Additional learning support for your child

Some extra support with learning can help children thrive but sometimes, a specialist school is the best option. Let’s explain the options and potential actions.

additional learning support
Cluey Learning Tuesday, 12 October 2021

Additional learning support for your child

We’re all different, with individual abilities and personalities, and not every child fits well into a typical school environment. If your child has a disability, learning difficulties, physical or mental health issues or behavioural challenges, it’s important to know that this is part of a natural diversity that occurs in every learning environment.

In New Zealand, all children can attend their local school (kura) and early childhood education services (kohanga reo). If your child is among the one in five children and young people who need some extra support for their learning, there’s good news.

The Ministry of Education, New Zealand, recognises there is a growing need for extra help for these children and has developed a Learning Support Action Plan 2019 – 2025. Depending on the needs of your child and whether they require ongoing support throughout their education, or a shorter term more flexible support at certain times, the Ministry of Education has a plan for you.


What is the Ministry of Education Learning Support Action Plan?

The Ministry of Education Learning Support Action Plan includes six priorities to better provide an inclusive education system in New Zealand. These are:

  1. The introduction of Learning Support Coordinators (LSC’s) who work together across a school cluster to ensure children and young people with learning support needs get the help they need. Learning Support Coordinators work with teachers, school and kura leadership to put processes in place that help all children and young people progress, participate and make successful transitions.
  2. Screening and early identification of learning support needs is essential. Research shows that early identification and response has long-term benefits for children and young people. The Ministry of Education is taking a more systematic approach in identifying childrens’ learning support needs. There is a new set of screening tools to assess all children at certain stages. The Ministry of Education is working with the Ministry of Health to ensure this information is in line with health checks and screening. 
  3. The Ministry of Education is strengthening its early intervention by identifying the volume, mix and additional types of services needed. This includes information and support for families (whanau) and building on already existing services.
  4. Flexible supports for neurodiverse children and young people, including those with dyslexia and autism. This includes building the understanding and capability of early learning services and schools (kura) to teach and respond to neurodiverse children. This  helps to progress their learning at an appropriate depth and pace. The Ministry of Education is developing new tools and resources for teachers to help achieve this.
  5. Meeting the learning needs of gifted children and young people.
  6. Improving education for children and young people at risk of disengaging.


How this action plan is put into practice

Let’s take a look at early intervention. This involves identifying your child’s learning support needs before they start school. Whether your child has a developmental or learning delay, disability, behaviour or communication difficulty, you can seek help from the Early Intervention Service.


Early Intervention Service

The early intervention service provides government funded specialist support to help you gain the confidence, knowledge and skills to support your child’s learning and development. If your child is at home with you full time, still under 5 years old and you’re concerned, you can contact the early intervention service yourself. If your child is at an Early Childhood Education Centre or Kohanga Reo, you can ask them to make the request for you.

The early intervention team will meet with you and discuss your concerns and priorities. They will talk about how your child is doing in different situations in everyday life. This is to ensure the appropriate support is provided. They will then discuss the next steps with you.

Depending on the needs of your child, this could involve talking with other professionals such as Early Childhood Service educators or Kohanga Reo kaiako or health workers involved with your family.

Early intervention teams will help you develop a plan to support your child’s learning and development. This plan will be reviewed every few months and progress is discussed and agreed changes can be made. Early intervention teams include a range of specialists who will be matched to the needs of your child. 

Specialists include:

  • Advisors on deaf children (AODC)
  • Early intervention teachers (EITs)
  • Kaitakawaenga
  • Psychologists
  • Speech-language therapists (SLTs)


Incredible Years Programmes

These programmes are designed to support parents and teachers of children aged 3-8 who are experiencing behaviour difficulties. Some of the skills you will learn to help your child’s social, emotional, behavioural and academic competence are:

  • How to play and spend time together
  • Praising and rewarding children
  • Communicating positively
  • Setting limits
  • Reducing challenging behaviours
  • Helping children to problem solve.

There are also Incredible Years Programmes designed to support parents and teachers of children aged two to five years old who have autism. For more information, see

Once your child is ready for school, there are several options available. Some take time to set up but it always includes teachers, parents, and Whānau to provide the best support possible for your child’s specific needs.


Individual Education Plan (IEP) 

An Individual Education Plan (IEP) is a written plan that sets out goals for your child when they are at school or kura. This plan will be updated as you and your child’s team talk regularly about your child’s progress and what their next goals will be.

These plans outline how, who and when the goals for your child will be reached. They include:

  • Who will be working with your child, what their role will be and what they will do
  • How you and your family (whanau) can support your child’s learning at home
  • Teaching strategies that will support your child to learn
  • Resources or special equipment your child might need
  • What success for the team working with your child will look like.

