Transitioning children with special education needs from ECE to school

Early planning, parent engagement and strong relationships between the school or kura, early learning service, parents and the Ministry are critical to a child with special needs making a successful and positive transition from the ECE service to school.

No school can refuse to enrol a child because of their special education needs (external link) .

Plan the transition to school

Planning should begin 6-12 months before the child is to start school or kura (or earlier if changes to property such as fences, toilets or steps are needed). An agreed timeline is critical so everyone knows what to expect. Decisions about the type, number and length of school or kura visits need to be made jointly and may vary from situation to situation.

Planning for the transition should include the parents, the school or kura, the early learning service, Ministry of Education staff and others, where appropriate, for example early intervention (EI) providers and cultural supports. Cultural supports, such as kaitakawaenga or other advisers and interpreters, may need to be organised well in advance.

Strong relationships based on open communication between the early learning service and the school or kura are at the heart of achieving effective transitions. For example, the child’s teacher might want to visit the ECE service or kōhanga reo to see the child in their current settings. Planning should aim to provide continuity of learning across both settings. For instance, successful learning plans and strategies are shared.

Clear and shared understanding about resourcing, such as specialist support and para-professional help, is required to ensure they are used effectively.

Have clear roles

It’s important that there is agreement about who is coordinating the transition and that everyone is clear about their roles and responsibilities. These roles may change over the period of transition, so some negotiation may be needed. All parties need to be clear about who is responsible for applying for resources or setting dates so there are no misunderstandings.

Communicate clearly and openly

Transition to school involves many complex changes for all involved, so it can be a time of stress. Clear and frequent communication contributes to success.
Information about the child’s interests, strengths, needs and the best ways to support their learning need to be shared between all involved, for example, portfolios and assessment reports.


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