1. Definitions

2. School Organization

3. Laws, Plans, Policies and Programmes

4. Governance

5. Learning Environments

6. Teachers and Support Personnel

7. Monitoring and Reporting


  1. Definitions

Inclusive education

The Ministry of Education defines inclusive education as the context, “where all children and young people are engaged and achieve through being present, participating, learning and belonging”. Inclusive education is also about the development and design of learning spaces and activities, so that all leaners can learn and participate together and affirm their identity.

Special education needs

The Ministry of Education clarifies that children with special educational needs are children who require “extra support because of a physical disability, a sensory impairment, a learning or communication delay, a social, emotional or behavioural difficulty, or a combination of these.”


  1. School Organization

In compliance with the 1989 Education Act, most students with special needs participate in regular school settings, while students with special education needs can benefit from additional individualised funding or support.

Residential special schools are still in place for students with special educational needs owing to vision and/or hearing impairments and social, behavioural, and/or learning difficulties. Parents or guardians of students who wish to be enrolled in a special school need to draw up a formal agreement with the Ministry of Education.

Established by the 1989 Education Act (art.155), Māori-medium education (Kura Kaupapa Māori) are state schools that adhere to the philosophy, principles and practices of Te Aho Mātua, whose curriculum subjects are taught in Māori language.

Partnership Schools (Kura Hourua) are a new type of school in the education system targeting learners from areas that have traditionally experienced education challenges. Piloted in 2014 and focused on outcomes, the Partnership Schools provide an innovative approach to better cater for local needs through more flexibility, including over curriculum, qualifications, funding, hours of operation, and school leadership.


  1. Laws, Plans, Policies and Programmes

New Zealand does not have a single written constitution. Fundamental rights and principles are enshrined in key rights acts. Part 2 of the 1993 Human Rights Act regulates unlawful discrimination in various sectors and contexts, prohibiting discriminatory practices on grounds of sex, sex, marital status, religious and ethical belief; colour; race; ethnic or national origins; disability; age; employment status; family status; political opinion; and sexual orientation. In relation to education, it declares unlawful the denial of school admission, the discriminatory admission and/or the restriction of benefits and services by an educational institutions or authority (art.57). These provisions are reiterated in the 1990 Bill of Rights Act (art.19).

The inclusive principle has been reaffirmed in many population-based policies and strategies. The Education Plan Ambitious for New Zealand 2016-2020 recognizes the diverse needs for additional learning support for children in their education pathway. The Plan aims to strengthen the use of data to improve individual assessment and adequately address the needs of every child and young person within fully inclusive education system.


The 1993 Human Rights Act lays foundations for limitations of the non-discrimination provision in education (art.57) by admitting exceptions in relation to disability. In the case that a person with disability requires special services or facilities “that in the circumstances cannot reasonably be made available” (art.58). The 2000 New Zealand Public Health and Disability Act requires the elaboration of a National Disability Strategy, under which the Minister for Disability Issues reports to the Parliament annually on the progress made in the sector. As part of the transformation of the disability support system, the 2006 New Zealand Sign Language Act proclaimed New Zealand Sign Language as an official language of the country.

Since 2000, New Zealand has adopted national disability strategies on a regular basis. The most recent Disability Strategy 2016-2026, outcome of an extended consultation process, reaffirms the inclusive principle for the country’s education policy, practice and pedagogy and as core competency for all education practitioners. The Disability Action Plan 2019-2023. Putting the New Zealand Disability Strategy into Action sets out among its objectives to improve education outcomes for persons with disabilities at the tertiary education level. 

In education, the 1989 Education Act establishes that people with special education needs have the same right to receive education as their peers. To comply with this provision, the Education Review Office (ERO) conducted an audit on inclusive practices whose assessment paved the way to the adoption of the 2011 Success for All - Every School, Every Child Report. With the intention to make schools more accountable for accepting and supporting students with special education needs, the review consisted in extending and making more flexible the access to special education services. Teachers and school personnel’s awareness about children with disabilities was strengthened and higher attention was paid to transport and transition from school to employment. The 2015 Special Education Update Action Plan introduces a programme of redesign of the system of education for students with additional learning needs. The Update Action Plan further calls for strengthening collaboration between specialists, educators, students, parents and teachers and for increasing quality information about additional learning support. In order to remove fragmentation and make the best use of funds, a new Learning Support Delivery Model was rolled out in 2019. The cluster gives communities more flexibility to cater for the needs of local schools and kura in terms of teacher professional development, classroom schedules, and specialists support.


The 1993 Human Rights Act prohibits any discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation, specifying heterosexual, homosexual, lesbian, or bisexual orientation, and on grounds of sex, including pregnancy and childbirth (art.21.1).

