Most schools had an inclusive culture, a positive attitude to including students with special education needs and good relationships with parents and whānau. They had developed school-wide systems and practices to put their commitment into action. These included a strategic approach, a Special Education Needs Co-ordinator (SENCO), a team to coordinate provisions and resources and effective transition processes. Over three quarters of schools in the sample were mostly inclusive, which is an increase from the half reported in 2010. However, only half of schools were effective in promoting achievement and outcomes for students with special education needs.

ERO identified a need to improve teacher capability, particularly in:

  • understanding students with special education needs
  • strategies for effective inclusion
  • differentiating the curriculum
  • and ways of monitoring progress within Level 1 of the New Zealand Curriculum.

Some schools need to improve their use of data about progress and achievement to find out which programmes and teaching strategies are most effective. They also need to share this information with other staff. This process may improve outcomes for these students with special education needs and also identify needs for additional professional learning and development for relevant staff.

Most boards did not receive comprehensive information about all their students with special education needs and the effectiveness of the programmes provided for them. This limits a board’s ability to understand how effectively the school is including students with special needs and means schools are not able to judge whether they are making the most appropriate decisions about how to support them.

ERO has recommended next steps for the Ministry, school leaders, teachers and boards to help ensure all students with special education needs are included and making progress.