Supporting tamariki and ākonga with health conditions

This guidance helps early learning services and schools embrace and support tamariki | children and ākonga | learners with health conditions. It sets the scene for you to do so in ways that keep them safe, enrich their hauora | wellbeing and nurture their continued growth and learning.

Level of compliance Main audience Other



  • Early learning service managers and lead teachers
  • School board members
  • School principal, deputy principal, assistant principal
  • SENCO, learning support coordinator
  • School support staff
  • Regional health schools

How to use this guidance

  • Use this guidance to inform your policies and protocols around inclusion, food, medications, health and wellbeing and keeping tamariki and ākonga safe.
  • Use this guidance to help set up a healthy and safe environment for tamariki and ākonga who may have been diagnosed with a health condition, for example, severe asthma, severe allergies, cancer, brain injury.
  • You’ll find useful links to information about the various health conditions you might commonly come across. Use these links to help you put together your own material or visual resources.
  • We’ve included some strategies for teachers to support attention, executive functioning, managing fatigue. While every learner’s response to and experience of a health condition is different, these strategies might be helpful.
  • For school boards and service providers, this information will help you meet your obligations for the National Education and Learning Priorities (NELP) under the Education and Training Act 2020 to ensure the school or early learning service is a physically and emotionally safe place for all students and staff, take all reasonable steps to eliminate racism, stigma and bullying, and ensure the school is inclusive of and caters for students or tamariki with differing needs.

What to do in an emergency


Teacher's asthma toolkit – Asthma & Respiratory Foundation NZ(external link)

Asthma first aid in schools (poster) – Asthma & Respiratory Foundation NZ(external link)

Allergic reactions

Allergy emergency – ASCIA(external link)

First aid plan for anaphylaxis (poster) – ASCIA(external link)


Seizure first aid – KidsHealth NZ(external link)

ECE and school policies and protocols

Not all tamariki and ākonga with health conditions will have or need a health or individual education plan.

Most can be supported through good health and wellbeing policies and practices that create a safe, caring and supportive learning culture for all tamariki and ākonga. Check that your health and wellbeing policies have the following elements covered off.

Inclusive, welcoming and supportive environments for all tamariki and ākonga

  • Inclusive and cultural values shape protocols and expectations.
  • Safety and wellbeing principles and expectations (for example, looking after ourselves and others, no bullying, staying within the grounds) are well communicated to staff, tamariki, ākonga and whānau.
  • Mana whenua are available, where appropriate to support hauora and identity.
  • Counselling services and whānau ora mental health support is available to tamariki and ākonga.
  • Environmental safety has been considered and planned for (for example, temperature, air quality, reducing allergens, expectations around food, how you’ll manage viruses, mental health and wellbeing support, physical safety, times when cleaning and lawn mowing occur).

Good enrolment procedures, record keeping and reviews

  • Welcoming and enrolment procedures seek information about hauora, health and wellbeing.
  • There are health-related risk and incident registers, and these are reviewed regularly.

Clear procedures for handling emergencies

  • Emergency kits are available and all staff know where they are. Early learning services also can refer to HS7.
  • Emergency procedures are clear and communicated to staff.
  • Relevant staff are given emergency and first aid training.

Clear policies and procedures

Maintain clear policies and procedures for:

  • whānau agreement for administering medications, sharing details, communicating with staff, ākonga and other parents about health conditions
  • handling, storing, administering and disposing of medication. Early learning services can refer to HS28. 
  • school-owned medication, such as EpiPens (schools are permitted to purchase their own EpiPens)
  • staff training in administering medications, using medical equipment, understanding health conditions, adapting classroom practices, supporting whānau ora, teaching about health conditions and health management
  • food safety
  • information sharing, privacy, storing medical records and who has access to these
  • informing parents of an incident or concern
  • education/trips outside the classroom or early learning service
  • curriculum-based learning about health conditions.


School asthma policy template – Asthma and Respiratory Foundation NZ(external link)

Template: Staff training plan [DOCX, 80 KB]

Template: Information sharing plan [DOCX, 81 KB]

Reasonable accomodation for medicine (early learning services)

Health plans

For learners who do need a detailed plan, this will usually be developed by a health professional with the learner and their whānau.

Learners might have a plan if:

  • their condition could be life threatening
  • their condition could require them to be hospitalised
  • they regularly need medication to be administered
  • they need regular monitoring
  • their learning environment needs regular control/adaptation
  • their activities need to be managed or restricted
  • they have been absent because of their health condition.

Rather than having multiple plans, work with ākonga, whānau and their health professional so that everyone agrees and records in one plan what is needed for wellbeing and safety in your service or school.


  • an understanding of the learner and their condition
  • what constitutes an emergency and what to do in an emergency
  • medications – what medications and when they’re taken
  • contact numbers for parent/s, caregivers and health professionals
  • agreement on how you’ll communicate and connect with each other, and how often
  • any restrictions on activities
  • what you need to know for any trips or excursions
  • when the plan will be reviewed.

Discuss what the school and teacher/s can wrap around the health plan to support continued learning and growth.

Health conditions and learning: Information for teachers

If you have a learner who is receiving the School High Health Needs Fund from the Ministry of Education, the Ministry will require you to have an individual plan to support them at school.

