Highest Needs Change Programme

A new system is being designed to better support children and young people with the highest learning support needs.

New model

A new mixed model approach is to be developed to make sure the support system for learners with the highest needs is fit-for-purpose.

Between April 2021 and October 2022, around 1100 submissions were received from participants during a Highest Needs Review.

This feedback, and input from an Advisory Group, helped inform options for change presented to Cabinet. As a result, the Highest Needs Change Programme is now underway.

Benefits for learners and whānau 

The new system will be developed based on the Enabling Good Lives (EGL) principles and outcome domains of Ka Hikitia – Ka Hāpaitia (Ka Hikitia), the Māori Education Strategy. 

Schools, kura and early learning services will partner with learners and their whānau to consider the individual’s needs and decide what would work best for each learner. This will shift away from an application-based system; and is designed to empower students and their whānau to have greater choice and control. 

Ka Hikitia – Ka Hāpaitia, the Māori Education Strategy

Building blocks of change

This new system includes seven building blocks for change:

  1. A new service delivery system
  2. Customised tailored supports
  3. An integrated and inclusive schooling network
  4. Learning supports for Māori and Pacific students and their whānau and families that are developed by Māori and Pacific people
  5. A confident, capable workforce with the capacity to respond
  6. A new funding model to support a tailored and flexible approach
  7. Stronger integration with other agencies.

Next steps

A Business Case and Work Programme is being scoped for a report back to Cabinet in June 2023. This work programme will provide the roadmap for change over the next two, five and ten years. In the short-term the Ministry of Education is strengthening the current model to make it quicker and simpler for learners and their whānau to get the support they need.

Teaching staff will also be supported to take up professional learning and development available to further develop their skills and confidence in working with learners with high needs. 


The purpose of the Highest Needs Review, and the change programme, is to ensure that children and young people with the highest needs for learning support achieve their full potential through positive education outcomes.

To achieve this full potential, we need to ensure that they receive the learning supports they need, when they need it, and for as long as they need it.

This is a commitment outlined in Priority 4 in the Learning Support Action Plan 2019-2025: Learning Support Action Plan – conversation.education.govt.nz(external link)

Report on stakeholder views

The Highest Needs Review had two phases of engagement, with NZCER developing an analysis of stakeholder feedback. 

Highest Needs Review: What matters to stakeholders - NZCER [PDF, 1018 KB]

Highest Needs Review: What matters to stakeholders - NZCER [DOCX, 703 KB]

Te Arotake Hiahia Teitei Rawa: He aha ngā pūtake hira rawaki te hunga pupuru pānga - NZCER [PDF, 1 MB]

New model to better support kids with the highest needs - beehive.govt.nz(external link)

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