Cohort entry information for schools

This guidance details the changes, impacts and benefits associated with a adopting a policy of cohort entry.

Level of compliance Main audience Other


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  • Boards
  • Principals and tumuaki
  • All early learning services
  • Parents, caregivers and whānau

If schools choose to introduce the policy of cohort entry, they must follow the appropriate rules and regulations as stated in the Education and Training Act 2020, including consulting their community.


From 1 January 2020, state and state-integrated schools are now able to enforce a cohort entry policy.

Schools and kura which have already implemented cohort entry automatically came under the new legal requirements and are not required to undertake consultation on the changes if they wish to continue with cohort entry. But, they should ensure the local community, including local early learning services, are aware of the amended policy and will also want to reflect this change in their policy documentation.

It is up to the board to decide to implement a cohort entry policy. They can also choose to return to a continuous entry policy if necessary. Any policy change requires community consultation and written notice to the Ministry.

What is cohort entry?

Children are able to start school in cohorts after they have turned 5.

There will be 2 entry points per term:

  • 1 on the first day of term
  • 1 at a mid-point during a term.

Cohort entry does not replace the legal requirement that a child start school at age 6. Parents, caregivers and whānau can still choose to not enrol their student before then.

Changing a school's entry policy

Before introducing any policy change, schools must:

  • Consult with their staff, the parents of current and prospective students, and local early learning services and consider whether they find the policy generally acceptable.
  • Give at least one term’s notice of the change to parents, staff and local early learning services (this could be done through their website, or in a local community newspaper).

Schools must also inform us of their change. Schools should email and include:

  • confirmation that a community-wide consultation has been undertaken
  • confirmation that the community found a policy of cohort entry generally acceptable
  • confirmation of the date that you notified your community that you will adopt cohort entry
  • advise which term the cohort entry policy will take effect from (which must be at least one term after you have notified your community and the Ministry).

The exact same process applies if schools wish to consider returning to continuous entry. Schools must consult and provide at least 1 term’s notice to their community and to the Ministry of Education.

Transferring students

If a child has already been enrolled at another school, and is moving to a school with cohort entry, the school cannot apply their cohort entry policy to this child’s start date.

Impacts of cohort entry

Early learning services

Cohort entry will affect enrolment patterns in contributing early learning services. As part of their consultation, school boards will need to consider the views of local early learning services and give at least one term’s notice before changing their entry policy. This will help ensure early learning services are able to manage the loss of a larger group of children at one time.


We will ensure that cohort entry schools are funded appropriately equal to other state and state-integrated schools.

New entrant students enrolling as part of a cohort on the first day of Term 3 are not included in the 1 July roll count and therefore it is possible cohort entry schools would receive less funding than they would have received as a non-cohort entry school.

To ensure cohort schools will be funded equally we will use the number of enrolled students at the beginning of Term 3 who have their fifth birthday between the mid-point of Term 2 and 1 July of the same year to calculate the funding difference.

This amount will be automatically calculated annually and paid as part of the October operational grant instalment.

Ongoing Resourcing Scheme (ORS) funding

Cohort entry does not impact on ORS funding. ORS funding starts when a child starts school. Once a child has ORS funding, they receive it for the duration of their schooling.

Informal cohort entry

A school can run an “informal” cohort entry arrangement if they choose. This would mean the school can encourage 5 year olds to start school at the start of each term, or another cohort entry point within each term.

Because it is not cohort entry as per the legislation, there are some key differences. The school will not be able to enforce the cohort entry policy and will have to accept all new entrants at the time of their parents’ choosing (ie on their fifth birthday or any day thereafter). The school will not be required under law to run the consultation process and give one term’s notice for this “informal” cohort entry policy (although it is always a good idea to consult when making such decisions).

As good practice, they may also choose to undertake consultation on the change to cohort entry policy (considering the new cohort entry system or a return to continuous entry).

Benefits of cohort entry

Cohort entry is about helping children to settle better in school. There is evidence that starting school alongside other children helps them build relationships and supports a smoother entry to school life.

Schools that are already using cohort entry believe it offers their children the best start to their school life. It can also mean less disruption for new entrant teachers who can prepare for groups of children arriving on a specific date rather than on an individual and ad hoc basis through the year.

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