Learning Support When Your Child's At School

Learning Support When Your Child's At School

Most children with additional learning needs receive support from their school. But if your child has additional needs that are defined as high, staff at their school or early childhood education centre will coordinate extra services.

What support and services are available for children with additional needs?

If your child or young person has additional needs, their school can access support and services. Most schools have a special education needs coordinator (SENCO) who is often the deputy principal or another senior teacher. This person can help you access services such as:

  • specially trained teachers who work with students with moderate learning and/or behaviour difficulties (called resource teachers: learning and behaviour or RTLBs)
  • specially trained teachers for students with vision impairments (called resource teachers: vision)
  • teachers who work with children who have hearing impairments (called resource teachers: deaf)

Most children with additional learning needs receive support from their school. But if a child has additional needs that are having a significant impact on their access to the school curriculum, wellbeing and participation, staff at their school will coordinate extra support.

Who might provide the extra support?

Speech-language therapists

Speech-language therapists provide assistance to students with significant communication needs. They can help families and teachers to support the development of students' communication skills.

Physiotherapists and occupational therapists

Physiotherapists and occupational therapists provide assistance to students with physical disabilities. They can also provide advice to teachers and families. 


Psychologists work with those who need help to learn, and who need help with behaviour, social and emotional development. They provide appropriate psychological and educational assessments and interventions.

Special education advisers 

Special education advisers work with children with behavioural and learning needs. These advisers also work with teachers to help adapt their programmes.

Advisers on deaf children 

Advisers on deaf children work with children who are deaf or have hearing impairments. 

Teacher aides

Teacher aides provide support under the direction of classroom teachers.

Kaitakawaenga (Māori advisers)

As well as the specialists listed above, Special Education also employs Kaitakawaenga (Māori advisers) to help make sure children and their families receive a culturally responsive service.

Other support that might be available

In some situations the following support may be available:

  • a subsidy or allowance for transport assistance so a child can travel between home and the nearest school
  • alterations or additions to school property, within state schools, to enable children to move around the school easily, carry out regular activities and stay safe
  • a wide range of resources and equipment to support children's learning

What if a service is not meeting your needs?

If you are receiving a service and it's not meeting your needs and expectations, you should talk to your key worker. If you need information about the Special Education complaints procedure, talk to a service manager at your local Special Education office.

Special Education has 16 district offices around the country. 

Special schools

If your child has high needs, they might be able to go to one of the 28 special day schools around the country. There are also residential schools and health schools, each helping children with different needs.

  • regional hospital/health schools provide a national service for students with health needs that prevent them from attending school regularly. These schools operate from bases in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch
  • there are 2 deaf Education Centres that support students who are deaf or hard of hearing
  • the Blind and Low Vision Network New Zealand (BLENNZ) is a residential special school that supports students who are blind or have low vision. 
  • these schools also provide teaching services that support students in their local schools
  • there are also 3 residential special schools for students who have a variety of educational and social needs

If you're interested in enrolling your child in a special school you will need to have what is known as a Section 9 Agreement. Section 9 of the Education Act covers enrolment at special schools.

Some regular schools also have attached classes that provide specialist support for children who need additional support for learning. Your child can move between regular classes and the attached classes. Special Education staff will give you the information you need to help you work out the best option for your child.

Starship Foundation and the Paediatric Society of New Zealand acknowledge the cooperation of the Ministry of Education in making this content available to parents/caregivers and families. 

This page last reviewed 14 July 2017.
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