Frequently asked questions about enrolment schemes

As a parent or caregiver, you might have specific questions about enrolments and enrolment schemes. If it is not covered here, you should ask your school or get in touch with one of our team at your nearest Ministry office. We are here to help.

Level of compliance Main audience Other

Inform

  • Parents, Caregivers and Whānau
  • Boards

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.

Enrolment questions

When should a child be enrolled at school?

  • Children are entitled to free enrolment and education at any state school from their 5th birthday to 1 January after their 19th birthday.
  • They can start primary school between the ages of 5 and 6, but they must be enrolled at school by their 6th birthday.
  • Some students might attend school after their 19th birthday.
  • Young people receiving funding through the Ongoing Resourcing Scheme (ORS) can stay at school until the end of the year in which they turn 21.
  • ORS funding is used to provide specialist services and support for students with the very highest learning support needs.

Can I enrol a child at any school?

How do I know if a school has an enrolment scheme?

  • You can check if a school has an enrolment scheme at Find a school(external link).
  • If it does, you’ll be able to view the home zone on a map of the local area and its written description.
  • Copies of enrolment schemes must also be made available at the school, and if a school has one it will usually explain this on its website as part of its enrolment information.
  • Each year, the board must also advertise out-of-zone enrolment information for the following year in a local newspaper, if they have places available for out-of-zone students.

Why do some schools have enrolment schemes and others don’t?

Is it just ordinary state schools that have enrolment schemes?

  • No. State-integrated schools, Kura Kaupapa Māori and designated character schools can have enrolment schemes to manage their rolls but there are differences between the enrolment schemes of ordinary state schools and these types of schools.
  • Enrolment schemes at these types of schools don’t have to include a home zone or provide for a ballot.
  • More information can be found at Enrolment schemes – Considering, proposing, establishing.

Home zones 

What is a home zone?

  • A defined geographical area, its boundaries indicated by street names and numbers among other features.
  • Find out more at our Home zones page

How is 'living inside the home zone' defined?

  • A student’s usual place of residence during the school week is inside the geographic boundary around the school as it’s described in the school’s enrolment scheme
  • To be entitled to enrol as an in-zone student, the school might require proof of residence such as
    • a copy of a tenancy agreement
    • certificate of title
    • phone or electricity bills
  • If the school finds an address is temporary or false information has been provided as part of a student’s enrolment application for the purpose of gaining enrolment, they can refuse or annul an enrolment.

If we live inside the home zone of a state school, does that school have to accept our enrolment application?

  • Yes. 

Home zones and state-integrated schools

  • Enrolment schemes for state-integrated schools are different to those for state schools.
  • Boards of state-integrated schools don't necessarily have home zones. There are a number of ways a state-integrated might determine their selection criteria.
  • A state integrated school has to cater for students whose parents or caregivers meet the school’s special character requirements and if there’s room left for other students, the school is able to enrol a small number of non-preference students who don’t meet the special character requirements.
  • Find out more at our Home zones page.

If we live outside the home zone of a state school, can we still get my child into that school?

  • If it has out-of-zone places available, the board will routinely invite applications for enrolment.
  • To ensure fairness and transparency, selection and acceptance of an out-of-zone application will be subject to the outcome of certain pre-enrolment processes.
  • You will need to contact the school to find out more information.
  • Read more at our pre-enrolment processes page. 

If we live one street or a few street numbers away from a school’s home zone boundary, can my child still attend the school?

  • You are considered to be outside the zone and should refer to the question above. 

Ballots

How does a ballot work?

What if we’re unsuccessful in a ballot?

  • Applications that aren't accepted in a ballot are put on a waiting list in the order they were drawn.
  • Boards are required to advise all applicants of the outcome of their enrolment application, and should be able to advise you on other schools your child could attend.
  • Read more at Enrolment schemes – Pre-enrolment processes

What is a waiting list?

  • Only schools with an enrolment scheme can have waiting lists and these apply only to out-of-zone students who want to enrol.
  • Applications on the waiting list are offered places as they become available up until the next ballot occurs.
  • A waiting list expires after the next ballot is held.

In-zone questions

What can I do if a school tells me they can’t enrol my child?

