Resolving problems about your child’s learning support

If you’re concerned your child’s learning needs are not being met, there are a number of steps you can take to help you and the school resolve the problem.

Resolving problems at school

If you’re worried your child’s learning needs aren’t being met, then it’s always best to start by talking through your concerns with your child’s classroom teacher. If you’ve talked with the staff who work closest to your child and you’re still worried, then there are steps you can follow to work with the school to resolve the situation.

Each school has its own processes for handling complaints, but the Resolving problems at school information sheet provides some useful tips to help you work with your child’s school to find a solution together.

Resolving problems at school – info sheets

If you're unsure how to deal with the school at any stage, you can contact the Ministry of Education for advice.

Local Ministry offices(external link)

If you’re unable to resolve the problem with the school

If you’ve already spoken to the teacher and the principal, but still don’t feel like the problem has been resolved, the Ministry’s Dispute Resolution Process, which is being phased in over time, may also be available to help.

The Dispute Resolution Process

The Dispute Resolution Process (DRP) provides help for parents, caregivers and whānau, and schools to resolve issues involving children and young people with additional learning needs.  

Regions where the Dispute Resolution Process is available

The Ministry introduced the first phase of the Dispute Resolution Process in May 2018, with the process currently available in the following regions:

  • Auckland
  • Whanganui/Manawatū
  • Nelson/Marlborough/West Coast
  • Wellington
  • Hawke's Bay/Tairawhiti
  • Bay of Plenty/Rotorua/Taupō.

Why isn't the Dispute Resolution Process available in all regions?

We are limiting the introduction of the Dispute Resolution Process to a few regions so we can see how well it’s working for everyone involved. It’s important it meets the needs of both parents and schools, so we will be evaluating the process to inform future decisions.

How the Dispute Resolution Process works

If you have spoken to your child’s teacher and principal, but can’t agree a way forward, there are three types of support available under the Dispute Resolution Process – they are:

  • Ministry facilitation
  • Ministry review
  • Independent mediation

You can read more about each of these supports below.

Ministry facilitation

This is the first type of support available through the Dispute Resolution Process.

If an issue has already been raised and discussed with your child’s teacher and principal, and it hasn’t been resolved, those involved can ask the Ministry for help from someone trained in facilitation. It’s free, informal, voluntary, locally provided, and easy to access for parents, caregivers, whānau and schools.

The Ministry will provide someone trained in facilitation to help you and the school talk and work together to find a practical solution. The facilitator won’t be there to advocate or enforce; they’re there to help facilitate the hard conversations. They support and build on parent, caregiver, whānau and school relationships and focus on outcomes for your child. They should ensure that all relevant people are involved and that your child’s views have been taken into account.

You can read more about Ministry facilitation in the information sheet.

The Dispute Resolution Process – Ministry facilitation [PDF, 704 KB]

The Dispute Resolution Process – Ministry facilitation - Easy Read version [PDF, 1.5 MB]

Ministry review

If a facilitated meeting doesn’t work, you or your child’s school can then ask for a Ministry review. This review will check that everything that should have been done has been done.

Independent mediation

If the Ministry thinks it would be helpful, and everyone agrees, it can approve and arrange for mediation through an independent mediation service provider. The mediator will hold a meeting to make sure everyone’s views, including your child’s, are heard.

The mediator is neutral and will not take sides. Their role is to ensure the process is fair and to help you and your child’s school solve problems together.

You can read more about independent mediation in the information sheet.

The Dispute Resolution Process – Independent Mediation Service [PDF, 652 KB]

The Dispute Resolution Process – Independent Mediation Service - Easyread version [PDF, 2 MB]

How to access the Dispute Resolution Process

In regions where the Dispute Resolution Process is available, parents, children and young people, and schools can access the process by contacting their local Ministry of Education office. There’s no charge for this support.

Note: The Dispute Resolution Process can’t be used:

  • if the issue has already been taken to the school’s board of trustees and it has given its decision; or
  • if a complaint has already been made to the Human Rights Commission or the Office of the Ombudsman.

You can contact the Ministry of Education office in your region below:

Auckland regional office
Phone: 09 632 9400

Whanganui/Manawatū regional office
Phone: 06 349 6300

Nelson/Marlborough/West Coast regional office
Phone: 03 546 3470

Wellington regional office
Phone: 04 463 8699

Hawke’s Bay/Tairawhiti regional office
Phone: 06 833 6730

Bay of Plenty/Rotorua/Taupō regional office
Phone: 07 349 7399

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