Criterion 5 for ORS: High learning needs

Learn about ORS Criterion 5. The students that meet this criterion have a severe delay in cognitive development resulting in major difficulties with learning across almost all curriculum areas. Students need significant adaptation of almost all curriculum content.

Level of compliance Main audience Other


  • Teachers and Kaiako
  • Principals and Tumuaki
  • Learning Support Coordinators and SENCOs
  • Learning Support Specialist Staff
  • Parents, Caregivers and Whānau
  • Boards
  • Non-Government Agencies
  • Disability Sector

This guidance provides assistance for schools and parents/caregivers/whānau wishing to apply for the Ongoing Resourcing Scheme to support a child with high or very high ongoing needs. To be eligible for ORS funding, a child must meet one or more of the ORS criteria.

A description of ORS Criterion 5 learning needs

At 5, these students are learning skills and developing knowledge usually achieved by children up to or sometimes just beyond two-and-a-half years of age.

For example, they can:

  • stay at activities with one-to-one adult support
  • solve simple problems, for example giving a container to an adult to open
  • label some familiar objects
  • operate a toy to cause a sound effect or action
  • sometimes follow a simple one-step instruction, for example, 'bag away' when the adult models the action
  • use some two-word phrases, for example, 'mummy drink'.

With constant repetition, they're learning to:

  • match up to two colours
  • demonstrate early concepts, such as ‘in’ and ‘out’
  • follow basic routines.

Throughout their schooling they'll require high levels of input from specialists and specialist teachers, using particular teaching strategies. Their Individual Education Plans (IEPs) will focus on developing practical skills and knowledge for independence.

Nine and ten-year-old students will still be learning skills and concepts usually demonstrated independently by four-year-old children.

This criterion isn't for students who have specific difficulties with only some parts of the curriculum, such as receptive and expressive language, literacy or numeracy.

Towards the end of their schooling students who meet Criterion 5 will still be working within Level One of the New Zealand Curriculum through activities appropriate to their age level. When they leave school, they'll require supported employment and other relevant services.

A brief profile: At 4 years 10 months, Kahu meets Criterion 5

Kahu has received services from an early intervention team since he was referred for support at just before three years of age. He is aware of routines at kindergarten but requires guidance, encouragement and prompting to work though these daily expectations with his peers. He is able to finger feed, drink from a cup and can take off shoes and simple items of clothing. Kahu has very recently started to wear underwear in the context of a scheduled toilet timing programme and is prompted and assisted through every step of the routine. With one to one support Kahu can complete a familiar form board puzzle and will copy an adult stacking a small number of blocks. He uses trial and error to post basic shapes into a shape sorter and is beginning to match simple pictures when presented with limited options. Kahu can make circular scribbles on paper and has been observed to dab and stroke with a paint brush using a fisted grip but does not choose these types of activities independently. He appears to know up/down and in/out from his response to verbal directives during play. As part of his bedtime routine Kahu will look at a favourite book with his mother for three or four minutes and will label a familiar picture following a model.

Kahu communicates using single words and some two-word combinations although is not always easily understood. He more often uses actions, gestures and sounds and can become frustrated if others do not understand. He is enthusiastic about joining other children particularly in physical boisterous activities but needs support to be gentle, wait for a turn and share.

A brief profile: At 13 years 2 months, Amelia meets Criterion 5

Amelia was identified as having global developmental delay when she was around two years of age. Her early intervention team made a successful application to the ORS before Amelia started school and she has received ongoing specialist support throughout her school years.

She is unable to understand general class instructions and needs them to be individualised with simplified language in single steps and usually repeated. All new learning needs to be practised frequently so Amelia can remember it and even then, she has difficulty retaining what she has learnt. She finds it hard to apply her learning in different settings but can focus for about ten minutes on a familiar basic task that is of high interest. Amelia is easily distracted and often loses track of tasks. When this occurs, she sits passively and doesn’t seek help. Once or twice a week Amelia raises her hand in response to class questions but her answer is often off-topic or a partial repeat of what someone else has just said.

Amelia recognises letters and knows many letter sounds but doesn’t use this information to help decode text. She has a bank of up to 30 high-frequency words, although she often doesn’t recall them. She typically relies on word cards, copying from a model and assistive technology and software to engage in writing activities. With prompting Amelia can undertake a writing task about a recent experience using these supports and resources. She can record the first letter of an unknown word and she is using capitals and full stops to punctuate, but only when prompted. She is a slow writer, taking some time to produce one or two very brief simple sentences. Amelia’s instructional reading age is at the 5½ to 6½ year level. She usually answers only factual questions when reading a familiar text and using picture cues. Amelia can rote count forwards and backwards to and from 10 and can complete basic facts to 10 counting concrete materials. Amelia also requires help to read and respond to texts on her pre-programmed mobile phone.

Amelia usually plays with younger family members and at school she spends break times alone. She often seeks out adults, such as the duty teacher, to walk and stand with and likes to help with simple tasks such as taking equipment to the sports shed. She has little understanding of the rules of games and, although sometimes invited to join peers at break times, she quickly becomes confused and withdraws to the periphery of activities.

Amelia meets her personal care needs independently at school but doesn’t always maintain her personal grooming. She has difficulty managing her belongings and becomes quite tearful when she cannot find things she needs. She brings toys to school that appeal to much younger children and seems to gain reassurance from having them at hand. She is poorly coordinated when manipulating tools and needs supervision for safety during technology classes. Amelia can access familiar programmes on her Chromebook by clicking on icons and inputs her simple password with support.

Before school, Amelia requires many prompts to shower and get organised for the day and needs a parent to do her hair. She dresses independently and gets her own cereal for breakfast alongside her siblings, but she cannot independently heat or cook food safely.

Amelia’s progress at school has been very slow. Her programme is now focused on supporting her to learn functional skills, which will be useful to her when she leaves school.

Students may meet other criteria instead

Students with learning needs may meet other criteria instead. Check to see which you should apply under.

Criterion Applies to students who: 
Criterion 9.1 Have moderate to high learning needs, together with moderate to high needs in 2 other areas

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