  • If the school does not have an enrolment scheme, or if it does and your child lives inside the home zone, all enrolments must be accepted (unless they’ve been excluded or expelled from the school).
  • If your child meets this criteria, ask the board to put it in writing that the application has been declined, and let your nearest Ministry office know what has happened.

My whānau are coming to live with me – can they attend the local school?

  • If the school does not have an enrolment scheme, your whānau will be able to enrol and attend.
  • If it has an enrolment scheme and you live inside the home zone, you’ll need to provide evidence that you have primary duty of care and that where you live is their usual place of residence during the school week. 

We live inside the home zone of my children’s school, but are outside its school transport zone. Why is this? What does it mean for my children getting to and from school using school transport services?

  • Home zones and transport zones are similar in that they are both a geographic boundary, however they are not drawn using the same zoning. This is because they serve different purposes.
  • A home zone provides for a student’s enrolment reasonably close to where they live, and a transport zone assists transporting students where public transport is limited. 
  • If you live outside of your school’s transport zone, you will not be eligible to access the Ministry assistance and will have to look for other options for transportation for your student.

Out-of-zone questions

My children’s school is changing the boundaries of its home zone. Currently we live inside the zone, but when it changes we won’t. Will my children be able to continue attending the school?

  • When a home zone changes, current students who are living at an address that’s now out-of-zone are allowed to continue at the school for the rest of their education.
  • But sometimes a change to a home zone causes anguish for families and whānau because it means siblings of current students aren’t automatically entitled to enrol at the same school.
  • They need to apply following the same pre-enrolment processes as any out-of-zone student, with their application accepted in the order of the Education Acts six priorities.
  • You will need to contact the school to find out more.

We’re moving to a new address which means moving from inside to outside the home zone of my children’s school. What does this mean for their enrolments?

  • Current students who were in-zone are allowed to continue at the school for the rest of their education.
  • You’ll need to let the school know you’re moving to the new address and if any of your children aren’t current students, they would need to apply following the same pre-enrolment processes as any other out-of-zone student, with their application accepted in the order of the Education Act’s six priorities.
  • The school will need to advise you on options available.

Why are we considered to be out-of-zone for a school we can see from our kitchen window and we’re in-zone for another school further away?

  • While one school might be geographically closer to your address, some or many combined factors might mean another school is what your family and whānau are zoned for.
  • When boards are developing enrolment scheme proposals and determining boundaries for their school’s home zone, they look a range of factors including the distance of the school from other schools and their available space, whether neighbouring schools also have enrolment schemes, road safety, transport and access for students to get to school.
  • They might also be planning for growth in a particular area of the community, and at the same time ensuring all children and young people can attend a school that is close to where they live.

I’d like to send my daughter to the same school as my son. Since he started, the school has introduced an enrolment scheme and we’re outside the home zone. What does this mean for my daughter’s enrolment at the same school next year?

  • Current students who are living at an address that’s now out-of-zone are allowed to continue at the school for the rest of their education.
  • But, sometimes this causes anguish for families and whānau because it means siblings of current students aren’t automatically entitled to enrol at the same school.
  • They would need to apply following the same pre-enrolment processes as any other out-of-zone student, with their application accepted in order of the Education Act’s six priorities.
  • You will need to contact the school to find out more.

The high decile school I want to send my son to has a home zone covering an area where properties are outside our range of affordability. Is there any way I can still get my son into the school?

  • If it is a state school and it has out-of-zone places available, your son can apply to enrol but acceptance of the application is subject to the outcome of certain pre-enrolment processes.
  • It is important to remember a school’s location and decile rating aren’t related to its performance, leadership, quality of teaching and learning, or student outcomes.
  • Home zones can be contentious because being in a particular schools zone might be seen as desirable by some parents and caregivers.
  • More information can be found in the links section regarding school deciles.

We have just moved into a new area and have missed the advertised deadlines for a school’s out-of-zone enrolment applications. What do we need to do to ensure our children are enrolled at school?

  • You can search online for schools in your area using find a school, which also tells you if a school has an enrolment scheme. If it does, applications from in-zone students will be automatically accepted when they are received.
  • Out-of-zone applications received outside of an advertised re-enrolment period cannot be accepted unless the school has out-of-zone places available or until a new ballot is held.
  • If you live outside the zone of the school and there are not any out-of-zone places available for your children, there will be other schools with places for them.

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

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