Advice for parents and whānau with children with learning support needs

Advice for parents and whānau with children with learning support needs during Alert Level 3.

Schools - Information for Parents and Whānau Alert Level 3

Schools are contacting the parents and whānau of every child on their roll to assess their learning support needs during Alert Level 3.

Whether your child is continuing to learn from home or attending school, every student must have a learning programme that matches their needs, learning level and circumstances.

Learning from home 

There are some students with high and complex needs, for example students at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19, where public health measures under Alert Level 3 including physical distancing cannot be maintained at school. These students should stay home during Alert Level 3. 

For students who are continuing to learn from home, teachers, teacher aides and other members of school teams are key to developing tailored distance learning programmes based on the existing goals in a student’s individual education plan.  They will provide support to parents and whānau to manage this at home.

Students not participating in online learning

If students are not participating in online learning, schools will contact families and whānau to determine why and what is needed to make online learning accessible and meaningful for your child. 

Parents and whānau who need respite care or health related support should contact their usual Needs Assessment Coordinator (NASC).  

Attending school

Most students with learning support needs can attend school safely during Alert Level 3.  Schools are thinking flexibly about how they can support students with learning support needs using the resources and staff they have, keeping in mind that on-site learning is not operating as normal. 

This might include teachers working with additional teacher aides, or decreased bubble sizes for students with similar needs.

If your child requires close personal care, this will be provided by one consistent staff member who is in the bubble with the student.

If you request that your child attends school on-site, and the school is unsure if the student’s needs can be safely met within the resources they have, the Ministry will work with schools to find solutions within the options available.

Early Learning Services - Information for Parents and Whānau Alert Level 3

Early learning services are contacting parents and whānau of every child on their roll to assess their learning support needs during Alert Level 3.

Whether your child is continuing to learn from home or attending school, every student must have a learning programme that matches their needs, learning level and circumstances.

There are some children with high and complex needs, for example children at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19, where public health measures required under Alert Level 3 can’t be maintained at an early learning service.  These children should stay at home during Alert Level 3. 

Learning from home

Specialist staff have been working remotely with individual children during Alert Level 4 to support their learning at home, and will continue to do so during Alert Level 3. 

For children who are continuing to learn from home, kaiako and early learning service teams are key to developing tailored distance learning programmes.  They will provide support to parents and whānau to manage this at home.

Attending an early learning service

Most children with learning support needs can attend an early learning service safely during Alert Level 3.   Services are thinking flexibly about how they can support these children using the resources and staff they have, remembering that on-site learning is not operating as normal during this time.  

If your child requires close personal care, this will be provided by one consistent staff member who is in the bubble with the student.

If you request that your child attends an early learning service onsite, and the service is unsure whether the child’s needs can be safely met, the Ministry will work with services to find solutions within the options available. 

Other information for parents and whānau  

There are other sources of information that parents and whānau can use to more advice and support 

New Facebook page for families of children with high needs

Awhi-at-home is a support page for parents of disabled children during the Covid-19 emergency. The page promotes resources, tips and videos and refers parents to one-on-one support, live Q&A sessions and other online tools.

Awhi-at-home Facebook page (external link)

Wellbeing and behaviour support from Explore

Explore can provide immediate wellbeing and behaviour support advice, support, risk assessment and safety planning to anyone eligible for disability support services from the Needs Assessment Coordination Agencies (NASC) (external link) , or their support people. People will not need a referral from the NASC to access these services, but will be asked to identify their NASC.  

Disabled people, their whānau and support workers can call 0800 000 821 to receive wellbeing and behaviour support advice and support from Explore Behaviour Specialists. The phone line is open from 8am-8pm Monday to Friday. 

Explore focuses on the wellbeing of whānau, caregivers, residential staff and providers.  Explore has experience in delivering advice and support to whānau, children, adults, support workers and organisations. Explore is also setting up webinars on topics of concern and is accessing resources and materials to support this work. 

Contact Ministry of Education learning support services

FAQs

Who should learn at home under Alert Level 3?

  • The principle of Alert Level 3 is those who can stay home, should do so. If there is a parent or caregiver available, your child should stay home and continue to learn at distance at this time.
  • There are a small number of students where public health measures required under Alert Level 3, including physical distancing, cannot be maintained at school. We are asking the parents of these children to keep them at home for the next fortnight during Alert Level 3. 
  • Children with a higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19 must stay home whenever possible. If you are not sure whether your child is at greater risk, you should seek advice from your doctors and medical teams. 
  • Children who are unwell should not attend school.

My child attends a specialist school. Can she return to school now?

  • Residential Specialist Schools and Day Specialist Schools will not resume in the early stages of Level 3 for children to physically attend. Teaching staff can return to the school premises and support parents and children at home.  They will develop plans for children to return to physical attendance if public health measures can be managed later in the Alert Level 3 period.
  • Students enrolled at a Day Special School but attending a satellite unit in a local school may be considered for onsite attendance as part of the host school’s roll build up over time.