Not all children with learning support needs require an IEP as, for many children, their needs are met by the school or kura. However, you and your child’s early intervention service, child’s specialist, school or kura will decide if an IEP is needed.

Once it has been decided that an Independent Education Programme is needed for your child, everyone who works with and knows your child well will be involved. These people form a support team around your child and may include educators, teachers, specialists and the Ministry of Education’s learning support team.


Extra support in the classroom

If your child has very special learning support needs, they can be supported to join in and learn at school through extra teacher time, help from specialists or funding for special equipment.

Ongoing Resourcing Scheme (ORS)

The Ongoing Resourcing Scheme (ORS) provides support for children with high or very high needs to help them join in and learn alongside other children at school or kura. If your child has extreme or severe difficulty with learning, speaking, communicating socially, hearing, seeing or moving about, it is likely they’ll be eligible for the Ongoing Resourcing Scheme. 

The special education needs co-ordinator (SENCO), teacher or kaiako at your school will apply to the Ministry of Education’s special education team. Your child’s school or kura will then work with you and the Ministry of Education’s learning support team to decide on the amount of support your child will receive. 

Depending on your child’s level of need, the Ongoing Resourcing Scheme may then provide an additional teacher or teacher’s aide, support from specialists and funding for small items your child might need.

For more information on this government funded Ongoing Resourcing Scheme and how it works, go to and look for special education.

If your child’s needs are not high enough to receive this support, you can speak to your child’s teacher, your school’s special education needs co-ordinator or the Ministry of Education’s learning support team to discuss other options. You may be able to receive support through the school’s Special Education Grant or from other learning support specialists.


Physical Disability Service

If your child has difficulty moving around the classroom and school, taking part in learning activities, or managing tasks like changing their clothes or eating meals, they may be eligible for support from the Physical Disability Service. 

This service provides physiotherapists and occupational therapists to work with your child at school so they can participate and learn alongside others. You and your child’s school will need to apply and a therapist will assess your child’s needs. A therapist will make observations of your child at school. They will talk to teachers, yourself and your whanau and other specialist teachers working with your child.

Once they have a clear picture of your child’s needs, therapists may give ideas on how to make sure your child is included at school. There may need to be changes to classrooms and other parts of the building to ensure your child can move around. Therapists will plan a programme with strategies to fit your child’s needs.


Severe Behaviour Service

If your child is experiencing severe behaviour difficulties, there is a team of specialists who schools and kura can call in to help. Psychologists and special education advisors have specialist knowledge, strategies and experience to deal with these behaviours.

They will look at what is contributing to your child’s behaviour and work out ways to help change and manage it. They provide advice and support for you and your family as well as your child’s teachers and kaiako. In this way, your child can be encouraged to learn more positive ways of coping and relating to others. 


Special Education Grant

Sometimes there are children with special education needs who may not be getting the support or funding they require. In this case, schools and kura can use a Special Education Grant to provide resources, teacher training, teacher’s aides and Resource Teachers: Learning and Behaviour (RTLB) and other specialists to support these children.

These funds can also be used to fund individual students or groups of students. The level of funding each school receives is based on student numbers and decile ranking.

If you feel your child’s special education needs are not being met by any of the services available, speak to your child’s teacher or the special education needs co-ordinator (SENCO) at your school about this.


When should I consider a specialist school?

If your child has high needs that are not being met in a mainstream school, it may be time to consider a specialist school. These schools provide specialist teaching and services to cater for your child’s individual needs. You will need to contact the school in your region directly to check for potential placements for your child.

For a list of contact information for day special schools throughout New Zealand, go to


Day schools

There are 28 specialist day schools across New Zealand that cater for students in years one to 13 who have high needs. This means children who may need to have the curriculum adapted for them. They may need support from specialist staff, additional teaching time and teacher’s aide support. Your child is entitled to attend a day specialist school until they are 21.

As well as a base school, many specialist schools have satellite classes on site at regular schools where your child can receive specialist teaching and the opportunity to interact in a regular school environment.


Residential schools

Residential specialist schools include: 

  • Centres for children who are deaf or hard of hearing
  • School for children who are blind and have low vision
  • Schools specialising in educational, social and emotional needs, together with an underlying intellectual impairment

To enrol your child in one of these specialist schools, you will need to contact your local Ministry of Education special education team. You can also contact your local office by calling Freephone 0800 622 222 (New Zealand only).

For more information and contact details go to and look for learning support services. More details about ORA funding and how it all works can be found here:

Cluey Newsletter

Our expert tips. Your inbox.

Follow us on Facebook