Legislation

Legislation that governs New Zealand's education system and legislative changes affecting schools, kura and early learning services.

We work to make sure that everyone in the New Zealand education system is aware of, and meets their legal responsibilities under, the education legislation.

Key Legislation

Education Act 1989

The Education Act 1989 establishes the legal framework for our education system, including early childhood education, compulsory schooling, international education and tertiary education.

Education Act 1989 — NZ Legislation website (external link)

Education Act 1964

A few key provisions relating to the education system remain in the Education Act 1964, including the legal framework for:

  • secular education
  • religious instruction
  • establishment and disestablishment of special schools.

Education Act 1964 — NZ Legislation website (external link)

Recent Acts passed

Education (School Donations) Amendment Act 2019

The Education (School Donations) Amendment Act came into effect on 22 October 2019. It amends the Education Act 1989 in order to support the school donations scheme announced as part of Budget 2019.

This Act:

  • creates a new category of grants called discretionary grants
  • provides that the Minister of Education may pay discretionary grants to boards subject to the condition that a board does not solicit voluntary payments from parents, and any other condition as determined by the Minister
  • enables funding provided as discretionary grants to be effectively recovered from boards that have failed to comply with the conditions of that funding.

Education (School Donations) Amendment Act 2019 further details

Education Amendment Act 2019

The Education Amendement Act 2019 came into force on 14 May 2019. It amends the Education Act 1989, Education Act 1964 and the Education (Update) Amendment Act 2017. Most provisions in the Act take effect from that date.  Provisions relating to cohort entry policies take effect from 1 January 2020. 

Education Amendment Act 2019 further details 

Education Amendment Act 2018

The Education Amendment Act 2018 came into effect on 24 October 2018. It amends the Education Act 1989 and the Education (Update) Amendment Act 2017.

The Act:

  • removes the provisions relating to national standards and the partnership school model from legislation
  • improves the governance of tertiary education institutions by restoring places for elected staff and students on their councils
  • supports the introduction of Fees-Free tertiary education by making it an offence to make a false representation about an application for Fees-Free tertiary education
  • improves the new strategic planning and reporting framework for State and State-integrated schools and enables a smooth transition to the new regime. This includes changing the duration of a strategic plan from 4 years to 3 years or a shorter time period determined by the Secretary, and delaying the commencement of the framework.

Education Amendment Act 2018

Education (Teaching Council of Aotearoa New Zealand) Amendment Act 2018

The Education (Teaching Council of Aotearoa New Zealand) Amendment Act came into effect on 29 September 2018. The Act changes the name of the Education Council of Aotearoa New Zealand to the Teaching Council of Aotearoa New Zealand.

It also increases the number of council members from 9 to 13, with 7 registered teachers — including early childhood sector leaders and principals — to be directly elected by their peers and 6 members appointed by the Minister of Education.

Education (Teaching Council of Aotearoa New Zealand) Amendment Act (external link)

Education (Tertiary Education and Other Matters) Amendment Act 2018

The Education (Tertiary Education and Other Matters) Amendment Act came into effect on 30 March 2018. The public policy objectives of the Act are to:

  • increase provider accountability and strengthen monitoring and compliance
  • support fair treatment of tertiary education provider
  • broaden student protection arrangements.

Education (Tertiary Education and Other Matters) Amendment Act (external link)

The Education (Update) Amendment Act 2017

The Education (Update) Amendment Act 2017 (the Update Act) came into effect on 19 May 2017. It amends the Education Act 1989 to make the achievement and learning of children and young people central to the early childhood education and compulsory schooling Parts of the Act.

Note: some provisions of the (Update) Act are yet to come into force, including commencement of the planning and reporting framework for schools and kura.

Education (Update) Amendment Act 2017 (external link)

Current Bills

Bills are drafts of proposed new laws. Once a bill passes through the House of Representatives, and receives the Royal assent, it becomes an Act.

