Highest Support Needs Change Programme

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

New learning support model

The purpose of the Highest Support Needs Review is to ensure children and young people with the highest support needs achieve their full potential in an inclusive education system that delivers fair and excellent outcomes.

One in five children and young people need extra support for their learning which includes learning difficulties, disadvantage, physical or mental health, or behaviour. Learning supports are critical for learners who face persistent barriers to attending, participating, and progressing in education.

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

The Ministry of Education received about 1,100 submissions on the Highest Needs Review between April 2021 and October 2022. This feedback and input from an Advisory Group helped inform options for change presented to Cabinet. As a result, the Ministry has started a Change Programme to deliver eight ‘building blocks of change’.

Key documents

Read Minister Tinetti’s announcement in November 2022 about the Highest Needs Review: 

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

Building blocks of change

This new inclusive and accessible system, informed by stakeholder input, includes eight building blocks for change:

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

Benefits for learners and whānau 

Ākonga Māori, learners with the highest support needs will be able to participate, progress and achieve fully in their educational journey.

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

There will also be professional development training for teachers working with students who have high support needs. These Ministry commitments are outlined in Priority 4 in the Learning Support Action Plan 2019-2025 (conversation.education.govt.nz).(external link)

The Highest Needs Review, and its work programme is based in equity and human rights. It gives practical effect to Te Tiriti o Waitangi and Ka Hikitia—Ka Hāpaitia (the Māori Education Strategy), and commitment to Pacific learners and families as outlined in the Action Plan for Pacific Education 2020–2030.

This work is also guided by the United Nations Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD). Options and recommendations from the Review, if acted upon, support the New Zealand Disability Strategy 2016–2026 [PDF, 583 KB] (ODI.govt.nz)(external link).

This work upholds the Enabling Good Lives Principles (Enabling Good Lives website)(external link) and also supports the achievement of the Government’s Child and Youth Wellbeing Strategy (DPMC.govt.nz).(external link)

Next steps

The Ministry is in the process of providing an update to Cabinet.

A 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 support needs.

Background documents

These key documents provide the background information to the Highest Needs Review:

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]

Translated and accessible versions of the stakeholder report’s summary are available on this site.

Last reviewed: Has this been useful? Give us your feedback