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Shared planning

An important aspect of working together is shared planning. Shared planning is collaborative and draws on the knowledge of students and those who know them best.

Effective schools and teachers use and refer to many forms of planning. They consider what they plan to teach for the year and term and the learning activities, school contexts, and events they want their students to participate in.

  • Faculty and syndicate planning involves a number of teachers determining key focus areas or learning themes for groups of students. This often includes reflecting on the overall strengths and needs of each group. It also includes considering the needs of particular students to ensure that they are able to benefit from and participate in planned activities and events.

In Example 10, teachers from a years 3–6 syndicate work with the Learning Support Coordinator to plan a syndicate-wide social science unit in which all students participate and learn alongside their peers.

  • A teacher and Learning Support Coordinator may decide to form a support team for a student with diverse needs, which will lead to shared planning. The teacher and other members of the team (as required) will consider and plan for adaptations and differentiations to the classroom programme for the student.

In Example 3, an English teacher and the Learning Support Coordinator share planning documents electronically as they support a group of students with additional learning needs.

All planning identifies clear, meaningful goals that build on current strengths and knowledge, reflect next learning steps, and show what success will look like. Progress towards these goals is regularly reviewed. The team will decide what format a plan will take (for example, a collaborative action plan, an IEP, an individual health plan, or a transition plan). Most plans identify adaptations and differentiations in the classroom programme and any supports that are needed, for both the student and the team.

There are many sources of information for planning – for example, reports, assessment records, and learner profiles. An important source for initial, high-level planning is the Additional Support Register, sometimes called a Special Needs Register. Each New Zealand school should have its own register to identify students requiring extra support and adaptations or differentiations in the classroom curriculum as they work alongside their peers. Ministry guidance to boards of trustees in 2013 noted that:

"A register needs to be developed with care. It’s not about labelling and separating out students, but about ensuring that those who need additional support are identified and supported in a planned and coordinated way."

Charters and Analysis of Variance: Guidance for Supporting Students with Special Education Needs, 2013, page 3

When time is at a premium it must be used well. One way to do this is through careful, ongoing planning using a variety of approaches and different plans for different purposes. The following two examples are key aspects of planning for students with additional needs.

Planning using an IEP

The IEP process also provides opportunities to bring people together to plan future learning. The process should allow for content to be differentiated and the environment to be adapted to include the student in classroom tasks and activities. IEP planning will draw on information from a range of people, including the student and their whānau.

Note that not all students with additional needs have or need an IEP. For those students who do, IEP meetings are important times to plan ahead – and to recognise the results of previous planning, by celebrating progress and success for the student and the team.

"(The IEP meeting) is a process that begins with celebrating and recognition. We share heartwarming stories about the student’s progress and achievements, and remind ourselves that they are just like any other child; uniquely special and gifted in their own right. We also look at ourselves and celebrate how hard we work and how far we have come in our ability to manage situations that challenge us. Unless this is recognised and said out loud, I don’t think any plan or IEP will serve much beyond the paper it’s written on. IEPs are full of opportunities. We all respect and value the process and the contributions of everyone involved, most of all the students."

SENCO, project interview, 2013


In Example 7, a teacher of a years 5-6 class works with a specialist teacher and team members from the local Ministry of Education office to embed priority learning goals from a student’s IEP in the classroom programme.


As a group, look at Collaboration for Success: Individual Education Plans to explore how the IEP process is used in your school. For example, you could look at your school practices in relation to the “An IEP is … / An IEP is not …” table on page 6; or you could read and discuss pages 8–10 to consider your school’s collaboration with whānau and the local community.

Planning for education outside the classroom

Future planning is critical for events such as school trips, camps, sports events, and other forms of education outside the classroom. It is important to ensure that planning starts well in advance for such events, so that team members can work together to involve all students.

One example of shared planning for a school camp is shown below (Ford, 2009). The decision for Max to go to camp was made by teachers and whānau. Forward planning was essential because the camp had to be booked one year in advance. Finding ways for Max to access the camp site and the activities was a challenge for the team.

"We got our timetable organised and I went through and broke every single activity right down – from getting Max onto the boat, getting him into the car, determining when he had to be assisted with eating or getting in the shower. We considered every single activity that Max would have to take part in and what he needed in terms of resources and people. This was just awesome, as it ensured Max didn’t miss out on anything." (Teacher)

"[Max’s father] carried Max onto the stony area where the students were lighting fires. Max was placed into his wheelchair seat on the ground and Mary his TA sat behind him. The activity was structured so that each student had a task to complete. This allowed Max to achieve his small part of the fire lighting task." (Field notes).

In addition to having the right people in the team, the right resources were also important. Max took a large amount of equipment to camp. Max’s classmates took obvious pride in Max’s participation at camp. When the researcher first entered the classroom students were asked to tell her about the highlights of camp. They called out their highlights – “Max went on the flying fox.” “We made fires.” “We saw a stingray.” “We went kayaking.”


As a group, use Figure 3 to help you list the people in your school community and local community who might support you when planning to include students with additional needs in education outside the classroom? What approaches to shared planning have been effective in your school community? What other approaches do you want to develop?

Next – Day-to-day collaboration

Published on: 19 May 2015