Gender equality is a principle imbued in general in education policies and strategies. In education, specific gender actions were targeted at encouraging girls’ participation in science and technologies studies, such as through the Science in Society Plan. A Nation of Curious Minds government initiative and through STEM Scholarships, or at support for LGBTI community through the Bullying Prevention Guidelines in schools. On the other hand, the Disability Strategy 2016-2026 clarifies that community members do not identify as part of the gender binary, male or female, or have a predominant sexual orientation. It further recognises a diversity in the way disability is perceived, also according to gender.

Ethnic and linguistic groups

The 1840 Treaty of Waitangi represents a founding document for the relations with all the tribes (iwi), also for education, as the Treaty provides legal protection to the Māori language (te reo Māori), which was declared official language of the country in 1987 the Māori Language Act. As established in the 1990 Bill of Rights Act, a person belonging to an “ethnic, religious, or linguistic minority in New Zealand shall not be denied the right, in community with other members of that minority, to enjoy the culture, to profess and practise the religion, or to use the language, of that minority” (art.20).

Amended in 201, the 1989 Education Act states that schools are required to consult local communities for the development of policies, plans and targets related to the achievement of Māori students. It further introduces kura kaupapa Māori, literally schools based on the Māori philosophy and approach, i.e. state schools whose instruction language is Māori.

The use of the Māori language has been particularly encouraged through the Māori Language Strategy, initially promulgated in 1999. The most recent Māori Language Strategy was approved in 2014 in consultation with Māori stakeholder groups. The Māori language in education strategy 2013-2017 provides a comprehensive framework for the support of Māori language in education through the cooperation with and for tribes (iwi), communities and Māori language providers, strengthening the Māori medium sector and networks, building evidence based and increase accountability for Māori language in education. In the Māori education strategy: Accelerating Success 2013 -2017 aims to ensure that all Māori students, their parents and their teachers (whanau) participate in and contribute to their unique identity, language and culture.

The Pacifika Education Plan 2013-2017 sets out the Government’s strategic direction for improving Pasifika education. Among its priorities, the Plan aims to improve education outcomes of Māori learners, Pasifika learners, learners with special education needs and learners from low socio-economic backgrounds through a greater involvement and information about the existing education services to Pasifika parents, families and communities. Among the implementation actions, the Early Learning Taskforce (ELTF) has been launched in 2010 as new initiative with the aim to engage community groups, local organizations, and other agencies. Vocational Pathways, established in 2013, provides a road map to support students to navigate education and work towards further study and careers. Secondary Tertiary programmes (including Trades Academies), Fees-free programmes, STAR (Secondary Tertiary Alignment Resource), the Youth Guarantee Achievement, Retention, Transitions (ART) and Gateway are examples of other tailored actions aimed to improve educational outcomes for Māori and Pasifika students.

People living in rural or remote areas

New Zealand Correspondence School provides distance education to students from early childhood to secondary level who cannot attend a school in person due to their geographical isolation. The Ministry also subsidizes boarding school hostel fees for students from inaccessible areas. Rural Education Activities Programmes (REAPs) have been established as community organizations in rural areas to assist families and students with their learning experience.


Parents and guardians unable to meet the voluntary financial contribution to school are entitled to receive financial assistance, for example, through the Child Care Subsidy and through ad hoc grants for school-related costs, such as school uniforms.


While refugees and asylum seekers are entitled to access education and receive specific additional support, children of migrants aged between 5 and 19 have to fulfill specific criteria in order to have free access to school as domestic students for a period of up to 2 years, renewable if they still meet the criteria. The Ministry of education sets out the eligibility criteria for education access of children of long-stay -over 6 months- migrants in a formal notice in 2010. The 2014 Migrant Settlement and Integration Strategy sets education and training as second outcome of the framework.


  1. Governance

Coordination across sectors

The responsibility for the implementation of the Disability Strategy and the Disability Action Plan, which also affects education provision, is shared among different sectors. Depending on the focus, the Ministry of Education; the Ministry of Social Development; the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment; and the Ministry of Health can be respectively involved. The Office for Disability Issues acts as governmental focal point to assist with the implementation of the CRPD and the Disability Strategy, while the Ministerial Committee on Disability Issues has been established to provide overall decision making and accountability for the Disability Action Plan. The implementation of the plan is jointly overseen by the Disabled People’s Organizations and by the Chief Executives’ Group on Disability Issues. The Chief Executives’ Group on Disability Issues holds leadership and coordinates the government agencies on implementing decisions by the Ministerial Committee on Disability Issues. Under the Ministry of Education, the Group Special Education, previously known as Special Education Service, is an independent Agency that provides advice, guidance and support for education of students under the age of 21 with learning difficulties. It also acts as a focal point for local schools.

The Ministry of Education is part of the State Services Commission joint working group to design gender pay principles in partnership with the union ad as part of its Diversity and Inclusion programme of work.

Throughout the country, Ministry of Education’s Senior Advisors are focal points for refugee and migrant support.

