School Days (5 to 12 years)

Attitudes have changed dramatically in New Zealand with the introduction of the Education Act of 1989 which says, “People who have special educational needs (whether because of disability or otherwise) have the same rights to enrol and receive education in state schools as people who do not.”

Today the government want children with special education needs to be welcome at their local schools.
Families can send their child with Down syndrome to any state school of their choice (if in zone).


  • Children with Down syndrome usually need extra help at school. 
  • The curriculum often needs to be adapted to suit them. 
  • They may need special equipment. 
  • They usually need a teacher aide to work with them for some or all of the school day.
  • Most children with Down syndrome get money for this through Ongoing and Reviewable Resourcing schemes (ORRS). 
  • Each child has an Individual Education Programme (IEP) to set goals for learning and monitor progress. The IEP is developed by the child’s family, teachers and relevant specialists. 

Inclusive education 

Many children with Down syndrome attend local schools with other children in their community.  This is called inclusive education or mainstreaming.

Inclusive education helps children with Down syndrome have an ordinary life, going to school like their brothers and sisters and other local children.

They learn from the other children and other children learn from them, as they learn that the world is made up of all sorts of people and they learn to accept differences.

Inclusive education needs proper funding and support which should come through the Ministry of Education.

“Mainstreaming meant my son was in his local community and mixing with other children from the area.  He could walk to and from school he copied typical children’s behaviour – good and bad – and he gained knowledge and skills.”

Alternative settings 

Some areas of New Zealand have special schools or units and some families choose this kind of education for their child.

Other families choose correspondence schooling or home-schooling for their child.

“I guess through my daughter’s education the clear lesson has been to evaluate, re-evaluate and feel free to follow what is best for your child.  There are several educational options for children with special needs.  Each option will affect your child differently.  As children develop the educational setting may vary as well.”

Out of school activities 

School age children with Down syndrome can often be included in many of the same activities as other children.

There are also other organisations that provide activities for children with additional needs e.g. Special Olympics

“I went to a surprise birthday party the class were putting on for my daughter at her mainstream secondary school.  In the middle of the table sat a lovely big cake made especially and all the students has made her favourite foods, pizza, waffles, sausage rolls, ice cream and fancy biscuits.  My daughter was so pleased with everything.  They all sang happy birthday to her – big smiles all round.  It’s so positive to see the interaction in the classroom and know that these kids all accept her special needs, are interested in what she is doing and delight in her achievements.  I left with a lump in my throat.”