Transitioning children with learning support needs from early learning into 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 learning support needs making a successful and positive transition from the early learning service to school.

No school can refuse to enrol a child because of their learning support needs.

For further information: Education Act 1989 - New Zealand Legislation website.(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 early learning 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.

Graduated transition to school

As a result of changes to the Education Act 1989, for those children aged 5 who would benefit from a graduated transition to school, a transition plan needs to be agreed between the child’s parents, the school principal and the Ministry of Education.

Once a child has started school if issues emerge that full time attendance is difficult then a transition plan may be put in place.

Once a transition plan is in place, the child will then be required to attend school in accordance with that plan. Schools are to use the ‘J’ (justified absence) attendance code in their Electronic Attendance Register to record absences that align with the transition plan.

A template has been developed to support the process of agreeing a transition plan. We note there is no requirement to use this template, a simple email trail showing the parents, principal and Ministry of Education have agreed to the plan is sufficient to meet the legislative requirements.

Contact your local Ministry service manager for assistance with developing a transition plan(external link)

Have clear roles

It’s important that there is agreement about who’s 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.

Learn more

Last reviewed: Has this been useful? Give us your feedback