School High Health Needs Fund


Example: Individual plan for supporting a learner with health conditions [DOCX, 83 KB]

Action plans for allergic reactions and anaphylaxis – ASCIA(external link)

Every person diagnosed with food allergy/risk of anaphylaxis should have one of these plans signed by their doctor, along with a prescription for an EpiPen.

Resources for understanding health conditions

Visit the KidsHealth website for a wealth of information about various health conditions you might come across. 

Conditions and treatments – KidsHealth(external link)

Allergies and anaphylaxis

Allergies and learning – Inclusive Education(external link)

Anaphylaxis – Allergy NZ(external link)

Managing allergies and anaphylaxis in schools and preschools – Allergy NZ(external link)

Action plans for allergic reactions and anaphylaxis – ASCIA(external link) (Includes emergency information and how to use an Epipen.)

Asthma and respiratory

Asthma and learning – Inclusive Education(external link)

Teacher's asthma toolkit – Asthma and Respiratory Foundation NZ(external link) (The emergency posters include information on using inhalers and teaching about asthma in the classroom.)

Asthma education – Sailor the Puffer Fish(external link)

Asthma education – Heremana Te Kōpūtōtara(external link) (Sailor the Puffer Fish for Māori-medium) 

Breathing and lung health – O2Max(external link) [12MB, PDF]

Brain injury

Supporting learnings with an acquired brain injury – Inclusive Education(external link)


Returning to school after cancer – Child Cancer Foundation(external link)

Supporting young children with cancer – KidsHealth(external link)

Cystic fibrosis

Cystic fibrosis at school – Cystic Fibrosis NZ(external link)


Living well with diabetes – Diabetes NZ(external link)

Diabetes action and management plans – Starship(external link)


Learning and epilepsy – Epilepsy NZ(external link)


Long COVID – Health NZ(external link)

Strategies for health conditions

Every learner’s response to and experience of a health condition is different. The impact on a learner’s hauora and learning will depend on many factors and will change over time.

See the information for teachers page to learn about:

  • what to pay attention to
  • making adjustments
  • what to talk with ākonga and whānau about
  • teaching health conditions, health management, social and emotional learning
  • strategies to support learning.

Health conditions and learning: Information for teachers

Managing medications and equipment

Early learning services: Refer to licensing criterion HS28 and HS29. These provide instructions for managing and administering medications and training required.

Reasonable accommodation 

Schools agree with ākonga and their whānau a plan for:

  • storing medications in accordance with product instructions
  • when medications need to be taken
  • labelling medication with the learner’s name, expiry date and written instructions for dosage, frequency etc
  • who can administer medication, in what dose and what times of day, and who supervises self-administration if appropriate
  • where records will be kept
  • where medication will be kept/where the learner keeps their own medication
  • logging when medications are taken/administered
  • informing whānau when medications have had to be administered outside of agreed times
  • an emergency plan
  • getting replacement medication and how to dispose of out-of-date medication
  • wearing a medic-alert bracelet
  • safely disposing of needles
  • supervising trips
  • privacy needs
  • permission to administer emergency procedures, including administering medication (eg inhaler, Epipen, glucagon injections)
  • contact tree for emergencies
  • staff training in using equipment such as inhalers, Epipens, injectors.

Template: Parent and staff agreement to administer medication [DOCX, 82 KB]

Template: Agreement for self-administering medication [DOCX, 80 KB]

Setting up for a return to learning after diagnosis

When tamariki/ākonga return to the service or school after a health incident, diagnosis or hospitalisation, talk with them and their whānau about:

  • tikanga or protocols – how they would like to be welcomed back
  • mihi whakatau and if they’d like someone to come with them on their first day back
  • having a central contact person at the service or school
  • what treatment they’re having, what medications they’re taking, when and how they’re administered
  • what they would and wouldn’t like others to know
  • limitations on activities and expected impacts on learning
  • what understanding the learner has of their condition and its treatment
  • what constitutes an emergency
  • freedoms and limitations
  • potential triggers and what to avoid
  • what to do in an emergency
  • how to communicate between home and the service or school
  • how to prepare tamariki and ākonga to answer questions, ask for help, manage feelings, manage energy, communicate needs, ask to be excused from class, manage social interactions, feel safe.

Helping your child return to school after cancer treatment – Child Cancer Foundation(external link)

Action plans for allergic reactions and anaphylaxis – ASCIA(external link)

Letter to let other parents and caregivers know about a student’s cancer – KidsHealth(external link)

Health and wellbeing supports

The Ministry of Education can provide support for high health needs for ākonga at school through the School High Health Needs Fund.

School High Health Needs Fund

Regional health schools provide community, in-home and hospital-based teaching to school-aged ākonga who are too unwell to attend their regular school. They’ll also work with you to support transition of ākonga on their rolls back into school. 

Regional health schools

Te Kura (formerly The Correspondence School) provides mostly online personalised learning programmes and courses for tamariki and ākonga from early childhood through to NCEA Level 3.

Quality distance education – Te Kura(external link)

Condition-specific support and advocacy groups can provide information and advice for staff and whānau, training for staff, useful teaching materials, or talks for ākonga. 

Condition-specific support and advocacy groups

Health providers and some community groups offer advice, education and training, and may do visits and talks. These include school nurses, nurse practitioners, diabetes nurses, a GP or paediatrician.

School nursing – NZ School Nurses(external link)

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