FAQs: Education In New Zealand

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education in new zealand

As a parent looking to migrate, it’s only natural that you have a million questions about education in New Zealand.

Let us start by telling you that New Zealand prides itself on an education system that is world-class, modern and responsive. It’s not just talk either. Expat parents rate New Zealand’s education system as the fifth best in the world!

To help you understand exactly how schooling works in New Zealand, we’re going to answer 13 questions that every parent asks.

1. At what age should my child start school?

Going to school is compulsory for New Zealand children from the ages of 6 to 16. Parents are allowed to already send their children to primary school at the age of 5, but by the age of 6 children must be enrolled to start their schooling.

2. What are the different school phases?

New Zealand’s school system is divided into three phases:

  • Primary
  • Intermediate
  • Secondary (or high school)

As explained above, your child must enter primary school by the time he or she is 6 years old. If your child is at a full primary school, he or she will complete Year 1 to Year 8 at the school. He or she will then continue on to secondary school for Year 9 to Year 13.

However, if your child is at a contributing primary school, he or she will complete Year 1 to Year 6 at the school. He or she will then go to an intermediate school for Year 7 and Year 8 before continuing on to secondary school at Year 9.

What is the difference between a full primary school and contributing primary school?

Full primary schools offer all primary school years, from Year 1 to Year 8, while contributory primary schools only offer Year 1 to Year 6. Contributing primary schools are more common but your child will get the same high standard of education no matter which type of primary school he or she attends.

3. What are the different types of schools in New Zealand?

New Zealand has state schools, state-integrated schools and private schools:

State schools

State schools are schools owned and funded by the government. Education is free in these schools for domestic children, but parents normally have to still pay for things like uniforms, stationery, exam fees and, in some case, extra-curricular and sports activities.

Your child will be deemed a ‘domestic’ student if they:

  • are a New Zealand resident, permanent resident or citizen; or
  • hold a student visa based on your temporary work visa.

State-integrated schools

State-integrated schools are school with a ‘special character’. This means the school is either run by a particular religious faith or use specialist education methods, like Montessori.

Education in state-integrated schools is also funded by the government, but these schools normally charge ‘attendance dues’ fees to help maintain the school.

Private schools

Private schools are not funded by the government. Instead these schools charge set fees for the term or year. You’ll find some private schools are co-ed, while others are single sex schools for either boys or girls.

4. What is the learning environment like?

Getting an education in New Zealand means a child is taught through practical and theoretical learning, with students encouraged to think creatively, independently and analytically. Personal, focused attention is usually guaranteed, thanks to relatively small class sizes.

5. Does New Zealand have a school zoning system?

Yes, New Zealand does have a school zoning system. These school enrolment zones stop schools from getting overcrowded, and give children who live in the school area, or zone, a guarantee that they can go to their local school.

You can read more about school zones on our blog.

6. When are the school terms?

The school year is split into four terms commencing in late January through to mid-December. There is a 2-week holiday after each of the first three terms. At the end of the year there is a 6-week holiday instead.

  • 1st Term: Late January to mid-April.
  • 2nd Term: Late April to early July.
  • 3rd Term: Mid July to late September.
  • 4th Term: Mid October to mid-December.

7. How long is a school day?

The New Zealand school day usually starts at 9am and last until 3pm or 3.30pm.

8. How do I enroll my child in a school?

It is best to contact your local school to find out what the enrollment process is. Please be aware that you might need to provide evidence of your child’s visa status as part of the process.

9. What happens if we move to New Zealand in the middle of the school year?

Your child can enroll in school at any time during the year to continue their schooling. The school will place your child in a Year that corresponds with their age. For instance, if your child is 8 years old, he or she will most likely be placed in either Year 3 or Year 4 with other 8 year-olds.

10. How do I find schools in my area?

The Ministry of Education has an online tool that helps you find and choose schools in your neighbourhood. You can access this tool on the Ministry’s website. The Ministry also helps you by suggesting some things to consider when deciding on a school. You can also find these on their website.

11. Are school buses or public transport available to take my child to school?

It is not always possible for parents to drop their children at school or to pick them up in the afternoon. Thankfully, it is safe for children to walk or ride their bicycle to school. Despite this some schools still offer school buses.

Many children also make their way to and from school in a ‘walking school bus’. This is an organized and supervised group walking to school together. It’s a great way for children to meet other kids their age in their neighbourhood!

12. Is corporal punishment allowed in schools?

No, it is in fact illegal. Teachers are not allowed under any circumstances to use physical force to discipline a student.

13. May I homeschool my children?

Yes, you may but you’ll have to apply to the Ministry of Education for a Certificate of Exemption from enrolment at a registered school. To get the exemption you’ll have to satisfy the Ministry’s requirement that your  children will receive lessons regularly and at the same standards as they would have received at a school.

In summary….

You can rest assured that your child will receive a quality education in New Zealand. Should you need help with a study visa for your child, or your own visas, please do not hesitate to contact us for expert advice and assistance.

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