Education and Training Bill

The Education and Training Bill (the Bill) was introduced on 2 December. The Bill incorporates and replaces the Education Acts of 1964 and 1989. It also incorporates the Education (Pastoral Care) Amendment Bill and the Education (Vocational Education and Training Reform) Amendment Bill, both of which are currently going through Parliament.

The Bill is intended to make education legislation simpler and more user-friendly than the current framework.

In addition to being a consolidation and refresh of education legislation, the Bill also progresses some of the government’s major education reforms including:

  • key aspects of the Tomorrow’s Schools reforms
    • improving oversight and leadership of schools
    • amending the roles, responsibilities, and duties of school boards
    • ensuring schools give better effect to Te Tiriti o Waitangi
    • enabling independent dispute resolution panels to help students, parents and whānau resolve serious disputes with schools
    • moving responsibility for enrolment zone development and consultation to the Ministry of Education
  • stating the right of students to attend school fulltime
  • introducing additional licensing requirements for early learning services
  • amending the law regarding the use of physical restraint in schools
  • shifting participation in religious instruction for state primary and intermediate schools from an opt-out process to an opt-in process.

This Bill will be referred to the Education and Workforce Committee for public submissions.

Read more about the Education and Training Bill

Education and Training Bill - Legislation website (external link)

Regulatory Impact Assessments and Supplementary Analysis

A number of amendments in the Education and Training Bill 2019 required the preparation of a Regulatory Impact Assessment or a Supplementary Analysis.

Education and Training Bill Regulatory Impact Assessments and Supplementary Analysis Report

Education (Pastoral Care) Amendment Bill

The Education (Pastoral Care) Amendment Bill was introduced on 14 October 2019. It amends the Education Act 1989 and enables the Minister of Education to issue a code of practice for the pastoral care of domestic tertiary students. The Bill:

  • enables an interim code to be put in place for the 2020 academic year
  • brings together a new regulatory regime for the pastoral care of domestic tertiary students with the existing regime for the pastoral care of international students
  • sets out arrangements relating to code administration, monitoring, compliance and enforcement, offences and penalties, and dispute resolution.

The Bill has been referred to the Education and Workforce Committee.

Further information about the Education (Pastoral Care) Amendment Bill

Education (Vocational Education and Training Reform) Amendment Bill

The Education (Vocational Education and Training Reform) Amendment Bill was introduced on 26 August 2019. It amends the Education Act 1989 and repeals the Industry Training and Apprenticeships Act 1992 in order to create a unified and cohesive vocational education and training system.

The Bill is part of the reform of vocational education announced on 1 August 2019.

This Bill:

  • establishes a new regulatory framework for vocational education and training
  • enables workforce development councils to be established
  • establishes the New Zealand Institute of Skills & Technology
  • provides transitional arrangements to enable a smooth transfer of functions and responsibilities from the current to the new system.

The Bill has been referred to the Education and Workforce Committee.

Make a submission to the Committee (external link)

Further information on the Education (Vocational Education and Training Reform) Amendment Bill

International Student legislation

Two regulations cover the care and wellbeing of international students studying in New Zealand. These are the:

  • Education (Pastoral Care of International Students) Code Of Practice 2016
  • International Student Contract Dispute Resolution Scheme (DRS).

Regulations to better support international students

There is also legislation that outlines the definition of a domestic student for schools and tertiary education.

Definition of a domestic student in New Zealand

Disclosure statements

Disclosure statements provide development and content information about legislation that is being proposed by Government.

Disclosure statements relating to education bills since 2013 are available on the New Zealand Legislation website.

Disclosures — New Zealand Legislation website (external link)

Regulatory Impact Statements

Regulatory impact statements (RIS) support all bills that are being introduced to House of Representatives. They also support all proposed regulations.

RISs include:

  • a high-level summary of the issue that is being addressed
  • the options and associated costs and benefits of each option
  • details of consultation regarding the issue
  • proposed arrangements for implementing and reviewing the legislation.

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