From arrival in New Zealand refugee students are disadvantaged as they will often not have had the experience of formal education. In New Zealand, the mismatch of age and placement in classes contributes to educational failure. Additionally, Somali and other refugee-background parents are often poorly engaged with their children’s schools and with their education. This article reports on the findings of an evaluation of a student-centred approach to improving educational achievement, the Somali-led Refugee Student Catch-Up class for primary, intermediate and secondary school students in the Auckland region. A participatory action research approach was used for the evaluation study which included: interviews with programme leaders and teachers; a survey of student educational outcomes; focus groups with students; and classroom observations. The study found that the catch-up programme resulted in improvement in students’ marks in English, Mathematics and Science. Students of all ages were consistently regular attenders at the weekend catch-up programme. The study concluded that the catch-up programme had succeeded in improving student achievement, notably at the secondary school levels. Somali community involvement was a critical factor in maintaining leadership, voluntary support and parent and student engagement.