Getting to school

When making enrolment decisions, you’re likely to consider the distance between your home and nearby schools and available transport options. The safest route, access to public transport and whether there’s a school bus service in the area might also be factors you consider.

School transport assistance
Specialised School Transport Assistance (SESTA)
School transport roles and responsibilities
School transport eligibility zones
School transport zones and enrolment scheme home zones
Changes to school transport services
Variations to arrangements

Every child should be able to get to and from school safely. Seven out of eight students make their own way to school without Ministry assistance, but we help students get to their closest school if it’s a long way and there’s no public transport available.

Through our contracts with transport providers, funding arrangements with schools and allowances to caregivers, we help about 100,000 students around New Zealand get to school. This includes over 7,000 students who have specific safety or mobility needs.

School transport assistance

Assistance is provided in a number of ways and to be eligible, criteria must be met relating to distance, the school attended, and the availability of public transport in the area.

Students might be able to travel on one of our school buses, or a conveyance allowance might be available if a school bus isn’t available or you live too far from the bus stop.

Specialised School Transport Assistance (SESTA)

Assistance is available for students with safety and mobility needs preventing them from travelling independently to their closest school.

School transport roles and responsibilities

It’s a big job making sure the school transport network is running how it should. Our regional transport contract managers work with bus companies to ensure a safe and legally compliant service is provided, and our regional transport advisors work directly with schools on school transport options and design and review bus routes.

Every school receiving transport services from the Ministry has a bus controller who is responsible for monitoring bus safety and liaising with caregivers about services. Caregivers are responsible for ensuring their children are kept safe before they get on the bus in the morning and after they get off in the afternoon.

School transport eligibility zones

There is a transport eligibility zone for every state and state integrated school in New Zealand. Transport eligibility zones are a geographic boundary at the halfway point between two schools of the same type offering the same year level. We use them to help determine who is eligible for school transport assistance. Students living outside the eligibility zone of the school they attend aren’t eligible for transport assistance.

School transport eligibility zones and enrolment scheme home zones

School transport zones and enrolment scheme home zones are similar in that they’re both a geographic boundary around a school designed to support access to education – but they serve very different purposes.

A home zone provides for a student’s enrolment at a school that’s reasonably convenient to where they live whereas a school transport eligibility zone shows the closest school a child could enrol at, which is the starting point for understanding the public transport options that might be available.

Students don’t have to live within a school’s transport eligibility zone to be enrolled at that school, but if they live outside the zone they won’t be eligible for school transport assistance.

Changes to school transport services

School transport provisions change depending on the number of eligible students and where they live. Transport options may change when a school opens or closes, or changes year levels. As public transport provisions change, our services might also change.

Where there is going to be a change to our services, we always give impacted schools at least one full term’s notice, and those schools are required to inform their school communities that the service is changing.

Variations to arrangements

Some schools are bulk funded for their school transport assistance. This means we pay the school an amount of money based on where their eligible students live, and the Board of Trustees is responsible for making transport arrangements for its students.

Not all school buses are operated by us. Some are contracted by local Councils, or are privately or commercially operated.

Sometimes companies we contract will allow students who aren’t eligible for our assistance to travel on their buses, but they can only do this if the schools agree and it doesn’t disadvantage eligible students (for example, it wouldn’t mean that students would need to stand).

These are private arrangements between bus companies and caregivers, and are made independently of the Ministry.

Last reviewed: Has this been useful? Give us your feedback