A little background and history is needed first on what is referred to as the ‘Tomorrow Schools’ to see how the support roles were originally meant to be used and who they are designed to support.

In 1989 the government enacted sweeping changes to the education system. These changes created the:

  • Ministry of Education
  • Education Review Office
  • NZ Qualifications Authority
  • Tertiary Education Commission.

They abolished Education Boards and established site-based community governance through school boards of trustees. The rules of engagement for school property and funding, zoning, special education, teacher education and professional development were all part of this package.

When the government introduced Tomorrow Schools dyslexia was not a condition that was recognised in New Zealand. Dyslexia was only recognised in 2007 and dyscalculia is not even recognised yet!

Many schools that did support special education were shut down over time and support roles were created for teachers to help support children who were struggling and showing behaviour or learning challenges in school and the classroom. This was the start of what the Ministry of Education calls “inclusive education”.

The descriptions of the support roles have not really changed since then, but much has changed within our school education system. We have tried with the support of people in the support roles, and the information provided on the Ministry of Education website to provide you with as much information as we can.

Many teachers in these support roles take on more than their “official description” entails because there’s a need in their school and there is a child in need of support.

The descriptions of these roles listed below are from the website and from a few members who were happy to provide what they could.

Please be aware the support is up to each individual, cluster or regional manager, as is what approaches or resources are used. We can’t guarantee all recommendations given are evidence based and we encourage you to check out ‘What we do recommend‘ and ‘What we don’t recommend’ and ‘Guidance for assessing a programme or approach.

Please make sure you ask what approaches and programmes are being used. Some programmes will cause more anxiety and stress because they are not suitable for dyslexic children like Reading Recovery or mainstream school behaviour programmes.

The classroom teacher is the first person you should sit down with, and have an open discussion around any concerns you may have regarding your child. The teacher can then refer your child to the school Special Needs Coordinator (Senco) where a plan of support will be put in place. The Senco is also the person who can refer your child to the Resource Learning Behaviour teacher (RTLB) or a Resource Literacy Teacher (RTLit) if required.

Special Education Needs Coordinator (SENCO)

The position is normally held by a teacher who teaches full time in the school and takes on the added role of being the school SENCO.

This role is about supporting students with complex needs to successfully be part of a mainstream school and have access to the NZ Curriculum. This includes academic, behavioural and well being needs.

The role involves: 

  • Developing programmes that can be used within the classroom and in a 1:1 setting.
  • Developing Individual Education Plans (IEP’s) to best meet the needs of our students (some may do a Learning Plan due the time it takes to set up IEP’s).
  • Meeting with the classroom teacher to discuss evidence based approaches for dyslexic children, which should include Structured Literacy.

This is done in conjunction with staff and outside agencies such as Ministry of Education services – Speech Language Therapists, Occupational Therapists, Pyschologist, RTLB, RTLit, Mana Ake and any other applicable services.

Requests for Support

Requests for Support are made to these services as well as other appropriate referrals such as Ongoing Resourcing Scheme (ORS) and School High Health Needs Fund (SHHNF). Requests for other resources outside the school’s tools are limited.

Pastoral Care meetings are held once or twice a term depending on the need where multi-disciplinary agencies (such as Oranga Tamariki, Public Health Nurse, Police, RTLB, Mana Ake, Attendance Coordinator) meet with the SENCO and staff to discuss the needs of students and plans are developed to best support these students and family.

The role of SENCO is complex and always adapting to meet ongoing needs as required in an ever changing environment. The focus is always on best meeting the needs of students and family.

Resource Teacher of Literacy (RTLit)

Resource Teachers of Literacy (RTLit) provide specialised literacy assistance to learners in Years 1 to 8 who are experiencing difficulties with literacy learning. Currently there are 109 RTLit’s throughout New Zealand, which serve a range of schools in a cluster. Each RTLit works differently in their cluster, due to the geographic nature of where the schools are situated and their management committee.

RTLit provides literacy support to teachers of identified students who are well below in literacy. This support is usually a mix of advice, support and coaching for classroom teachers (indirect support) and intensive specialised teaching to individual and/or small groups (direct support). This support is also time bound. The major focus of RTLit work will be in the area of indirect instruction, which provides support to the classroom teacher to deliver appropriately designed learning opportunities within the classroom.

Direct instruction is used less frequently. It is useful for diagnostic purposes where the RTLit wishes to gain greater insight into the teaching and/or learning. One on one short intensive teaching with a student may be required to break a pattern of the student’s ineffective learning behaviour. This teaching may or may not occur within a classroom but should be balanced carefully with the need to enable the student’s learning to take place within the normal classroom setting as soon as possible.

