Working with parents to resolve problems about learning support

If a parent feels their child’s learning support needs are not being met at your school, there are a number of steps you can take together to help resolve the problem.

If a parent is worried about their child’s learning needs being met, it’s always best for them to start by discussing the problem with their child’s classroom teacher. If the parents have spoken with the staff who work closest to their child and are still worried, then the next step would usually be raising the issue with the school principal.

Each school will have its own process for handling complaints, but both the parents and the school are able to contact the Ministry of Education at any time for advice.

In addition to the information on this page, the Ministry also provides advice for parents on resolving problems about their child’s learning support on the parents section of our website.

Resolving problems about your child’s learning support (Parents website) (external link)

If your school and the parents are unable to resolve the problem

If the parents have already spoken to their child’s teacher and the principal of your school, but haven’t been able to resolve the problem, the Ministry’s Dispute Resolution Process, which is being phased in over time, may also be available to help.

The Dispute Resolution Process

The Dispute Resolution Process (DRP) provides help for schools, parents, caregivers and whānau to resolve issues involving children and young people with additional learning needs.

You can read more about the Dispute Resolution Process in the information sheet for educators:

The Dispute Resolution Process- Information for educators [PDF, 832 KB]

Regions where the Dispute Resolution Process is available

The Ministry introduced the first phase of the Dispute Resolution Process in May 2018, with the process currently available in the following regions:

  • Auckland
  • Whanganui/Manawatu
  • Nelson/Marlborough/West Coast

Why the Dispute Resolution Process isn’t available in all regions

The Ministry is limiting the introduction of the Dispute Resolution Process to a few regions so we can see how well it’s working for everyone involved. It’s important it meets the needs of both schools and parents, so we will be evaluating the process to inform future decisions.

How the Dispute Resolution Process works

If the parents have spoken to their child’s teacher and principal, but haven’t been able to agree a way forward, there are three types of support available under the Dispute Resolution Process, which include:

  1. Ministry facilitation
  2. Ministry review
  3. Independent mediation

You can read more about each of these supports below.

Ministry facilitation

This is the first level of support available through the Dispute Resolution Process. If an issue has already been discussed between the parents and the school, but hasn’t been resolved, those involved can ask the Ministry for help from someone trained in facilitation. It’s free, informal, voluntary, locally provided, and easy to access for schools, parents, caregivers and whānau.

The Ministry will provide someone trained in facilitation to help the school and the child’s parents talk and work together to find a practical solution. The facilitator won’t be there to advocate or enforce; they’re there to help facilitate the hard conversations. They support and build on school, parent, caregiver and whānau relationships, and focus on outcomes for the child’s learning needs. They should ensure that all relevant people are involved and that the child’s views have been taken into account.

You can read more about Ministry facilitation in the information sheet:

The Dispute Resolution Process – Ministry facilitation [PDf, 221KB] (external link)

Ministry review

If a facilitated meeting doesn’t work, your school or the child’s parents can ask for a Ministry review. This review will look at the options available to resolve the problem and check that everything that should have been done has been done.

Independent mediation

If the Ministry thinks it would be helpful, and everyone agrees, it can approve and arrange for independent mediation through the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE). MBIE then arranges for an experienced mediator to hold a meeting to make sure everyone’s views, including the schools, are heard.

The mediator is neutral and will not take sides. Their role is to ensure the process is fair and to help your school and the child’s parents solve problems together.

You can read more about independent mediation in the information sheet:

The Dispute Resolution Process – Independent Mediation Service [PDF, 166KB] (external link)

How to access the Dispute Resolution Process

In regions where the Dispute Resolution Process is available, schools, parents and children and young people can access the process by contacting their local Ministry of Education office. There’s no charge for this support.

Note: The Dispute Resolution Process can’t be used:

  • If the issue has already been taken to the school’s board of trustees and it has given its decision; or
  • If a complaint has already been made to the Human Rights Commission or the Office of the Ombudsman.

You can contact the Ministry of Education office in your region below:

Auckland regional office
Phone: 09 632 9400
Email: enquiries.auckland@education.govt.nz

Whanganui/Manawatu regional office
Phone: 06 349 6300
Email: whanganui@education.govt.nz

Nelson, Marlborough/ West Coast regional office
Phone: 03 546 3470
Email: enquiries.nelson@education.govt.nz

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