Entering into a Specialist Education Agreement (previously known as Section 9 Agreements)

A Specialist Education 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 complianceMain audienceOther


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

This guidance informs families about Specialist Education Agreements. These agreements are formal arrangements with the Ministry of Education. If an agreement is entered in to, there are actions that must then be completed.

What Specialist Education Agreements are for

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).

A Specialist Education Agreement is a formal agreement between the Ministry and the parent or guardian of the child.

Criteria for Specialist Education Agreements



Children starting school before they are 5

The Ministry 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.

After this, a decision is jointly made about whether to apply for a Specialist Education Agreement.


Specialised School Transport Assistance (SESTA)(external link) is not included as part of a Specialist Education Agreement. Parents need to apply for this separately.

Ongoing Resourcing Scheme (ORS)

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

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’s 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 – Specialised School Transport Assistance (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.

Applying for a Specialist Education Agreement

If you are considering a Specialist Education Agreement contact your local Ministry office. There are four agreements to reflect the type of enrolment:

If a Specialist Education Agreement is declined

If a  Specialist Education Agreement is declined the Manager 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.

When a student with a Specialist Education Agreement leaves the school

When a student leaves their specialist school or class, the Specialist Education Agreement ends. A new agreement is needed each time a student wants to enrol at another specialist school or class.

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