Student referrals generally come from the classroom teacher who has identified students (from a range of assessments) who are below average in literacy. Students can also be referred on from Reading Recovery teachers. The SENCO or Learning support coordinators (LSC) in the school collate the student data, and process the application requesting service support. If the student or students are accepted on the RTLit roll there is usually a waiting list.

Students referred to the RTLit service should be those with the highest literacy needs in the school. However, selection for instruction by RTLit should prioritise those with the highest literacy needs in the cluster. This is sometimes determined by the RLit’s Management Committee.

Regular monitoring and reporting will also ensure that the classroom teacher and the school will be well informed about the student’s progress, and decisions to discontinue or refer a student will be deliberate, planned, and well communicated throughout the student’s time on the RTLit roll. Schools monitor and support the progress of students in classroom programmes post-intervention.

The RTLit can support the school with regards to the relationship with parents, family and family, and encourage meaningful learning-focused engagement.

Resource Teacher of Learning and Behaviour (RTLB)

Resource Teachers of Learning and Behaviour (RTLB) are funded to work together with teachers and schools to support the achievement of students in Years 1-10 with learning and/or behaviour difficulties. RTLB have a particular focus on supporting Māori students, Pasifika students and children and young people moving into State care.

Forty RTLB clusters are in New Zealand, from the Far North to Southland. Each cluster has a lead school, lead school principal, and a cluster manager, as well as a team of RTLB, specialist itinerant kaiako/teachers. Each cluster works differently.

Requests for Support

Schools are able to request service from RTLB to support them to meet the needs of students experiencing learning and behaviour difficulties. If a family thinks their child may benefit from additional support they can talk to the classroom teacher to discuss the option of the school making a request for RTLB support.

Each cluster (a regional group of RTLB) has established its own process for managing requests for support. RTLB’s work in a cluster or team. The work of the team, and workload of RTLB, is managed by the cluster manager. RTLB support schools to meet the learning and behaviour challenges of students in the cluster.

They do this through:

  • networking
  • school policy development
  • working with kaiako/teachers to meet needs in the classroom
  • initiatives such as peer reading
  • supporting individual student needs, for example facilitating the generation of Individual Education Plans (IEP).

When working in a school or/secondary school setting, RTLB support the learning and behaviour needs of students through negotiation with a range of people.

These may include:

  • The class teacher
  • Special Education Needs Coordinators (SENCO)
  • Parents
  • Families.

RTLBs work within an ecological model. The model considers the different components of the school environment and the effects these have on a student’s learning and behaviour.

By making a request for support the teacher seeks support to meet the needs of the student group, class or school. Their aim is to ensure that the students achieve success in the school setting.

Schools usually go through their SENCO or LSC, to make requests for support of individual students to support their learning and behaviour needs; groups of students with similar learning or behavioural needs; teachers who would like support to develop their skills in behavioural management or curriculum adaptation and school system or programme development.

RTLBS should use evidence based strategies and collaboratively plan to support the implementation of inclusive strategies and programmes. We work in culturally responsive ways.

Note: Please ask what programmes and resources are being used, not all are suitable for neurodiverse children, many can make behaviours worse and increase anxiety instead of reducing it.

Learning Support Coordinators (LSC)

The role of the LSC is to ensure children and young people with disabilities and additional learning needs can access the services they need. They will substantively contribute to a collaborative approach that organises learning support around what best meets the needs of children and young people across a local community. They will help simplify the current learning support system, particularly for the key stakeholders that interact with it, including parents and family.

LSC five functions

  • Support students through building an inclusive school or kura and cluster environment where all students participate, progress and make successful transitions.
  • Support teachers in schools and kura to lift their capability to better meet the needs of learners, and to strengthen their connections with early learning services.
  • Support for parents and family to partner successfully with their school or kura and develop an understanding of learning support processes and who to contact if needed.
  • Work with other LSCs across the cluster, and connect with the learning support facilitator and wider agencies, such as Oranga Tamariki—Ministry for Children, to access services and resources to support learners.
  • Work with and influence the school or kura leadership team to ensure all students receive the appropriate support to enhance their learning and progress

They can identify and plan for the learning support needs of all children and young people in the school or kura, including those with moderate needs. The intention is that they will simplify the system, so it’s easier for children and parents to access services.

The first 623 LSC have been allocated to 124 learning support clusters, covering 1,052 schools and kura. There will be approximately one LSC for every 500 students in the cluster.

Learning Support Coordinators will be an integral part of a more flexible and joined-up approach to learning support, the Learning Support Delivery Model. For this reason, they will be working in all the schools and clusters that are the most advanced in using this approach.

Thank you to the members of the deb who offered their support in creating this information.

This document was created by Sharon Scurr founder of the deb in December 2021