s is supposed to be a person to person conversation as it was meant to be a podcast episode but unfortunately MOE declined to provide someone from their office to guest in this episode (initially they agreed but then retracted to send someone for this interview).
Below is the response they have provided to the questions I am going to raise during the supposed podcast episode.
I will publish an audio version of this written form to be available in Spotify and Apple podcasts.
Thank you for your email of 26th May requesting a topic discussion for your podcast. The
subsequent questions you provided have been considered and have been addressed below.
- If a child is assessed with autism, what will be the role of the Ministry of Education in the childâs learning journey?
Learning support provided by the Ministry of Education is not determined based on a diagnosis.
When requests for support are received, the role of the Ministry of Education is to work alongsideÂ the Äkonga, whÄnau, educators and other key people in the Äkongaâs life.
As part of the team around the Äkonga, Ministry staff work to identify key strengths and challenges and collaboratively plan and implement strategies and supports within the learning context of the Äkonga.
Support is positioned within the everyday routines and activities of the Äkongaâs life and intendedÂ to reduce barriers to presence, participation, progress, and wellbeing.
- Similar to item 1, if the child has learning difficulties, what learning support is available
for the child and who initiates the application? Who initiates the support application, school or parents?
Requests for support can be made to the Ministry of Education, at any time, by whÄnau, educators or other community agencies, or services such as Plunket, family doctors or medical specialists.
Requests describe the specific strengths or challenges for Äkonga or young person in theirÂ educational setting.
The Ministry of Education provides a wide range of supports for Äkonga and young people aged 0-21 years. More information on specific supports and services can be found at the following
- If there is learning support available what should a parent expect from the learning
support person? Is there a programme that needs to be followed?
Â All Ministry learning support staff and Resource Teachers Learning and Behaviour (RTLB) work
within He Pikorua practice framework. This sets out principles and processes which guide theirÂ work with whÄnau and educators (Home â He Pikorua (education.govt.nz).
Ministry staff work with whÄnau, and the team working with Äkonga to understand and respond toÂ their needs. This is achieved through following the phases of He Pikorua in Action, more information can be found at He Pikorua in action â He Pikorua (education.govt.nz)
- How equipped are the learning support in helping the parents and the child?
Regionally based learning support staff work flexibly within multidisciplinary teams. Äkonga,
whÄnau and educators may work with early intervention teachers, speech language therapists,Â psychologists, advisors on deaf children, kaitakawaenga (MÄori cultural advisors), specialÂ education/learning support advisors, physiotherapists, occupational therapists.
The team working with Äkonga will depend on the current priorities and needs of the Äkonga.
In addition to their professional qualifications, Ministry employed Learning Support specialists can access a range of ongoing professional development, including training in some specific programs to support Äkonga and young people who are neurodiverse. Staff trained in delivering these courses regularly facilitate them in their local community.
These programs are focussed on building the confidence and capability of whÄnau and educators to support social emotional regulation and language development, such as Incredible Years Autism. https://pb4l.tki.org.nz/Incredible-Years-Autism/The-Incredible-Years-Helping-Children-with-Autism-for-kaiako
- If an autistic child is entitled to the support provided by the MOE, what are the possible
support available for the child? Is there a list for parents to read/check?
Â Learning support provided by the Ministry of Education is not determined based on a diagnosis.
The length and type of support provided is determined by the needs of the individual Äkonga within their educational context.
Information on the support and services provided by the Ministry of Education can be found at
o Home â He Pikorua (education.govt.nz)).
- Follow up question for number 5, how are we making sure parents are well informed of the available support to them?
Â There are several ways whÄnau can find out about learning support services provided or funded by the Ministry of Education.
Often, early learning services and schools will share information about learning support.
For school age Äkonga, whÄnau may work with a Special Needs Co-ordinator (SENCO) or
Learning Support Co-ordinator (LSC) at their Äkongaâs school. These people play a role in the coordination and planning for learning support within and across schools, and work closely with
regionally based Learning Support Service Managers.
Service Managers can be contacted by whÄnau directly by calling the local Ministry of Education
office, Learning Support Services local offices.
Information is also available online outlining supports and services,
ï· Home â He Pikorua (education.govt.nz)
- If a parent applies for additional support like ORS, whatâs the process for that?
