Entering into a specialist education agreement

A specialist education agreement (previously known as Section 9 agreement) allows students to enrol in a specialist school or regional health school. It also allows students to enrol outside the legal age in exceptional circumstances.

Level of compliance Main audience Other


  • Parents, Caregivers and Whānau
  • Learning Support Staff
  • Boards
  • Principals and Tumuaki
  • Teachers and Kaiako
  • RTLB
  • Early Intervention Specialist Service Providers

What are specialist education agreements for?

A specialist education agreement is a formal arrangements with us and the parent or guardian of the child. When an agreement is entered in to, there are actions that must be completed.

A specialist education agreement is for:

  • students to be enrolled in a specialist school (day, residential and sensory)
  • students to have a regional health school as their base school
  • students who are under 5 or over 14 and whose exceptional needs mean that a primary school is the best place for their education
  • students who are over 19 and whose exceptional needs mean that a secondary school is the best place for their education (if not ORS verified).

Criteria for agreements

Children starting school before they are 5

We will agree to this only in special circumstances. It must be proven that it’s in the child’s best educational interests.

Students staying at school longer

Sometimes, the parents, the school and the Ministry agree that it would benefit a student’s education if they stay longer at their regular school.

A specialist education agreement is needed to allow them to stay in a primary school beyond the year they turn 14 or in a secondary school beyond the year they turn 19.

Students enrolling in specialist schools

Before a student is enrolled in a specialist school, a conversation with the Ministry, the parents and the school takes place.

Then, a decision is jointly made about whether to apply for a specialist education agreement.


Specialised School Transport Assistance (SESTA) is not included as part of a specialist education agreement. Parents need to apply for this separately.

Specialised School Transport Assistance (SESTA)

Ongoing Resourcing Scheme (ORS)

The Ongoing Resourcing Scheme (ORS) is one form of agreement under section 37 of the Education and Training Act 2020.

Ongoing Resourcing Scheme (ORS)

If a student is:

  • in the ORS, they still need a specialist education agreement for enrolment in a specialist school.
  • not part of ORS, parents can still apply for a specialist education agreement. 

To be successful, an application needs to be supported by the school and the Ministry.

Things to think about

When entering into a specialist education agreement, all parties need to think about:

  • what is best for the student’s education
  • any health and safety issues
  • what kind of specialist teaching the student needs
  • what therapy the student needs
  • the location of the child’s home and the location of the school
  • the transport options to and from the school (SESTA needs to be applied for separately)
  • whether the school has capacity for the student
  • the length of the enrolment and the date the agreement ends or is reviewed.

Apply for a specialist education agreement

If you are considering a specialist education agreement contact your local Ministry office.

Local Ministry offices

There are 4 agreements to reflect the type of enrolment:

  • regional health school agreements
  • day special school agreements
  • residential special school agreements
  • agreements for students outside of regular or legal school age.

What to do if a specialist education agreement is declined

If a specialist education agreement is declined, the manager of learning support or the Intensive Wraparound Service (IWS) team will support access to other learning support options.

Parents can also ask for a review of a specialist education agreement decision. To request a review, contact the manager learning support in your local Ministry office. They will provide information about the review process.

Local Ministry offices

What happens when a student with an agreement leaves the school?

When a student leaves their specialist school or class, the agreement ends.

A new agreement is needed each time a student wants to enrol at another specialist school or class.

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