About enrolment schemes

When a school is at or close to capacity, the potential for overcrowding needs to be addressed. Enrolment schemes help manage overcrowding and ensure local students can attend schools in their area.

Level of compliance Main audience Other


  • Boards
  • Parents, caregivers and whānau
  • Principals and tumuaki

We are responsible for developing enrolment schemes. Boards are responsible for implementing and operating them. The responsibilities are governed by sections 71-75 and schedule 20 of the Education and Training Act 2020.

Sections 71-75 Education and Training Act 2020 – New Zealand Legislation website(external link)

Schedule 20 Education and Training Act 2020 – New Zealand Legislation website(external link)


To offer the best quality of education, the network of state schools has to respond in areas where populations are growing, and the requirements of communities are changing.

When overcrowding occurs or is likely to occur at a state school, an enrolment scheme for the school must be established.

Learn about enrolment schemes in English & te reo Māori:

The basics

A school with an enrolment scheme has a home zone, which is a geographically defined area around the school.

  • Students living inside the zone are guaranteed a place at the school.
  • Students who live outside the zone can apply to enrol but acceptance of their application is subject to places being available for them – and if there are fewer places available than there are applicants, their acceptance is subject to the outcome of a pre-enrolment process called a ballot.

Managing overcrowding

Overcrowding at a school means it has more students than its facilities can cope with. This could include teaching spaces, acoustics, thermal comfort, air quality, lighting, car parking and plumbing among other things.

While boards are responsible for monitoring their school’s roll, capacity and use of available space to avoid overcrowding, there are a number of factors or situations that could lead to overcrowding issues.

  • A new subdivision might result in more school-aged children moving into the area.
  • An increase in enrolments at a local secondary school could be because a larger group of year 8 students are transitioning from nearby primary and intermediate schools.
  • A new school might be opening that requires the rolls of other schools to be redistributed more evenly around the network.
  • Employees of a local company might prefer to drop their children off at the school closest to where they work rather than where they live.

Our role

We monitor enrolments across all schools in Aotearoa New Zealand to ensure the best use of resources and investment. Our regional staff provide specific and targeted support to the regions, and these responses are collected as part of our National Education Growth Plan to feed a long-term growth strategy for our network of schools into 2030.

Sometimes it might be proposed that the home zones of schools at risk of overcrowding be reduced and others expanded to absorb growth and spread students more evenly across a local network.

Before any change can be made, the views of the community are considered with enrolment and Census data, the physical capacity of all schools in the area, Council consents for significant building and housing developments, transport options, property sales activity, and local business and employment trends.

Formal consultation

Community engagement and formal consultation are critical parts of the process because they ensure a strong foundation for trust and confidence in decisions that are made.

We are required to undertake formal consultation with the board and their community on any new proposal, or any proposed change to an existing scheme – such as an amendment to a home zone. 

Formal consultation allows us to hear and understand the range of views about a proposed change from across the school’s community. We will also consult other schools, Communities of Learning ǀ Kāhui Ako, early learning services, local iwi, and any other group or organisation that might be impacted by the proposal. This ensures all views are considered in the context of the interests of current and future students, as well as the local network.

You can see active consultations on enrolment schemes in your region:

Enrolment scheme consultation

Getting information out there

The Act requires us to inform school communities about enrolment scheme proposals. This should include a written description of the proposed home zone and map, and relevant consultation details. This could be done in a variety of ways, eg a notice in the local newspaper, a post on the school's social media page, an online survey, and information in the school newsletter. We might also hold community meetings to explain more details and provide other face-to-face opportunities to ask questions and raise issues or concerns.

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