School Life

The extent to which arthritis affects everyday life at school will vary from child to child and from day to day. Building up a good relationship with the school and child’s teacher is key. Communication between parents, teachers and the child is very important.

This is probably the first time the teacher will have come across a child with arthritis so give them as much information as possible about the condition. The first step is to arrange an initial meeting between parents and staff to talk about the diagnosis and information about how the condition affects the child daily. 

Then at the beginning of each new school year ask for a meeting with the child’s new teacher. Information should be passed on but don’t presume that it will.

Education Resources

Please Click on the highlighted headings below to follow the link. This will give you a brief description of information you will find on each website.

KWANZ Student letter to Teacher Click HERE for Letter

Educational video for teachers and caregivers Click HERE to view the film.
KWANZ commissioned a short video following many comments from parents that teachers had no experience of dealing with a child with arthritis, and that we needed to educate the teachers what it’s like for a child to have arthritis. We are also using this film to help raise awareness in our communities that ‘Even kids get Arthritis’.

KWANZ School Presentation Pack – One area of concern for many of our parents is that many school teachers are not aware that children get arthritis and are not aware of the challenges that children with arthritis face when attending school.

This pack provides information that will:

  • Increase their awareness of what it is like for a child to have arthritis
  • Understand the specific challenges that these children have at school
  • Teachers to be better equipped to provide JIA children with the best possible education.

SENCO (Special Educational Needs Co-Ordinator)

If your child or young person has additional needs that are having a significant impact on their access to the school curriculum, wellbeing and participation, staff at their school will coordinate extra support. Most schools have a special education needs coordinator (SENCO) or a learning support coordinator (LSC). This person can help you access and coordinate services such as:

    1. Specially trained teachers who work with students with moderate learning and/or behaviour difficulties (called resource teachers: learning and behaviour or RTLBs)
    2. Specially trained teachers for students with vision impairments (called resource teachers: vision)
    3. Teachers who work with children who have hearing impairments (called resource teachers: deaf)
    4. The Physical Disability Service that works with teachers and schools to help them adapt the environment around a student to meet the student’s needs.

As a result of the initial meeting with the school, a medical or care plan should be put together which would then be reviewed regularly with parents, teaching staff and sometimes the child themselves. 

This would detail information about the child’s condition and include medication they are on and medical professionals they are under. Schools will offer different levels of support based on the specific needs of the child.

Individual Education Plan (IEP)

An Individual Educational Plan (IEP) is a written plan that set out goals for your child. You and everyone else working with your child are involved in developing these plans.

An Individual Plan (IP) is the name of the plan for your very young child before they start school or kura.

An Individual Education Plan (IEP) is the plan that is developed for your child to meet the student’s needs when they are at school or kura.

These plans outline how, who and when the goals for your child will be reached and may include:

      • who will be working with your child, what their role will be and what they will do
      • how you and your family and whānau can support your child’s learning at home
      • teaching strategies that will support your child to learn
      • resources or special equipment your child might need
      • what success for the team working with your child will look like.

These plans don’t have to be large, intimidating documents.  They don’t even need to be all in words – they might have charts, photos or pictures.

These plans are living documents, and will change over time as your child’s needs change.  You and your child’s team will talk regularly about your child’s progress and what their next goals will be and update the plan.

Get a copy of Collaboration for Success: Individual Education Plans – Click here to download the PDF

Click on Link for – Collaboration for Success: Individual Educational Plans (PDF, 3 MB)

Regional Health Schools

Regional Health schools provide teachers for children from years 0 to 13 years old, who are unwell. There are 3 regional health schools: one in Auckland, one in Wellington and one in Christchurch. Health school teachers can teach a child anywhere in New Zealand. The children stay on the roll of their usual school while they get support from the health school.

For more information see Education when your child is in hospital.

Northern Health School

The Northern Health School provides education for Years 1 to 13 students who are not well enough to attend their regular school. Check the map to see the areas the Northern Health School covers.

Central Regional Health School

Central Regional Health School is based in Wellington and serves the areas in the lower half of the North Island. These are the areas covered by the following District Health Boards: Capital and Coast, Hutt Valley, Wairarapa, Midcentral, Whanganui and Hawke’s Bay.

Southern Health School

The Southern Health School provides education for Years 1 to 13 students who are not well enough to attend their regular school in the South Island.

Hospital Play Specialists Association

Play specialists may be able to advise you on how to help your child cope with illness, treatment and hospitalisation.

Home Schooling

Homeschooling is also an option available to consider for your child or teen. There is a growing number of families in NZ choosing to home educate and provide a tailored education for their children. There are SO many different ways of providing curriculum via printed or online sources and with others. In most towns and cities there are lots of homeschooling families connecting to provide social, educational and fun learning opportunities – so you never need to feel isolated. With the many reasons that mean children/teens with arthritis frequently miss school – appointments, nausea, pain, cold, fatigue, feeling behind – homeschooling provides the avenue to never miss a day of school! Simply pick up where you left off. So much more is accomplished in such a short time with homeschooling, meaning less fatigue and more productivity at the right academic level. Develop a love of learning and a more positive mind-set by nurturing and educating from the home and local community.

Sheena Harris – a KWANZ parent, home educated her 3 children (two of whom have now graduated high school). Her eldest son, Caelan, developed JIA from the age of 7years. Since deciding to home educate a year and a bit after starting school, Caelan has never looked back and gone from strength to strength. Closing his high school years with work experience in his chosen industry (marketing and media), the Grand Prior award from St John Youth Cadets and many more accomplishments. He is now studying at Waikato University.

If you would like to discuss the possibility of choosing to home educate, Sheena is happy to connect with you via videocall anywhere in the country or by a phone call (complementary initial call). Find out more at and complete the contact form.

Before School Check

The B4 School Check is a free check for four-year-olds. The Check helps to make sure your child is healthy and can learn well at school. It is a chance to discuss your child’s health and development with a nurse.

Ministry of Education

The Ministry of Education website is where you can learn more about how the New Zealand education system works, and the education agencies that are involved in supporting our education system, helping to deliver a world-leading education system that equips all New Zealanders with the knowledge, skills and values to be successful citizens.

NZ Police – No Bullying

Some of our children face the reality of bullying, because other children don’t understand their often, well-hidden illness.  This website provides names of organizations that can help in this issue.

 Specialised School Transport to School

If a student is eligible for SESTA (Special education school transport assistance), the Government accepts a share of this responsibility and provides a level of assistance to help with transport between home and school.

Special Exam Conditions

NZQA grants entitlement to Special Assessment Conditions (SAC) so that approved candidates may be fairly assessed and have access to assessment for National Qualifications. Special Assessment Conditions are approved so that entitled candidates can demonstrate their knowledge, skills and understanding, without providing unfair advantage over other candidates.

Children and young people with medical conditions are entitled to a full education and have the same rights of admission to school as other children