Learning Support When Your Child Is At School

Learning Support When Your Child Is At School

All tamariki (children) with additional learning needs receive support from their school. But if you and the teachers agree your child needs additional support, the Ministry of Education's Learning Support team can help. Staff at your child's school can arrange this.


What supports are available for tamariki with additional needs?

If your child is experiencing challenges that are impacting their wellbeing and learning, staff at their school can arrange additional support. 

Most schools have a special education needs coordinator (SENCO) or a learning support coordinator (LSC). They can help support your child’s learning and access additional services such as the following.

Specially trained teachers

Resource Teachers: Learning and Behaviour (RTLB)

Teachers with specialist training who work alongside you and your child’s school to plan and apply support for learning and wellbeing. 

Resource Teachers: Vision (RTV)

Teachers with specialist training in supporting students who are blind or have low vision. 

Resource Teachers of the Deaf

Teachers with specialist training in supporting students who are Deaf or hard of hearing.

Physical Disability Service

The Physical Disability Service includes physiotherapists and occupational therapists. They work alongside families and teachers to help adapt the environment to help tamariki fully participate and learn alongside their classmates. 

Who might provide the extra support for my child with additional needs?

Speech language therapists

Speech language therapists help students with communication needs, including social communication. Speech language therapists focus on building the capability of whānau (family) and educators to support a child's ability to communicate effectively in their daily life.

Physiotherapists and occupational therapists

Physiotherapists and occupational therapists help families and teachers to support the learning, wellbeing and participation of students with physical and sensory needs.


Psychologists work as part of a team with families and teachers to provide support for a range of educational needs. As part of this support, psychologists help create plans in areas such as social and emotional learning and wellbeing.

Special Education Advisers/Learning Support Advisers 

Special Education Advisers/Learning Support Advisers work as part of a team with families and teachers to provide support for learning and wellbeing. These advisers support teachers to adapt their teaching and learning programmes to allow all students to participate. 

Advisers on Deaf children 

Advisers on Deaf children (AoDC) provide support for students identified as Deaf or hard of hearing and their whānau, from birth to the end of school. AoDC have a focus on the early years - from birth to year 3 at school. AoDC focus on building the capability of whānau and educators to support a child's communication, language development and learning.

Kaitakawaenga (Māori advisers)

Kaitakawaenga (Māori advisers) work with teams to help make sure tamariki and their whānau receive a culturally responsive service.

Is there any other support that might be available for my child with additional needs?

In some situations, other supports may be available for tamariki with additional learning needs.

Teacher aides

Teacher aides are part of a school team, supporting the teacher in the learning and wellbeing of all students.

Specialised School Transport Assistance

Specialised School Transport Assistance (SESTA) is a Ministry of Education transport service. It supports tamariki who have safety and/or mobility needs to travel to and from school. 

See the Ministry of Education website for more information on SESTA

Learning Support property modifications

When a student plans to enrol at school, the Ministry of Education can provide funding for property modifications that allow them to enter the school and perform everyday school activities. There is a specific process for getting property modifications that a Ministry of Education specialist will discuss with you as it applies to your child. 

See the Ministry of Education website for more information on Learning Support property modifications

Assistive technology

There may be special equipment or assistive technology available to support your child's learning. This is equipment that helps tamariki to fully participate and learn alongside their classmates.

What if additional learning supports are not meeting my child's needs?

If the learning supports that are part of your child’s plan are not meeting your needs and expectations, then it is important to talk to someone about this. You can discuss it with your child’s teacher, the SENCO or LSC and any Ministry specialist or specialist teacher who might be part of the team. You could also talk directly to a service manager at your local Ministry of Education office.  

How can specialist schools help my child with additional needs?

Specialist schools support students with high needs, either in day schools or residential schools across New Zealand. There are a number of specialist schools in New Zealand for students in years 1 to 13 who have high needs. 

If you're interested in knowing more about a specialist school, Ministry of Education Learning Support staff can give you the information and together you can talk through possible options for your child.

To enrol your child in the two following types of specialist school, you will need a Specialist Education Agreement (previously known as a Section 9 Agreement). 

Day specialist schools

Day specialist schools can provide specialist teaching and services to your child if they have high needs. As well as a base school, many specialist schools have satellite classes on-site at local schools. This means your child can receive specialist teaching and still be in their local school environment.

Some specialist schools also offer a travelling (also called itinerant or outreach) teaching service. This means your child can be enrolled at their local school but the specialist school can provide support to your child and their teacher.

Residential specialist schools

There are three residential specialist schools (RSS) that can support your child if they have significant social, emotional and learning needs that impact their life. These schools are for when local learning supports have been tried but have been unable to fully meet the needs of your child and whānau.

There are two other RSS for vision and for hearing:

  • Blind and Low Vision Education Network NZ (BLENNZ)
  • Ko Taku Reo Deaf Education

These placements are for students who need residential programmes to support their learning.

Regional health schools

Regional health schools provide teachers for tamariki from years 0 to 13 who have significant health needs that limit them from attending their local school.  

To access this support, you will need a medical certificate that says:

  • what your child’s condition is
  • how it’s being treated
  • how it’s stopping them from going to school 

There are 3 regional health schools: one in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch. Health school teachers can teach a child anywhere in New Zealand. Tamariki stay on the roll of their local school while they get support from the health school.

For more information, see the KidsHealth page about education when your child is in hospital.

See more KidsHealth information about Learning Support

Find out what Learning Support is

See the KidsHealth page on Learning Support before your child goes to school

See the KidsHealth page about Learning Support when your child has significant needs

See the KidsHealth page about Learning Support when your child has high health needs


The Paediatric Society of New Zealand acknowledge the cooperation of the Ministry of Education | Te Tāhuhu o te Mātauranga in making this content available to parents, caregivers and whānau.

This page last reviewed 05 December 2023.

Call Healthline on 0800 611 116 any time of the day or night for free health advice when you need it