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Learning Support Needs

Learning support needs

All students have unique educational needs, but some students may require extra attention from school. This could include students with disabilities, mental health issues, students with problematic behaviour, or students who need additional educational challenges.

This section provides information about the rights of students with learning support needs.

What is special education?

Learning support needs come in many different forms, but can include physical disabilities (e.g. mobility, seeing, hearing), learning disabilities, intellectual disabilities, psychiatric illnesses, emotional and behaviour disorders, developmental disabilities, and communication disorders.

Students with learning support needs may require additional educational support.

I have learning support needs. What kind of extra help can I get from my school?

If you have learning support needs that are affecting your ability to learn, you may be able to get some individual funding from the government. Only your school can apply to the Ministry for this funding.

The Ministry offers the following kinds of individual learning support:

Otherwise, you may be covered by a general funding to schools called the Special Education Grant.

What is the Special Education Grant (SEG)?

The Special Education Grant (SEG) is fixed funding provided to schools by the government based on the school decile and the number of students at the school. The SEG is general learning support funding for all the students at the school. The purpose of the SEG is to provide extra help and resources for students with mild to medium learning support needs, who may not receive individualised funding.

Each school can choose how to spend their SEG. Schools could, for example, choose to spend the SEG on partially covering the salary of a teacher aid or upskilling their teachers.

Students with more severe learning needs may qualify for individualised funding.

Can I get an Ongoing Resourcing Scheme (ORS) funding?

Ongoing Resourcing Scheme (ORS) is the highest level of learning support funding. ORS can be quite hard to get because you have to meet the specific criteria set by the Ministry of Education.

To be eligible for ORS, you and your school will have to apply to the Ministry, and the Ministry will assess whether you qualify. If you apply and are turned down, you can ask for a review. If the review is unsuccessful after two or more reviews, you can request an appeal. There are limitations about when you can reapply if your review is unsuccessful.

If the Ministry of Education decides that you’re eligible, they’ll provide money to your school to help you.

What is an Individual Education Plan (IEP)?

Many students with learning support needs have an Individual Education Plan (IEP). The IEP is a written documents that sets out your learning needs, the plan, and how progress will be measured.

The IEP should include long-term education goals, strategies to help you learn, whether you need any specialist support, and what other people in your life can do to help. Your parents, the school and any specialists involved should meet to review your IEP every 6 months.

If you get  ORS funding, you must have an IEP.

If you think that an IEP might help, your parents should talk to the school about making one.

Can the school discriminate against me because of my disability?

No, it is against the law for a school to discriminate against you because of a disability. Disability has a broad legal meaning and can include physical disabilities, psychiatric illness, intellectual and psychological disabilities, and other disabilities.

A school cannot refuse to enrol you because of your disability, or force attendance conditions on you (e.g., saying you can only come to school part time).  You have the right to full-time attendance; however, you can ask for a “well-being” plan if full-time attendance won’t be good for you.

As well as not actively doing anything to discriminate against you, the school also must do whatever is reasonably practical to help you get the same benefit from your education as other students.

I have learning support needs. Do I have to follow the same school rules like all the other students?

Yes, the same school rules apply to all students, and you must follow them.

Some school rules may be difficult for you to follow because of your learning support needs. Before the school punishes you for not following a school rule, they must consider your individual circumstances. Any disciplinary decision should take account of all of the facts, and allowances should be made for individual circumstances, such as a learning support need that makes it difficult for you to follow the rules.

Schools can make many different types of disciplinary decisions – see the Problems in School section for more information. The most serious disciplinary decision is kicking you out of school. If the principal or the board of trustees are thinking about kicking you out, whether temporarily or permanently, they have to keep your disability in mind when making the decision.

Where can I get help with my learning support needs?

There are lots of different organisations who may be able to help you:

You can also call YouthLaw for problems with your school.

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