Circular 2020/09 - Adult student enrolment policy

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

Date 19 November 2020 | Circular 2020/09 | Category Resourcing

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

This circular replaces: Circular 2004/07 issued 18 March 2004.

The action needed 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 more information: Please direct any enquiries to the Resourcing Group, Ministry of Education, PO Box 1666, Wellington or fax (04) 463 8374, email:


The Education and Training Act 2020 specifies that all children between the age of five and 19 have entitlement to free enrolment and free education in state and state-integrated schools. Adult students have no such entitlement. However, the Ministry has long had a policy of allowing adult students to enrol in secondary schools if they are attending classes available to regular secondary students that lead to qualifications and provide a pathway to tertiary study or employment. This policy is in place to ensure appropriate resourcing arrangements are in place to support adult students in mainstream secondary schools to gain qualifications.

In 2004 the Ministry issued a formal policy governing the enrolment of adult students in secondary schools. The policy 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.

This policy means that adult students can be included on roll returns for resourcing purposes, so are included in the calculation of entitlement staffing and operational grant funding. However, they are excluded from donations scheme funding.

Definition of adult students

An adult student, under the Education and Training Act 2020 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 37 of the Education and Training Act 2020. To be included on the roll returns for resourcing purposes, 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 adult students must be available, suitable, and appropriately time-tabled for comparable secondary students within the school.

Enrolment requirements

  1. Enrolment processes must be identical to those for comparable secondary students.
  2. In schools with enrolment schemes, adult students should be treated as out of zone students and last place in the enrolment priorities. This means they can only be enrolled in a situation where availability of out of zone places at a particular level has been advertised and there are still places available (after every student aged 5-19 has been enrolled), i.e. an adult student may not be enrolled where this would deny a non-adult student a place.
  3. In order for adult students to be enrolled, they must present to the school valid documentation of domestic student status. The school must keep a copy of this documentation for audit purposes.
  4. When seeking payments from adult students, schools must treat adult students as though they are comparable secondary students. For the avoidance of doubt, this means that schools may not charge or compel any payment from adult students for items associated with the enrolment process or delivery of the curriculum.

Issued by

Helen Hurst, Associate Deputy Secretary, Resourcing and Early Learning Delivery, Sector Enablement & Support

Ministry of Education, National Office, Mātauranga House, 33 Bowen Street, Wellington 6011
PO Box 1666, Wellington 6140, New Zealand


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