The education and disability legislation guiding our approach to learning support

The right to an inclusive education is grounded in the Education Act 1989 (the Act), enshrined in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, and reinforced by the New Zealand Disability Strategy.

These legal, national and international obligations are backed up by the:

  • New Zealand Curriculum
  • Te Marautanga o Aotearoa — the curriculum for Māori-medium settings
  • Te Whāriki — the early childhood education curriculum. 

Education Act 1989 — Section 8

The Education Act 1989 — Section 8 says, "people who have special educational needs (whether because of disability or otherwise) have the same rights to enrol and receive education in state schools as people who do not".

The Education Act 1989: Section 8 — NZ Legislation website (external link)

The Act includes an explicit legal obligation on schools to be inclusive, and to take all reasonable steps to act in a manner that is consistent with the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi when performing their roles and responsibilities. 

United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

New Zealand ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) in 2008.

UNCRPD — Office for Disability Issues website (external link)

Article 24 relates to the rights of persons with disabilities to education.

UNCRPD: Article 24 — United Nations website (external link)

Signatories to the convention are to ensure equal access to:

  • primary and secondary education
  • vocational training
  • adult education
  • lifelong learning.

United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child

New Zealand ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCROC) in 1993.

UNCROC — Children's Commissioner website (external link)

UNCROC is a comprehensive human rights treaty that enshrines specific children's rights in international law. It was adopted by the United Nations in 1989 and defines universal principles and standards for the status and treatment of children worldwide.

New Zealand Disability Strategy

The New Zealand Disability Strategy's vision is of a society that highly values the lives and continually enhances the full participation of disabled people. It provides a framework to guide government agencies when making policy and services affecting disabled people.

New Zealand Disability Strategy — Office for Disability Issues website (external link)

We contribute to all of the Disability Strategy’s outcome areas, particularly outcome 1 — Education, ‘We get an excellent education and achieve our potential throughout our lives’.

Outcome 1: Education — Office for Disability Issues website (external link)

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