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 teachers decide your child needs extra learning support, the Ministry of Education's Learning Support team can help. Staff at your child's 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 that are having a significant impact on their access to the school curriculum, wellbeing and participation, staff at their school will coordinate extra support. Most schools have a special education needs coordinator (SENCO) or a learning support coordinator (LSC). This person can help you access and coordinate 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)
  • the Physical Disability Service that works with teachers and schools to help them adapt the environment around a student to meet the student's needs

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

Speech-language therapists

Speech-language therapists help students with significant communication needs. They can help families and teachers to support the development of students' communication skills. The support focuses on building the capability of family, whānau and educators to support the child's ability to communicate effectively in their daily life.

Physiotherapists and occupational therapists

Physiotherapists and occupational therapists provide help 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 provide support for children identified as deaf or hard of hearing and their families and whānau from birth to end of school. The advisers have a focus on the early years - from birth to year 3 at school. The support focuses on building the capability of family, whānau and educators to support the child's communication, language development and learning.

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.

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

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 learning support service is not meeting my child's 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 Learning Support complaints procedure, talk to a service manager at your local Ministry of Education office. The Ministry of Education has 10 regional offices around the country. See 'External links and downloads' at the bottom of this page for contact details.

How can specialist schools help my child with high needs?

Specialist schools support high needs students, either in day schools or residential schools across New Zealand. There are 28 day specialist schools in New Zealand for students in years 1 to 13 who have high 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.

Learning Support staff can give you the information you need to help you work out the best option for your child.

Day specialist schools

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

Some specialist schools also offer a travelling (also called itinerant or outreach) teaching service, so that your child can be enrolled at their local school in a regular classroom but get specialist teaching from the special school.

Residential specialist schools

Residential specialist schools (RSS) can support your child if they are deaf, hard of hearing, blind, have low vision, or have severe behaviour needs, or have educational, social and emotional needs together with a slow rate of learning.

Regional health schools

Regional health schools provide teachers for children from years 0 to 13 who are unwell. There are 3 regional health schools: one in Auckland, one in Wellington and one in Christchurch. Health school teachers can teach a child anywhere in New Zealand. The children stay on the roll of their usual school while they get support from the health school.

For more information see Education when your child is in hospital.


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 27 August 2020.

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