What about older students with Learning Support needs?

  • Young people in years 11-13 must continue to learn at home at this time. Contact your local Ministry office for advice if you need to work and your child cannot remain safely at home.
  • If you are not sure whether or how your child’s needs can be safely met, the Ministry’s regional office will work with you to find appropriate solutions.

Can children with learning support needs attend early learning services, school or kura under Level 3?

  • During Alert Level 3, Early Childhood Centres, schools and kura up to Year 10 are open. 
  • Most students with learning support needs can attend their school, kura or early learning service safely during Alert Level 3. If your child is not at higher risk of infection and health requirements can be managed, your child can attend their school or early learning service if you need to work.
  • The Ministry of Education has encouraged schools to think flexibly about how they can support students with learning support needs, using the resources and staff that they have, keeping in mind that on-site learning is not operating as normal.
  • Where a school is unsure how a student’s needs can be safely met within the resources available, the Ministry’s regional office will work with parents and the school to find appropriate solutions within available options.
  • Schools must ensure protocols are in place to keep students, teachers and other staff safe and will not be able to open, and remain open, unless they comply with all public health and workplace health and safety requirements.

How will my child get to school?

  • Specialised School Transport Assistance (SESTA) is available for some children with learning support needs where it can be provided safely. If your child has previously had transport assistance and you would like assistance to get your child to school now, please talk with your school about how this can be arranged.
  • Alternatively, you can drop off your child as you travel to work. Talk to your school to arrange a suitable drop of time and place.

What will learning at school look like?

  • Children will learn in small bubbles with a teacher and perhaps a teacher aide. Generally the same teacher will work with one bubble but a designated relief teacher may be needed so that the teacher can have breaks during the day
  • For students who require nappy changing and close personal care, this will be provided by one consistent staff member who is in the bubble with the student.

How will my child with learning support needs learn at home?

  • All children, regardless of their needs, circumstance or location should have a learning programme that is tailored to their individual learning goals and should be supported with the necessary advice, equipment and resources.
  • There is no expectation or requirement that parents take on the role of being a teacher for their children while they are at home. Teachers and specialists will provide learning support at a distance. However, parents and caregivers are important role models for their children and young people. Supporting them with activities at home and, wherever possible, remaining part of their usual routines, will support their wellbeing and connection with others and will help them adjust to this “new normal" approach to learning.
  • Children with learning support needs will continue to receive support from their teachers, teacher aides where possible, resource teacher and specialists. This team will talk with you about your priorities and needs at this time, and work with you to ensure there is a tailored learning plan in place for each child based on their individual learning goals
  • They will continue to work with families using whatever is available in their homes and will provide virtual guidance and support using telephone, Skype, videos or other online platforms.  Specialists are able to work remotely with families using online platforms and videos to complete observations, assessments and give advice.

How can my child’s teacher aide help?

  • Teacher aides can be part of the school team working together with you and your child. Teachers will discuss with you how your child’s teacher aide can best support your child’s learning.

What resources are available to support my child?

  • Some children have received a hard copy distance learning pack where it is suitable for their learning needs.
  • Talk with your school if you are having difficulty connecting to the internet or you need a device to support your child’s learning.
  • Under Alert Level 3, schools are now able to send out resources to support your child’s individual learning programme. Your child’s teacher or specialist will work with you to ensure you have the equipment and materials your child needs to communicate and learn at home.
  • Learning From Home (external link)  and Ki Te Ao Marama (external link)  have a range of resources to support students learning and we are adding to these regularly.
  • Educational programming is available on television: ‘Mauri Reo Mauri Ora’ for learning through te reo Māori and ‘Home Learning | Papa Kāinga TV’ for learning through English language, including content targeted for Pacific and other communities. These include programming for parents and whānau as well as programming for children and young people. Programming is tailored to specific age groups during the day, with learning content tamariki can do on their own, with siblings or as a whānau.

What if I need immediate support?

  • Where you need immediate support because of a behaviour incident, a significant escalation of behaviour or a similar urgent situation, please contact your school, your resource teacher or Ministry Learning Support specialist. Your local Ministry Service Manager can also arrange for immediate and ongoing support and pull in services from other agencies as needed.
  • If you need respite care or health related support you should contact your usual Needs Assessment Coordinator (NASC). 

What do I do if I’m concerned for the welfare or safety of a child?

  • If you have a concern about a child’s safety or well-being, the most important thing is that an agency that can help is advised.
  • If you believe a child is in immediate danger, call the Police on 111.  If you are worried about a child and want to make a referral or report of concern, call Oranga Tamariki using 0508 EDASSIST (0508 332 774) or Email edassist@ot.govt.nz

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