Coordination across government levels

The Ministry of education lays a role of management coordination. 10 local ministry offices are located throughout the country and are the first contact for early learning services, schools, parents and the wider community. Each school is governed by a Board of trustees, which is made up of elected parent representatives, staff, principal and student representatives. School boards of trustees are the largest single group of crown entities in the country, accountable directly to the government and the local community for the quality of education in their school.

After the 1988 education management devolution, schools in New Zealand have been considered among the most autonomous schools across OECD countries. Schools can, for instance, personalize their curriculum to better respond to the needs of local learners and their communities.


  1. Learning Environments


The Education Infrastructure Design Guidance Documents outline the Ministry’s national guidelines for school property design. The independent Design Review Panel (DRP) provides independent, high-level reviews of school development projects at various design stages.


The Ongoing Resourcing Scheme (ORS) is a form of special support for students with the highest level of need for special education, through specialists, consumables and teacher aides, which enable students to join in and learn alongside other students at school. The Specialised School Transport Assistance (SESTA) is a transport service that assists children and young people with safety and/or mobility needs that prevent them from travelling independently to school.


New Zealand education system endorses the Universal Design for Learning (UDL) educational approach. As prescribed in the New Zealand Curriculum (for English language settings) and Te Marautanga o Aotearoa (for Maori language settings), a non-prescriptive and flexible learning approach enables to recognize all students’ identities, languages, cultures, abilities, and talents.


  1. Teachers and Support personnel

Initial teacher education (ITE) programme will be reviewed and monitored between now and the end of 2020. The New Zealand Teachers Council has been reported to be willing to include a specific focus on inclusive education in future initial teacher education programmes. In late 2015, the professional learning and development provision was recommended to be revised, based on report from an advisory group of education experts. A specific emphasis was laid on the concept of schools as communities of learning and on learning achievement.


Inclusive Education is considered one aspect of the ITE programmes. ITE programmes consist of understanding the impact of disability, behaviour disorder or difficulties in learning might have on a student’s access to and participation in learning and of knowing main related legislation. New teachers are trained to identify learners’ needs and analyze special education provisions and suitable available services. A Post Graduate Diploma in Specialist Teaching was introduced in 2011 with specialisations in Autism Spectrum Disorder; Blind and Vision Impairment; Deaf and Hearing Impairment; Early Intervention; Gifted and Talented; and Learning and Behaviour.

Ethnic and linguistic groups

Māori medium initial teacher education (ITE) programmes train teachers to teach effectively in early childhood and/or primary, and/or secondary Māori medium settings. Ongoing professional learning and development (PLD) is considered central to providing high quality teaching and learning. Addressing the needs of ethnic and linguistic minorities, teachers are required to become familiar with Tātaiako: Cultural Competencies for Teachers of Māori Learners.

In order to foster inclusion, schools and kura are supported with special services to address students’ special needs. Resource Teachers: Learning and Behaviour (RTLB) are specialized, itinerant Māori teachers who, for example, support the classroom and the subject teachers to manage the diversity of students’ learning needs in an inclusive environment, support the school to implement class or school-wide programmes or who can work directly with small groups of students. Teachers from the Specialist Teacher Outreach Service (Outreach Service) are also itinerant teachers who support students exclusively on the Ongoing Resourcing Scheme (ORS). The specialist teacher works as part of the student’s support team, which includes their class teachers, special education staff, support staff and family or extended communities.


  1. Monitoring and Reporting

The Departmental Financial Statements of New Zealand provides annual monitoring reports.

In 2017, the Diversity and Inclusion Committee launched a Diversity and Inclusion framework, which includes diversity and inclusion quarterly targets. The Education Review Office (ERO) reviews and reports on the quality of education in all New Zealand schools and ECE services. The ERO also publishes national reports on specific education topics.

ERO’s school evaluation are conducted based on two types of indicators:

  • Outcome indicators, which are drawn from the New Zealand Curriculum and Te Marautanga o Aotearoa and assess the impact of school policies and actions. In relation to inclusive education, outcome indicators focus, among others, on students’ confidentiality in identify, language and culture measure in valuating diversity and difference; they measure the social and emotional competent, resilience and optimism by accessing students’ feeling of inclusion, safeness and security, ability to establish and maintain positive relationships, respect for others’ needs and to show empathy;
  • Process indicators, which describe practices and processes that contribute to school effectiveness and improvement. Within the stewardship domain, the process indicators monitor, for example, whether the school curriculum is effectively inclusive and responsive to local needs, context and environment. Process indicators evaluate leadership for equity and excellence accessing the school community’s ability to create an inclusive environment. Teachers’ cultural competence and expertise to provide inclusive and productive learning environments for diverse students are also considered effective practices for assessing human resource management.

In relation to the Disability Policy, the Government established an Independent Monitoring Mechanism (IMM) in 2011 as qualitative mechanism to promote, protect and monitor the implementation of the CRPD.

Last modified:

Tue, 12/05/2020 - 17:27