Education and Training Act 2020: Renaming “special schools” as “specialist schools”

The term “special school” was used in both the Education Act 1964 and Education Act 1989 to refer to the residential and day schools that support students with high needs, and to the regional health schools that provide teachers for children who are unwell.

The Education and Training Act 2020 changes the name of special schools to "specialist schools". The name change is intended to better reflect the wider role that these schools now have in supporting inclusive education within our schooling system. It also reflects the shift in focus from the school itself to the specialist nature of the services provided to support students with disabilities and additional learning support needs.

The Ministry consulted on the change of name to “specialist schools” in May 2019. Some concern was expressed by submitters that they would need to re-brand or re-name their schools. The Act does not require schools to re-name themselves. Rather, “specialist schools” is the name that will be collectively given to these schools in the legislation.

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