About enrolment schemes

When a school has more students than places, the potential for overcrowding needs to be addressed. Enrolment schemes help manage overcrowding and ensure local students can attend schools in their area. These are both requirements under the Education Act.

Level of compliance Main audience Other



  • Parents, Caregivers and Whānau
  • Boards
  • Principals and Tumuaki

Boards are responsible for developing and operating enrolment schemes. Their responsibilities are currently governed by legislation in the Education Act 1989 (ss11A-11Q). It is a legal requirement that all students are able to attend a school that is reasonably convenient to where they live. 

Note: The Education and Training Act 2020 is making some changes to the way enrolment schemes are developed and operated. These changes will be in effect from 1 January 2021, and the advice on this page will be updated. Until the end of 2020, the enrolment scheme provisions in the Education Act 1989 (ss11A-11Q) still apply. For more information about the changes, see development and consultation of school enrolment schemes.


To offer the best quality of education, the network of schools has to respond in areas where populations are growing, and the requirements of communities are changing.

When there are more students than places available, introducing an enrolment scheme to manage the risk of overcrowding is one of the first options that will be considered.

Learn about enrolment schemes in English & te reo Māori:

The basics

A school with an enrolment scheme has a home zone, which is a geographically defined area around the school.

  • Students living inside the zone are guaranteed a place at the school.
  • Students who live outside the zone can apply to enrol but acceptance of their application is subject to places being available for them – and if there are fewer places available than there are applicants, their acceptance is subject to the outcome of a pre-enrolment process called a ballot.

Managing overcrowding

Overcrowding at a school means it has more students than its facilities can cope with. This could include teaching spaces, acoustics, thermal comfort, air quality, lighting, car parking and plumbing among other things.

While boards are responsible for monitoring their school’s roll, capacity and use of available space to avoid overcrowding – there are a number of factors or situations that could lead to overcrowding issues.

  • A new subdivision might result in more school-aged children moving into the area.
  • An increase in enrolments at a local secondary school could be because a larger group of year 8 students are transitioning from nearby primary and intermediate schools.
  • A new school might be opening that requires the rolls of other schools to be redistributed more evenly around the network.
  • Employees of a local company might prefer to drop their children off at the school closest to where they work rather than where they live.

The Ministry’s role

We monitor enrolments across all schools in New Zealand to ensure the best use of resources and investment. Our regional staff provide specific and targeted support to the regions, and these responses are collected as part of our National Education Growth Plan to feed a long term growth strategy for our network of schools into 2030.

  • Sometimes it might be proposed that the home zones of schools at risk of overcrowding be reduced and others expanded to absorb growth and spread students more evenly across a local network.

Before any change can be made, the views of the community are considered with enrolment and Census data, the physical capacity of all schools in the area, Council consents for significant building and housing developments, transport options, property sales activity, and local business and employment trends.

Formal consultation

Community engagement and formal consultations are critical parts of the decision making process because they ensure a strong foundation for trust and confidence in decisions that are made.

Boards are required to undertake formal consultation with their communities on any proposal, or any proposed change to an existing scheme – such as an amendment to a home zone. We need evidence of formal consultation when boards seek our approval of their enrolment scheme proposal.

Formal consultation allows the board to hear and understand the range of views about a proposed change from across the school’s community. As well as other schools, Communities of Learning ǀ Kāhui Ako, early learning services, local iwi, and any other group or organisation that might be impacted by the proposal should be part of the consultation. This ensures all views are considered in the context of the interests of current and future students, as well as the local network.

Getting information out there

The Education Act 1989 requires boards to inform their communities about enrolment scheme proposals through a notice in the local newspaper with a written description of the proposed home zone and map, and relevant consultation details.

But there are lots of other ways to get the message out, and boards should use as many methods as possible to reach as many people in the community.

Most schools also include information in their school newsletter, on their website and social media. They might also hold community meetings to explain more and provide other face-to-face opportunities to ask questions and raise issues or concerns.

We help boards and schools with any consultation support they need, including providing additional information and data, and make sure correct processes are being followed. If they haven’t been, it could cause problems further down the track when we’re requested by the board to approve its new enrolment scheme, or a change to an existing one.

[1] Education Act 1989, Part 2 Enrolment schemes, and suspension, expulsion, and exclusion of students, ss11A-11Q Enrolment schemes

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