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  • Writer's pictureLiam Rutherford

CROSS POST - Fixing the system: Supporting interventions for students with additional needs

The following was been shared here with permission from Equity through Education Centre.

You can find the orginal post here.

The Minister of Education, the Honourable Erica Stanford has just announced six education priorities. It is very pleasing to see that one of these priorities is “Stronger learning support: Targeting effective learning support interventions for students with additional needs” (Learning Support is the term the Government use to describe the funding and other supports made available to help these students, their teachers and their whānau).

This is pleasing to see because New Zealand, like many other countries around the world is grappling with significant disparities between the education access, participation and outcomes of some students, and in particular, disabled students and those with additional needs.  It is also pleasing to see because for many years, teachers, parents and students have been asking for support to even the education playing field. 

A useful summary of the state of education in Aotearoa for learners with additional needs and their whanau is reported in a 2022  Education Review Office (ERO) publication -  Thriving At School? Education For Disabled Learners In Schools. In this study, ERO surveyed over 300 disabled learners and over 500 parents and whānau. Their study also included teachers, teacher aides, principals and Special Education Needs Coordinators. The major findings included that:

  • Leaders in schools did not fully understand what is expected and the legal obligations and policy initiatives to support these learners. 

  • Many teachers were not confident in teaching disabled learners, in particular, secondary school teachers. Linked to this findings, it was reported that a third of disabled learners did not feel supported to learn in a way that suited them  and approximately a third of parents and whānau were not happy with the quality of their child’s schooling. 

  • Guidelines and tools for disabled learners were not being used by teachers (for example guidelines such as those found on the TKI Inclusive Education website

  • Partnerships with learners and their whānau could be strengthened because  there was insufficient involvement of disabled learners and their whānau in planning student learning.

(Education Review Office, 2022)

A range of suggestions and recommendations (19) were provided to address each of these areas. These recommendations provide not only a useful set of guidelines for thinking about how we might improve the education access, participation and outcomes for disabled students and those with additional needs, but also a reminder that doing so will require more than just a ‘fix the student’ approach. Rather, what will be required is a ‘fix the system’ approach with all of the recommendations in this report focused on the systematic issues that are impeding the success of disabled students and those with additional needs. 

Coming back to the Minister of Education’s announcement that she intends to target effective learning support interventions for students with additional needs, it is hoped that these notions of systemic interventions so desperately needed and strongly supported by research, are at the forefront of her thinking and her actions. 


Education Review Office (2022). Thriving in school? Education for disabled learners in schools. Available from:

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