Special education property modifications at schools

Your school can get funding to modify your buildings and other school property when a student with special education needs enrols with you. The funding is also available for other people starting at your school, like staff members. This funding is separate from other capital funding. It does not cover any ongoing property work needed for that person.

Funding available for property modifications

When a student enrols at your school, or another person joins your school, we provide funding for property modifications that allow them to enter the school and perform normal school activities.

This funding is available for:

  • students who qualify for funding through the Ongoing Resourcing Scheme (ORS), a scheme for students with the highest special education needs
  • students with special education needs who are not ORS funded
  • staff members with special needs
  • other frequent school users, such as caregivers, who need property modifications to take part in normal school activities.

Property modifications funding is for capital work such as alterations to buildings and grounds. The funding is not available for operating expenses such as painting (regardless of value) or general maintenance. These expenses must be paid from your Property Maintenance Grant or operational funding.

When you make any modifications to your school, you should consider our Flexible Learning Space criteria (previously called Modern Learning Environments).

The process for getting property modifications

The diagram shows the steps involved in getting property modifications done at your school. This process can take 6 to 12 months to complete.

Property modification process diagram for special education

There are 10 steps in the property modification process:

  1. The student is enrolled at a school.
  2. The service coordinator or early intervention teacher contacts the Ministry and the school. If there are concerns raised about the student’s safety, the Ministry will arrange a Serious Risk Assessment and provide recommendations for solutions.
  3. The school contacts the Ministry with a referral.
  4. The Ministry organises a site visit to discuss the modifications needed.
  5. The Ministry provides a Property Modification Report outlining possible solutions.
  6. The school engages a project manager to develop the possible solutions.
  7. The Ministry approves or declines design solutions.
  8. The school and/or project manager tenders for contractors to carry out the work.
  9. The tender is approved and work commences.
  10. The special education therapist and project manager sign off that the completed work meets the needs of the student, as outlined in Property Modification Report.

Note: When planning your modifications for the new student who is enrolling consider incorporating elements that will improve accessibility for everyone. Discuss this possibility during the planning process.

Parties involved in property modification

The following people and groups are involved in getting property modifications done at your school:

  • The student provides input on specific needs through an assessment with the Ministry’s special education therapist.
  • Parents/caregivers, along with the school and special education therapist, contribute to the initial assessment and recommendations.
  • The early intervention teacher might be involved in the initial referral to a special education occupational therapist/physiotherapist and school property advisor. They also provide information for the assessment of the student’s needs.
  • The special education occupational therapist/physiotherapist completes the assessment and makes initial recommendations based on the student’s needs. Later they review the plans and check that the work done does meet the student’s needs.
  • The special education behaviour practitioner completes a serious risk assessment if this is required.
  • The school principal is involved in the initial assessment and liaises with the school property advisor. The principal engages the project manager and/or architect.
  • The board of trustees is represented by the principal or a current board member who is authorised to act on behalf of the board.
  • The project manager is responsible for delivering the project on time and within budget. They are a professional consultant with particular skills and experience in construction management. A project must have a project manager when it needs a building consent.
  • The architect/designer draws up concept or full plans based on recommendations in the Property Modification Report.
  • The school property advisor employed by the Ministry coordinates the process of approving and allocating funding for all school property work.

Spending property modification funding

If we approve the property modifications, we agree a budget with you so you can get them done. You will receive a specific project budget for this work, separate from your other capital funding.

Note: This funding does not count as past funding against your next 5 Year Agreement (5YA) funding.

You must follow these rules when spending this funding:

  • The modifications must meet the requirements for capital funding (see: Understanding the difference between capital and maintenance works). Note the lower capitalisation threshold of $2,500 for these projects. Any modifications less than that should be paid for out of your Property Maintenance Grant.
  • You must meet our project management requirements (see: Project management).
  • The Ministry decides on the modifications, as outlined in the Property Modification Report.
  • The funding is for changing existing space. You cannot use it to a build new area that goes beyond your school’s entitlement. If you think modifications can’t be accommodated within the existing building, we will assess the need for new space on a case-by-case basis.
  • You cannot use the funding for health and safety work, like repairing uneven pavements. As this work affects everyone in the school, you must pay for it with maintenance or capital funding.
  • You must return any unspent funding to the Ministry. For instance, if the student does not join your school after all or the construction costs may be less than the budget.
  • If you need further modifications that you did not factor into the project budget, you must pay for them from your 5YA funding. For more information (see below for: Paying for ongoing property work).
  • The modifications can be carried out in a staged manner but must be completed within 12 months. You must send us the mandatory project management forms within one year. If you do not, we will withdraw the project budget – unless we have approved a time extension.

Funding for modifications to off-site facilities

You can get funding for modifications to improve access to off-site facilities owned by the Ministry, like swimming pools or technology centres.

This funding does not cover non-Ministry facilities, like a pool owned by the community or council. Contact the facility’s owner to discuss any recommended modifications.

Paying for ongoing property work

After making the initial modifications to accommodate someone with special needs who starts at your school, you must pay for any later property costs from your 5YA funding. This includes property modifications that you did not factor into your project budget for the initial modifications.

Note: If a student’s needs change, we will consider whether to provide further funding on a case-by-case basis.

You receive a set amount of property funding per student in your 5YA as follows:

  • each high needs student receives approximately 3 times the property entitlement of a mainstream student
  • each very high needs student (under the Ongoing Resourcing Scheme (ORS)) receives approximately 5 times the property entitlement of a mainstream student.

Property planning must factor in students with special education needs

You must plan for students with special education needs when carrying out any property projects using capital funding. This includes projects for:

  • modernising learning environments under the 5YA
  • building new classrooms
  • addressing space shortages under the SPG funding programme.

See Accessibility design.

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