Exciting Developments Across the Learning Support Sector

It is widely accepted that children with disabilities and additional learning needs could be and indeed should be, better supported in our schools. The Ministry of Education’s Learning Support Action Plan, 2019-2025, which builds on its Learning Support Delivery Model, outlines exciting new developments for priority learners in early childhood centres, schools and kura throughout Aotearoa New Zealand.

Hands wrapping around group of learners

One in every five young people in our education system requires some level of additional support in order to reach their potential. They may have learning difficulties, disabilities, challenging behaviour, be disadvantaged or have mental health concerns. The New Zealand Disability Strategy, 2016-2026, determines how the Government responds to the obligations we have as a country under the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The Ministry of Education’s Learning Support Action Plan is guided by the legislation contained within the UN Convention.

With the notion of excellence and the achievement of individual potential at the forefront of thinking, the Government’s vision is firmly focussed on delivering a truly inclusive education system. Currently, over 99% of young people are attending their local schools, kura or early childhood education services me ngā kōhanga reo.

In an important contribution to the learning support conversation, a Select Committee Inquiry into how we identify and support young people with dyslexia, dyspraxia and autism spectrum disorder, raised issues regarding schools’ consistency of approach when trying to meet the needs of young people requiring additional support. The findings also highlighted the need to enhance teacher knowledge of learning support strategies and interventions and recognised that identifying the need for support sooner rather than later, is an important factor in preventing learner disengagement.

As well as the select committee inquiry, the thoughts, opinions and feelings of y

oung people, leaders, teachers, educators, stakeholders, whānau and families have recently been collated through the Kōrero Mātauranga Education Conversation.

This extensive consultation process has led to the development of the ministry’s Learning Support Action Plan. The aim of the Action Plan is to ensure the education system supports Outcome 1 of the NZ Disability Strategy and reflects the wishes of those it represents, that:

‘we get an excellent education and achieve our potential through our lives’.

The Learning Support Action Plan identifies six strategic priorities:

  1. Introducing learning support co-ordinators in schools and kura
  2. Earlier identification and quicker response times to learning support needs
  3. Strengthening early intervention
  4. Providing flexible additional support for young people with neurodiverse needs
  5. Increasing the support for gifted young people
  6. Improving education for young people at risk of disengagement.

The first priority is expected to strengthen levels of support for young people with disabilities or learning support needs. Co-ordinators will work together across a school cluster with teachers and leadership, to ensure participation, progression and great transitions. The second priority signals system-level changes to response times so there is as little delay as possible in accessing help, along with the development of new screening tools, including tools reflecting Māori concepts. The third priority focuses on cross-sector collaboration at early intervention level, as well as provision of flexible supports. The focus of the fourth priority is to build the capability of the sector to teach and respond to children with a range of neurological differences (known as neurodiverse), such as Autism Spectrum Disorder, ADHD, Dyslexia or Tourette Syndrome, and to address gaps in specialist services. Priority five details increased access to supports for gifted young people by implementing an extended package of support. The sixth and final priority aims to prevent disengagement from education for any young person at any stage of their schooling. This priority will also include enhanced at-risk education provision for those who need it.

The actions that underpin each of the six priority areas aim to ensure that all children and young people are present, participating and progressing in their education, that wellbeing is promoted and that whānau and families have the opportunity to be actively involved in supporting the learning of their tamariki.

The Learning Support Action Plan has attracted significant new investment, including $283.8 million in new funding over a four-year period.

Set to further enhance the Learning Support Action Plan is the Government’s Education Work Programme, which is making system-level changes, each of which will focus on equity in education from the perspectives of young people with disabilities and learning support needs. The plan has the potential to positively impact on the lives and educational outcomes of the most vulnerable young people in our schools, the one in five who are not achieving to their potential and are our priority learners.

Ko te tamaiti te putake o te kaupapa. The child is the heart of the matter. There is nowhere more important for this whakatauki to apply than to this group of disadvantaged young people, all of whom have a wide range of diverse needs. To become a truly inclusive society, diversity and difference can and should be, celebrated and affirmed. Our education sector has the privilege of being able to lead this mahi.

Evaluation Associates is committed to contributing to this critically important work and has recently appointed a Learning Support Specialist to help schools, kura and early childhood centres grow knowledge, capacity and capability in learning support expertise. Targeted professional learning, aligned with experience and great practice, will significantly reduce disparity and raise learner achievement in our early childhood centres, schools and kura throughout Aotearoa New Zealand.


Ministry of Education Learning Support Action Plan (2019-2025). Retrieved from: https://conversation.education.govt.nz/assets/DLSAP/Learning-Support-Action-Plan-2019-to-2025-English-V2.pdf

New Zealand Disability Strategy (2016-2026). Retrieved from: https://www.odi.govt.nz/assets/New-Zealand-Disability-Strategy-files/pdf-nz-disability-strategy-2016.pdf

United Nations Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities (2006). Retrieved from: https://www.odi.govt.nz/united-nations-convention-on-the-rights-of-persons-with-disabilities/

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Tags: learners active learners learning focused relationships active learning learning support inclusion

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