Â The Ministry encourages educators and the team around the Äkonga (which includes the parents) to provide, alongside descriptions of the Äkongaâs needs, strength-based information, from home and school, across all developmental areas when writing ORS applications as they know the Äkonga best.Â
- How long does application of ORS usually take place?
After an application is completed the process usually takes 15 to 20 working days from theÂ time an application is received by the Eligibility team. Verifiers consider the information against
each of the nine ORS criteria, applying them consistently regardless of where the Äkonga is toÂ attend, or attends, school.
ï· Three verifiers independently consider each application.
ï· Each verifier records their independent decision. The three verifiers then discuss theÂ application and make a unanimous decision.
ï· The verifiers record the consensus decision on a national database and advise the
educator and the parents in writing.
ï· If the verifiers have insufficient information to reach a decision, they ask the educator toÂ provide additional information.
ï· The decision process is repeated with each verifier independently considering theÂ additional information.
ï· If the three verifiers are unable to reach agreement the application is consideredÂ independently by the full panel of verifiers who take part in the decision process.Â
If all the verifiers do not reach an agreement and the application appears close to be to meeting a criterion, then two verifiers may visit the Äkongaâs early childhood education centre or school toÂ make sure all relevant information has been presented and observe the Äkonga undertaking their
usual routine in their education setting.
The two verifiers report their observations and review of documentation about the Äkonga to the other verifiers. The decision process is repeated, and the verifiers’ report is included as part of the information about the Äkonga needs.
If an application is declined the verifiers write a comprehensive letter to the parents, and the team around the Äkonga, explaining the decision.Â
- Are the criteria used for assessing ORS up to date with the current NZ setting?
Â ORS was established in 1997 to provide extra resourcing for Äkonga with severe and enduringÂ learning support needs to enable them to access the curriculum.
Eligibility for the scheme is nationally determined against a set of sector agreed criteria, by a team of learning support specialists, known as verifiers, who have significant leadership, experience and skills across the education and disability sectors. They use their specialist skills and knowledge to make decisions\ about eligibility.
Over time the ORS has had a number of reviews; however we are currently completing a review of the Highest Needs services ( the Highest Needs Review) , to ensure Äkonga and young people receive the right support, at the right time for as long as they need it. The Scope of the Review focuses on Äkonga and young people and their family and whÄnau from early childhood through to preparing to leave secondary school.Â
It includes Äkonga and young people:
ï· who currently receive individualised support,
ï· with an unmet need for individualised support,
ï· in settings that donât have equitable access to individualised support.
Public submissions for the Highest Needs Review have now closed and the process of analysingÂ submissions received is underway. Recommendations to the Minister are expected to beÂ presented later this year.
To read more about the review:
Highest Needs Review â Education in New ZealandÂ
- Who reviews the ORS applications?
Â Eligibility for the scheme is nationally determined against a set of sector agreed criteria, by a team of learning support specialists, known as verifiers who have significant leadership, experience and skills across the education and disability sectors. The verifiers are experienced educational psychologists, speech-language therapists, occupational therapists, physiotherapists, early intervention teachers and specialist teachers.
- Are the reviewers equipped and have the right skills in assessing applications?
Â Ministry of Education verifiers are Learning Support specialists who have skills, expertise andÂ leadership experience in the early childhood, primary and secondary sectors of education. EachÂ verifier has additional post graduate qualifications in a particular area of expertise of learningÂ support.
The team includes educational psychologists, early intervention teachers, speech language therapists, occupational therapists, physiotherapists, and specialist teachers, including those of vision and deaf.
Verifiers work to very high professional standards and keep up to date with current research inÂ their field of expertise. To ensure their impartiality when making independent decisions aboutÂ eligibility, each verifier works from a separate location. They are responsible to the ManagerÂ Assurance and Eligibility, National Office, Ministry of Education.Â
- In my podcast episode 14, I dissected an ORS application result, one observation there is that the child was never seen by the assessor and still able to come up with a decision. Is this a normal practice?
Â Educators and the team around the Äkonga are encouraged to provide, alongside descriptions ofÂ the Äkongaâs needs, strength-based information, from home and school, across all developmental areas when writing ORS applications as they know the Äkonga best.
One-off assessment or observation by adults unknown to the Äkonga and new to their setting does not provide robust information about progress and change across time for the Äkonga, and does not describe how they participate or engage in their classroom or early childhood setting.
