In 2010 the Ministry of Education completed a review of special education and subsequently Success for All[1] was launched. Success for All included a target that, by 2014, 80 percent of schools would be doing a good job and none would be doing a poor job of including students with special needs. This target was informed by ERO’s 2010 report – Including Students with High Needs.[2] High needs students are those in the top three percent of need for support for learning. ERO’s 2010 report found that 50 percent of schools were mostly inclusive (doing a good job) and that 30 percent had some inclusive practices, with 20 percent having few inclusive practices (doing a poor job).

This new evaluation builds on ERO’s 2010 findings using information collected in Term 4, 2012. It reports on how well 81 primary schools have included students with high needs. It also provides a perspective on the actions and the targets developed under Success for All. In 2014 ERO will conduct a larger-scale evaluation focusing on how well primary and secondary schools are including students with high needs.

The findings of this 2013 ERO report are encouraging in terms of the targets developed under Success for All. ERO found that 77 percent of schools were mostly inclusive, 16 percent of schools had some inclusive practices, and seven percent had few inclusive practices.

In schools with mostly inclusive practices, good performance related to coordination between school staff and outside personnel, professional learning and development, transitions, and the appropriate use of teacher aides to support students with high needs in the mainstream class context. Schools that were less inclusive had some of the characteristics of the mostly inclusive schools but needed to improve their school‑wide coordination in support of students with high needs. The significant development areas for all schools were self review and monitoring and responding to their high needs students’ achievement information.

Caution should be used when making any definitive judgements about the extent to which schools are on track to meet the Government’s Success for All targets. This report is focused on students with high needs and does not reflect what is happening for students with moderate or low needs. It is also a smaller sample and does not include secondary schools.

It is of concern that six schools in the sample had few inclusive practices. One of the key reasons for the lack of inclusive practice in these schools was linked to the quality of their teaching overall. Most of these schools did not ‘do a good job’ for most of their students, not just those with high needs. The low quality of teaching found across these schools also suggests that improving the responsiveness of these schools, for students with high needs, should be part of a broader whole-school development process for each school. The significant work implied by such a professional development process for these schools, and others like them, presents a difficult challenge to the Success for All targets of 80 percent of schools ‘doing a good job’ and none ‘doing a poor job’ of including students with special needs.