Inclusive education

Find out about inclusive education in New Zealand schools, including your school's legal obligations. Our resources can help your school or early learning service support students with diverse needs.

What inclusive education means

Children and young people learn best when they:

  • feel accepted
  • enjoy positive relationships with their fellow learners and teachers, and
  • are able to be active, visible members of the learning community.

Inclusive education means all children and young people are engaged and achieve through being present, participating, learning and belonging. It means all learners are welcomed by their local early learning service and school, and are supported to play, learn, contribute and participate in all aspects of life at the school or service.

Our Inclusive Education website explains how the Ministry of Education defines and describes inclusive education, and the values that underpin inclusive education.

Inclusive Education website(external link) 

Legal and binding obligations to include all learners

Inclusive education is founded in the Education and Training Act 2020, which states: “people who have special education needs (whether because of disability or otherwise) have the same rights to enrol and receive education at state schools as people who do not”.

New Zealand schools also have binding obligations to include and provide a quality education for all learners under the:

  • New Zealand Disability Strategy
  • United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

New Zealand Disability Strategy – Office for Disability Issues website(external link)

United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities – UN website(external link)

This obligation is backed up by the:

  • New Zealand Curriculum
  • Te Whāriki (early childhood education curriculum)
  • Te Marautanga o Aotearoa (curriculum for Māori-medium settings).

How the Education Review Office (ERO) evaluates inclusive schools

Including students with high needs – ERO website(external link)

The role of boards and governance in building inclusive schools

The New Zealand Schools Trustees Association (NZSTA) website provides guidance on effective governance and building inclusive schools. It outlines the responsibilities of school boards to lead inclusive schools.

Board webinars can assist your board to prioritise aspirations for students with diverse learning needs.

Governance Framework's overview – NZSTA website(external link)

Resources to support inclusive practices in schools

We’ve created a catalogue listing many of the resources available to support schools and boards.

Catalogue of resources to support inclusive practices in schools [PDF, 1.3 MB]

Inclusive Education website

Our Inclusive Education website has a collection of practical ‘how to’ guides aimed at supporting teachers and school leaders to meet the diverse needs of all learners.

Guides – Inclusive Education website(external link)

You can also watch more than 20 videos of teachers and students talking about and demonstrating inclusive practices.

Inclusive education videos – Vimeo(external link)

Inclusive Practices and School Curriculum online modules help school leaders and teachers plan for all students within the NZ Curriculum and adapt and differentiate in the least obtrusive way.

The Everyone’s In teacher planning tool on TKI takes teachers through a step-by-step process for planning a lesson that works for all students. It's underpinned by the principles of Universal Design for Learning.

Inclusive planning tool – Everyone’s In(external link)

Other Ministry resources

Our Wellbeing@School website has a series of student, staff and community surveys and audits to help your school identify its strengths and areas to develop.

Self-review toolkit – Wellbeing@School(external link)

Our IEP website provides practical information to help anyone involved in developing or implementing individual education plans (IEPs) to support students with special education needs.

Individual education plans – IEP Online(external link)

Teachers and Teacher Aides Working Together are nine modules on TKI that teachers and teacher aides complete together to strengthen working relationships, improve role clarity and build knowledge of inclusive practice.

Online modules(external link)

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