Choosing a School and Starting Primary School

Every child from the age of five has the right to go to their local school. This right applies equally to children with special education needs and is protected by the Education Act 1989 and the New Zealand Disability Strategy.

That’s the theory - however an Education Review Office (ERO) survey in 2010 found that only fifty per cent of schools surveyed were fully inclusive, 30 percent demonstrated some inclusive practices and 20 per cent showed few inclusive practices. The New Zealand Government has now set a goal of all schools demonstrating inclusive practices by 2014.

Schools are funded to support all children and they should be able to support most children through using a range of different strategies to meet their needs. Your child’s teacher is responsible for the learning of all the kids in their class. Every student will come to school with different levels of experience, and ways of learning. There is no one size fits all.

At good inclusive schools, teachers are flexible in the way they teach and use the curriculum, so that many students with special education needs will need only minimal, if any, teaching adaptations. If this doesn’t work, that’s when additional funding kicks in.

However, if you feel a school is being unwelcoming or is reluctant to enrol your child because of their special education needs, you can phone the Ministry of Education 0800 662 222.

The Ministry of Education's Starting School booklet (pdf) and Going to Secondary School (pdf) booklet can help with information about choosing and preparing for school.

The Family/Whanau File (pdf) is a good way to help share information and brief your child’s school about their needs, interests and family.

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