Schools across the country will soon find out whether they will get access to new support staff as the Government confirms its plan to help more children with learning needs.

But principals say they are worried the strategy won't address urgent issues quickly enough and lacks a real, long-term funding commitment.

Associate Education Minister Tracey Martin has announced the final version of the Government's strategy to improve learning support for about 200,000 students who need additional assistance.

The plan comes on the back of a select committee inquiry looking into improving education for children with dyslexia, dyspraxia and autism spectrum disorders and has been in consultation since a draft was released last year.


The cornerstone of the policy is the introduction of 600 "Learning Support Co-ordinators" across schools from January next year - a project first announced in 2018.

While the final plan released on Friday does not say how the co-ordinators will be allocated, Martin said schools would next week find out who would get access to additional staff.

"The schools that will have the allocation, they will be told next week who those schools are. They can then start advertising for those positions," she told Newstalk ZB.

"It may be that they can't all be filled by the school at the beginning of the 2020 year but the money is all there should they be able to fill all those positions."

Martin said she would be putting in a bid for the 2020 Budget for further tranches of support staff.

Auckland Primary Principals' Association president Heath McNeil said while the intent of the action plan was important, many of its goals were "we wills" subject to getting more funding down the line.

"For example, the next tranche of [the co-ordinators] is subject to funding, so other than those first 600 schools, the nearly 2000 other schools across New Zealand are left in no certainty that they will get one," he said.

"We've got boards of trustees now that are forced into topping up ministry funding by tens of thousands, in some cases hundreds of thousands, every year out of their operational budgets ... We've just had a significant number of our students with needs have teacher aide funding cuts, pretty drastic ones, in the last three months."


McNeil points to other aims of the action plan, including reducing waiting times for early intervention.

"But the timeframe for that is six-and-a-half years with no real targets," he said.

"They've identified the right areas, but there doesn't appear to be long-term commitment with adequate resourcing. If we are just saying everything is subject to funding, what assurances are we giving to parents?"

Martin said the Government had provided $619.7 million of new funding over four years in its first two Budgets, including $29.6m in May to tackle growing demand.

"This Government has already put a huge amount more money into learning support and education generally. In our first Budget we invested more in learning support than the previous government had in its last five budgets," she said in a statement.

"The principals I spoke to today appreciated that we're doing something significant for students who need some extra help – that this is a step change. I also told them I'd be looking for further funding, and I will."

Other key parts of Friday's announcement include a plan to, by 2025, introduce universal testing and screening for children to see whether they need additional help as they start school and extending support for gifted children from next year.

"Dyslexia students, particularly, are not picked up if their family doesn't have money," Martin said.

"One of the things we've never had in this country is centrally collected information about the different learning support students need ... and that's why we're going to centrally collect that data."