The existing process ensures a nationally consistent and reliable decision-making process byÂ having a team made up of a number of people with specialist skills covering the disability rangeÂ who have worked with Äkonga with learning support needs, their whÄnau and other professionals..
It ensures equity of access across the motu so that those with the greatest level of need get theÂ support they need to access education by reducing barriers to presence, participation, progress,Â and wellbeing.Â
- In the same podcast episode, what can you say about the childâs application being
declined and the assessment was based on house setting and not school setting? – Is this how all assessments are based?
Â The verifiers carefully consider all the information provided in an application. They utilise theirÂ professional knowledge, skills and lived experience to draw their independent conclusions beforeÂ thoroughly discussing each decision and their rationale across the team to form a consensus decision.
No single piece of information within any setting is considered without the balance of overall understanding of the skills and competencies of the Äkonga alongside their learning opportunities across environments.Â
- In the same case, the child did not meet criterion 8 due to his intent to communicate.
But the safety concerns being raised by the school and the parents were never considered. What are your thoughts on that? *Note it was never mentioned in the application that he is pointing but was included in the outcome the âhe is pointingâ.
Â Applications must demonstrate the needs of the Äkonga will remain at a high level for the rest of their schooling and not just at the time of application. With regard to Criterion 8, when the verifiers see the beginnings of intentional communication, evidence of language use, or engagement in play and learning, it may imply there is potential for future learning and the presenting need at the time of the application may not be ongoing at the high level. It is important that the team around the Äkonga explain how that learning or engagement has been gained and if that intensity and frequency of need will be ongoing for the duration of their schooling.
As indicated in the previous response (13.) all aspects of Äkonga development and behaviour are considered and weighed against the relevant criteria when the verifiers are making these decisions.Â
- There are 9 criteria for ORS, say for argument sake, the child has mild needs in criterion 1 but in criterion 5 the child has high needs including safety? How do we balance the way
assessment is done?
The ORS provides specialist learning support, teacher time and teachersâ aide support for a small group of Äkonga who have the highest needs. To meet the criteria Äkonga must have significant educational needs that arise from extreme or severe difficulty with any of the following:
ï· language use and social communication
or moderate to high difficulty with learning, combined with any two of:
ï· language use and social communication.
Äkonga whose needs meet Criterion 1 have extremely delayed cognitive development. Depending on their age they are at a very early level of expected child development. Throughout their schooling Äkonga who meet Criterion 1 will require very high levels of specialist teacher input and other specialist interventions, like speech language therapy.
Towards the end of their schooling these learners may achieve some early developmental goals. When they leave school, they will need fully supported living, working and recreational/leisure services. They will not have mild needs across the learning and developmental domains.
Criterion 5 is for Äkonga who have a severe delay in cognitive development resulting in major
difficulties with learning across the New Zealand Curriculum. It is expected they will still be working within and below Level 1 of the New Zealand Curriculum across all areas of learning by the time they leave school.
Some Äkonga may have skills in learning beyond those expected for a learner at the level of
Criterion 5 however may need support for safety.
Ministry Learning Support staff and Resource Teachers Learning and Behaviour can work with schools and kura to meet the needs of Äkonga who are not eligible for ORS.
- The same case, in the podcast, the child has started his primary using emergency
funding from the MOE but he was only in school for 3 hours – thatâs the teacher aide support he is getting as per the emergency funding. The child will likely be delayed with his peers, what are your thoughts about that?
Â We are unable to comment on the specifics of the individual Äkonga. Guidance is provided
nationally with decisions regarding resources from Learning Support made at the local level,
considering a range of factors unique to the context of the Äkonga.
Getting off to a good start at school is important and may involve a team of learning support and
school professionals who work with whÄnau to collaboratively plan the best approach. WhÄnau can contact their local office of the Ministry of Education and talk with a Service Manager or a Manager Learning Support to discuss any concerns regarding additional support for Äkonga.
A contact list for all local offices can be found at Learning Support Services local offices.
Services and support available for primary school â Parents.education.govt.nz â PracticalÂ information about education for parents and carers.Â
- Given the child is only going to school for 3 hours, what are the next steps for parents?
– Follow up question related to 17. For cases like a child has no emergency funding and
cannot go to school because the school cannot accept the child without additional support, what is the plan for that?
