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, especially the Education Act 1989 and the Education Act 1964 (external link) .

Key Legislation

Education Act 1989

The Education Act 1989 (external link)  establishes the legal framework for our education system, from early childhood education to compulsory schooling to international education and tertiary education.

Education Act 1964

A few key provisions relating to the education system remain in the Education Act 1964 (external link) , including the legal framework for secular education, religious instruction, and establishment and disestablishment of special schools.

Recent Amendments

Education Amendment Act 2018

The Education Amendment Act 2018 came into effect on the 24th of October 2018. The Education Amendment Act 2018 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 to 1 January 2020.

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

The Education (Teaching Council of Aotearoa New Zealand) Amendment Act (external link)  came into effect on the 29th of September 2018. The Act changes the name of the Education Council 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 (Tertiary Education and Other Matters) Amendment Act 2018

The Education (Tertiary Education and Other Matters) Amendment (external link) 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; and
  • broaden student protection arrangements.

The Education (Update) Amendment Act 2017

The Education (Update) Amendment Act 2017 (external link) (the Update Act) came into effect on 19 May 2017. This amends the Education Act 1989 (the Act) 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. Go to the Education (Update) Amendment Act 2017 (external link)  page to find out more.

Amendment Bills

Bills are drafts of proposed new laws. Once a bill passes through Parliament, it becomes an Act. 

Education Amendment Bill (No 2)

The Education Amendment Bill (No 2) (external link) was introduced on 13 September 2018. It makes a number of amendments to the Education Act 1989, Education Act 1964, and the Education (Update) Amendment Act 2017. The public policy objectives of the Bill are to—

  • ensure that the Education Council of Aotearoa New Zealand’s decisions on matters relating to the teaching profession are made within the context of Government policy
  • require private schools to be safe places for students
  • remove provisions, due to come into force on 31 December 2019, that would enable communities of online learning to be established while the future of online learning is considered in the context of wider education sector reviews
  • ensure that school boards cannot adopt a cohort entry policy that enables children to begin school before the age of 5 years.

Further Information

International Students’ Legislation

Two regulations cover the care and wellbeing of international students studying in New Zealand - the Education (Pastoral Care of International Students) Code Of Practice 2016 and the International Student Contract Dispute Resolution Scheme (DRS).  (external link)

There is also legislation that outlines the definition of a domestic student for schools and tertiary (external link)  

  • Disclosure statements provide development and content information about legislation that is being proposed by Government. Read the disclosure statements relating to education bills since 2013 on the New Zealand Legislation: Disclosures website  (external link) .
  • Regulatory impact statements (RISs) support all bills that are being introduced to Parliament. 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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