Working with parents to resolve problems about learning support

If a parent feels their child’s learning support needs are not being met at your school, there are a number of steps you can take together to help resolve the problem.

If a parent is worried about their child’s learning needs being met, it’s always best for them to start by discussing the problem with their child’s classroom teacher. If the parents have spoken with the staff who work closest to their child and are still worried, then the next step would usually be raising the issue with the school principal.

Each school will have its own process for handling complaints, but both the parents and the school are able to contact the Ministry of Education at any time for advice.

In addition to the information on this page, the Ministry also provides advice for parents on resolving problems about their child’s learning support(external link) on the parents section of our website.

The Dispute Resolution Process

The Dispute Resolution Process (DRP) provides help for schools, parents, caregivers and whānau to resolve issues involving children and young people with additional learning needs.

If the parents have already spoken to their child’s teacher and the principal of your school, but haven’t been able to resolve the problem, the Ministry’s Dispute Resolution Process may also be available to help.

How to access the Dispute Resolution Process

The Dispute Resolution Process is:

  • Available for schools, parents, and children and young people located in the regions listed below.
  • Voluntary and there’s no charge for this support.
  • Accessed by contacting the local Ministry of Education office listed for the region. 
Region Contact details

Auckland regional office

Phone: 09 632 9400
Taranaki, Whanganui, Manawatu regional office Phone: 06 349 6300
Bay of Plenty, Waiakari Regional Office

Phone: 07 343 1371

Hawke's Bay, Tairāwhiti Regional Office Phone: 06 833 6730
Wellington Regional Office Phone: 04 463 8699
Nelson, Marlborough, West Coast regional office Phone: 03 546 3470

Why the Dispute Resolution Process isn't available in all regions

The Ministry is limiting the introduction of the Dispute Resolution Process to a few regions so we can see how well it’s working for everyone involved. It’s important it meets the needs of both schools and parents, so we will be evaluating the process to inform future decisions.

When the Dispute Resolution Process can't be used

The Dispute Resolution Process can't be used if:

  • The issue has already been taken to the school’s board of trustees and it has given its decision; or
  • A complaint has already been made to the Human Rights Commission or the Office of the Ombudsman.

Note: Please note that the Dispute Resolution Process follows on from the Complaints Process.

How the Dispute Resolution Process works

If the parents have spoken to their child’s teacher and principal, but haven’t been able to agree a way forward, there are three types of support available under the Dispute Resolution Process, which include:

Type Description

Ministry facilitation [PDF, 704 KB]

Ministry facilitation is the first level of support available through the Dispute Resolution Process. If an issue has already been discussed between the parents and the school, but hasn’t been resolved, those involved can ask the Ministry for help from someone trained in facilitation. It’s free, informal, voluntary, locally provided, and easy to access for schools, parents, caregivers and whānau

The Ministry will provide someone trained in facilitation to help the school and the child’s parents talk and work together to find a practical solution. The facilitator won’t be there to advocate or enforce; they’re there to help facilitate the hard conversations. They support and build on school, parent, caregiver and whānau relationships, and focus on outcomes for the child’s learning needs. They should ensure that all relevant people are involved and that the child’s views have been taken into account

Ministry review
If a facilitated meeting doesn’t work, your school or the child’s parents can ask the Ministry’s regional Director of Education to carry out a review to check that everything that should have been done has been done
Independent mediation [PDF, 652 KB]

If the Ministry thinks it would be helpful, and everyone agrees, it can approve and arrange for independent mediation through the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE). MBIE then arranges for an experienced mediator to hold a meeting to make sure everyone’s views, including the schools, are heard

The mediator is neutral and will not take sides. Their role is to ensure the process is fair and to help your school and the child’s parents solve problems together

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