Circular 2004/07 - Adult student enrolment policy

This circular has been replaced by Circular 2020/09.

This circular is about the enrolment of adult students as mainstream secondary students.

Date: 18 March 2004
Circular Number: 2004/07
Category: Resourcing

Adult Student Enrolment Policy

This circular is about: Enrolment of adult students as mainstream secondary students.

This circular replaces: Circular 2003/15 issued 29 September 2003.

The action required is: Ensure that adult students recorded in the roll returns as secondary students meet the requirements of this policy.

It is intended for: School principals and adult-student coordinators.

For further information: Please direct any enquiries to the Resourcing Division, Ministry of Education, PO Box 1666, Wellington or fax (04) 463 8374, email:


The Ministry of Education, in consultation with a number of schools and education sector organisations, has established a new policy relating to the enrolment of adult students as mainstream students in secondary schools.

While the Education Act 1989 specifies that all children between the age of five and 19 have entitlement to free education, the Act is silent on the enrolment of adult students in secondary education. Until now, the ministry has maintained an informal policy of allowing adult students to be so enrolled if they are attending classes available to regular secondary students, those classes lead to qualifications, and provide a pathway to tertiary study or employment.

The lack of a formal policy, however, has lead to some confusion for schools in their enrolment procedures. This may have resulted in a lack of clarity for some schools as to whether they should be enrolling some adult students as secondary students or as Adult Community Education Students. Consequently, the ministry is affirming the current informal practice.

The ministry has developed a policy governing the enrolment of adult students in secondary schools. The policy will clarify enrolment requirements for schools, and for the ministry. It aims to ensure all adult secondary students:

  • are assisted in gaining appropriate qualifications;
  • meet targets for minimum numeracy and literacy levels;
  • are attending classes with comparable secondary students.

back to top

Definition of adult students

An adult student, under the Education Act 1989, is any student whose 19th birthday occurred before 1 January of the current year. This policy does not apply to students deemed to require special education under Section 9 of the Education Act 1989. To be enrolled as a secondary student, an adult student must meet all of the criteria outlined below.

Nature of course of study

The course of study in which the adult student is enrolled must assist the student to reach the following minimum goals:

  1. Adult students must, for a minimum of 0.6 of their course loads, be attending classes that will result in NZQA qualifications;

  2. If students have not achieved NCEA Level 1 or equivalent requirements for numeracy and literacy, classes that will allow them to achieve Level 1 NCEA numeracy and literacy requirements (or relevant ESOL requirements to enable students to achieve these requirements) must be included in the students' programmes.

Nature of classes attended

  1. Adult students enrolled in an adult ESOL programme, or a designated refugee or recent migrant programme, are able to attend classes specifically established for those students;
  2. With the exception of classes described in (3) above, classes attended by adults students must be available, suitable, and appropriately time-tabled for comparable secondary students within the school.

Enrolment requirements

  1. Enrolment processes (including fees) must be identical to those for comparable secondary students;
  2. In schools with enrolment zones, adult students can be enrolled only in a situation where the availability of places at a particular level has been advertised and the number of applications is less than the number of places available;
  3. In order for adult students to be enrolled, they must present to the school valid documentation of citizenship, residency, or refugee status. The school must keep a copy of this documentation for audit purposes.

back to top

Issued by

Kim Shannon
Senior Manager
Resourcing Division

Te Wāhanga Whakarato Rawa
National Office
45- 47 Pipitea Street
PO Box 1666, Wellington, New Zealand
Phone: 04-796 8000
Fax: 04-463 2001

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