The Highest Needs Review

In 2020, the NZ Labour Party committed to review and potentially implement a new system of learning support for students with the highest level of support requirements in early childhood education and schools.

It was a commitment to their Education Policy for the 2020 election, as well as to their Child and Youth Wellbeing Strategy, which aimed to ‘deliver bold and transformative change for the disability community and to make New Zealand the best place in the world to be a child.’

On 1 September 2021, the outline of the review was agreed on and the results were to be reported back to Cabinet in October 2022. Over 1100 submissions were received, and the review has now been made public after analysis by the Social Wellbeing Agency (SWA) and the evaluations from the Education Review Office (ERO).

What they found

The review has found that there is not enough support in the system and too many students are not getting their additional learning needs met. For every seven students who receive support, there are around three who may have a potential unmet high need at some point during their education journey. FASD-CAN contributed two focus groups to this research in February 2022. 

The data shows that students Māori are overrepresented in this group. Delays in identifying needs and providing supports are resulting in negative impacts on learning and development, and creating harder transitions from early learning to school.

At the same time, early learning centres and schools are still not receiving adequate support to feel confident and capable to support students with the highest needs.

There are lifelong social, emotional and education impacts for these students.

Where to now?

As a result of the review, a Highest Needs Change Programme is now underway. The new system will be based on the Enabling Good Lives (EGL) principles and outcome domains of Ka Hikitia – Ka Hāpaitia, the Māori Education Strategy

There will be a stronger emphasis on schools, kura and early learning services to partner with learners and their whānau to consider the individual’s needs and decide what would work best for each individual. This is designed to empower students and their whānau to have greater choice and control. 

Cabinet has requested a ‘work programme’ by June 2023 which will provide a roadmap for for change over the next two, five and ten years. Meanwhile the Ministry of Education will be making it quicker and simpler for students and whānau to get the support they need and teachers will be encouraged to take part in development programmes to develop further skills in working with students with high needs.

FASD-CAN's principal advisor Kim Milne is working with the Commissioner on recommendations. 

How will they do this?

This new system includes seven building blocks for change:

  • A new service delivery system
  • Customised tailored supports
  • An integrated and inclusive schooling network
  • Learning supports for Māori and Pacific students and their whānau and families that are developed by Māori and Pacific people
  • A confident, capable workforce with the capacity to respond
  • A new funding model to support a tailored and flexible approach
  • Stronger integration with other agencies.

There is much more information available on the Ministry of Education website