Â We are unable to comment on the specifics of the individual Äkonga. Guidance is provided
nationally with decisions regarding resources from Learning Support made at the local level,
considering a range of factors unique to the context of the learner.
WhÄnau can contact their local office of the Ministry of Education and talk with a Service Manager or a Manager Learning Support to discuss any concerns regarding additional support for Äkonga.
- In the article from NZ herald, it was mentioned based on research autistic children are 3 times more likely to be stood down. That article also suggests that if there is available support like additional funding helps in getting better outcomes for kids. Given the benefits, why do you think the ORS is still being capped? Do you think it is appropriate for kids with special needs to compete for funding? Whatâs your view about that?
Eligibility for the Ongoing Resourcing Scheme (ORS) is determined by student need, not capped or determined by budget or geographic location. Äkonga who have needs that clearly meet any of the 9 ORS criteria, and whose needs will clearly remain at the high level for the entirety of their
schooling, will be eligible for ORS.
- Somewhat related to 19. How are we making sure the schools are prepared and handle
There are a range of Ministry-led or funded services, tools, resources, and websites available to
support educators to understand and teach Äkonga who are neurodiverse. These include inclusive education guides for teachers and schools to better understand autism and its effect on learning and giving schools advice on how to provide support.
The Ministry provides resources to all schools that support teachers to plan for neurodiversity in
learning from the outset and create inclusive classrooms. Many of these can be accessed at
Inclusive Education | Inclusive Education (tki.org.nz)Â This website includes guidance for teachers to design supports across the curriculum:
The Ministry is continuing to work with Autism NZ to develop online training for Learning Support
Coordinators (LSCs). The online training helps LSCs to better understand how to meet the learning needs of Äkonga Autism, using universal design and other techniques. LSCs work with classroom teachers to apply the techniques and support Äkonga with autism and their whÄnau in their learning.
In addition to the LSC focused training, âTilting the Seesawâ 2-day programme is
provided for teams and can help teachers, specialists and whÄnau of Äkonga with autism to
understand and meet their learning needs.
The Ministry is also working with the Taonga TakiwÄtanga Trust to facilitate a pilot series of
wÄnanga with learning support practitioners, school leaders, kaiako or teacher aides and local
whÄnau to increase the understanding of autism from a Te Ao MÄori perspective. Â This is also designed to develop the confidence and cultural capability of the learning support workforce to support the neurodiverse needs of Äkonga and whÄnau MÄori.
- Given there are many autistic children who are not getting the support they need to
progress in learning as a result they are getting more delayed in their learning. What can we do to address this?
In 2016, a select committee inquiry made recommendations to improve identification and support
for Äkonga and young people with dyslexia, dyspraxia, and autism. The select committee inquiry
concluded that more work needs to be done to: build teachersâ capabilities to meet diverse learning needs; identify Äkonga and young peopleâs learning support needs earlier, and provide new, flexible supports and services for Äkonga and young people, and their parents and whÄnau, who are not eligible for existing services, whose needs are currently not well met, and/or who are at risk of disengaging from education.
As a result of these findings the Ministry developed the Learning Support Action Plan (LSAP) with six key priorities. Priority four: âFlexible supports and services for neurodiverse Äkonga and young peopleâ responded to the identified need for an improved range of supports and services for neurodiverse Äkonga and young people, their parents and whÄnau, and teachers and other
educators. This is particularly important for those with moderate needs.
Actions within the LSAP plan include building the confidence and capability of teachers and education system supports that strengthen learning support for all Äkonga and young people.
Flexible supports include tools and resources that can be easily adapted for the diverse needs of
Äkonga. Examples include supporting kaiako to implement inclusive design practices in services
and schools, using visual supports in the classroom using assistive technologies and classroom
The Ministry has developed and is currently testing and refining a series of inclusive design
modules for teachers, whÄnau, resource teachers and Ministry specialists, to grow understanding
of neurodiversity and how to design inclusive learning environments. This is in addition to the
currently available resources that all schools can access that support teachers to plan for
neurodiversity in learning from the outset and create inclusive classrooms. Many of these can be
accessed at inclusive.tki.org.nz. This website includes both ADHD and ASD learning guidance for teachers to design supports across the curriculum.
Â Thank you for writing. I wish you and your whÄnau all the very best.
National Director Learning Support Delivery
Te Mahau | Te Pae Aronui (Operations and Integration)