with disabilities
  • partnering with schools and teachers to make sure Mates & Dates is well understood and supported by school communities."

ACC states it is committed to making Mates and Dates available to all interested schools and is delivering the programme in pilot and new schools in 2015. ACC is aiming to bring on board an additional 30 schools in 2016.

For more information visit th e NZFVC website