ChildForum Office of Pre-Primary Education

ChildForum Office of Pre-Primary EducationLead advisor on early childhood care and education 
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Publisher of the New Zealand-International Research in Early Childhood Journal


Children with Special Needs in ECE – ERO Evaluation Findings

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A new report from the Education Review Office suggests early childhood education services are endeavouring to include children with special needs.

The evaluation of services was conducted in response to one of the Government’s priorities, which is that every child has the opportunity to participate in early childhood education. ERO looked at what was happening in 268 early childhood education services during terms 3 and 4 of 2011 and found 104 services had children with special needs enrolled at the time.

The focus questions of the evaluation were:

  • How well do transitions ensure the continuing wellbeing, learning, and development of children with moderate to severe special needs? 
  • To what extent are children with moderate to severe special needs supported to be confident and capable learners?
  • How inclusive is the service of children with moderate to severe special needs?

Just over half of the 104 services with children with moderate to severe special needs were defined as being “mostly inclusive” and a further 44% as being “very inclusive” of these children. Of the 164 services which did not currently have children with special needs enrolled, ERO says it believes these services would be able to accommodate special needs children well.

From ERO’s perspective indicators of inclusiveness included: believing that children with special needs were capable learners, having inclusive policies, and services accessing and providing additional support and working well with parents and other agencies.

The learning of children with special needs was judged to be well supported in 91% of the 104 services.  At these services teachers knew the child and their strengths, developed positive relationships with the child and their family and developed appropriate programmes for the child to take part in activities.

In the ECE services deemed less inclusive ERO described these services as being willing to be inclusive but lacking knowledge and strategies to be so in practice.

ERO noted that few services in the evaluation undertook self-review in regard to children with special needs.

Challenges or problems experienced by services included working with parents, accessing and applying for funding, and making referrals.

ERO has recommended that the Ministry of Education review how it works with ECE services to help them make referrals and access funding, and the provision of education support workers.

It also recommended that managers and educators at ECE services should improve their understanding of inclusion, develop knowledge of appropriate strategies for inclusion, and engage in self-review in this area.

In a separate survey released also this month, the Parent and Family Resouce Centre in Auckland reports that ECE services are not well placed to meet the needs of parents and children with disabilities and could be doing better.


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