Developing and establishing an enrolment scheme

When the Ministry or a board becomes concerned about a school’s roll, capacity and the potential for overcrowding, an enrolment scheme might be considered as a response to growth (if the school does not already have one). The Ministry and schools must abide by the requirements in the Education and Training Act when establishing and operating a scheme.

Level of compliance Main audience Other


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

Background - Enrolment schemes

Schools are not required to have an enrolment scheme unless overcrowding might be an issue and we decide that one is necessary. We are responsible for developing enrolment schemes.

We consider current and future student numbers when developing enrolment schemes and monitors these against the physical capacity that the school has available (or the maximum roll for those types of schools that have them).

If a state school does not have an enrolment scheme, any student can enrol and attend that school provided there are no other criteria applied to their application (there might be if it is a state-integrated school or a designated character school, or their enrolment might be turned down if they are currently excluded or expelled).

Roles and responsibilities

To ensure a balanced school network, boards monitor their school rolls and we monitor and analyse enrolments across the network of schools.

The Act is very specific about the obligations and responsibilities of boards and the Ministry when developing and operating enrolment schemes.

Roles and responsibilities

The Education and Training Act 2020

Sections 71-75 and schedule 20 (external link) of the Act govern enrolment schemes.

Sections 71-75 of the Act – New Zealand Legislation(external link)

Schedule 20 of the Act – New Zealand Legislation(external link)

The Act requires that an enrolment scheme:

  • as far as possible, excludes no more students than necessary to avoid overcrowding
  • enables the best use of existing networks of state schools
  • ensures the selection of applicants for enrolment is carried out in a fair and transparent way
  • as far as possible, does not exclude local students.

An enrolment scheme:

  • must have a home zone with clearly defined geographic boundaries
  • may have zone boundaries that touch or overlap the boundaries of the home zone of any adjacent state school that has an enrolment scheme
  • must define a home zone in such a way that students can attend a reasonably convenient school.

Before finalising a home zone, we need to be satisfied it meets the above requirements, and we must consult with:

  • the school's board
  • parents and caregivers of students at the school
  • people living in the area for which the school is reasonably convenient
  • current and prospective students of the school
  • boards of other schools that could be affected by the enrolment scheme proposal.

Enrolment schemes for other types of schools

State-integrated schools, Kura Kaupapa Māori and designated character schools can have an enrolment scheme to manage their rolls, though enrolment schemes at these types of schools do not need to include a home zone or ballot.

Types of schools

  • A state-integrated school has to cater for students whose parents or caregivers meet the school’s special character requirements. If there is room left for other students, the school is able to enrol a small number of non-preference students who do not meet the special character requirements. Every state-integrated school has a maximum roll that it must not exceed.

  • Kura Kaupapa Māori are a type of designated character school that teach in te reo Māori and operate in accordance with Te Aho Matua. Kura Kaupapa Māori accept enrolments from those who accept their aims, purposes and objectives. They also have maximum rolls that they must not exceed.

  • A designated character school (other than a Kura Kaupapa Māori) is a state school with a particular character that is different from ordinary state schools but which can also restrict enrolments to the children of parents who accept the school’s aims, purposes and objectives. It also has a maximum roll that it must not exceed.

Implementing enrolment schemes in each school

  • Schedule 20, clause 16 of the Act sets out the modifications that apply to state integrated schools, Kura Kaupapa Māori and other designated character schools when establishing and operating enrolment schemes.

The main priority

If a state school does not have an enrolment scheme, all enrolments from all students who apply to enrol must be accepted, regardless of where they live.

When an enrolment scheme is proposed to manage overcrowding, it means enrolments from students who live inside the school’s home zone must be accepted. Enrolments from students who live outside the home zone may be accepted if there are out-of-zone places available and an application meets requirements.

To be able to do this, boards at state schools keep an eye on the number of applications received from in-zone students, to help them determine the places they might have available for out-of-zone students once all in zone enrolments are accepted.

"Local" and "reasonably convenient"

The requirements for enrolment schemes are set out in sections 71-75 of the Act. Under the Act, an enrolment scheme of a state school must, as far as is possible, ensure that it does not exclude local students.

A "reasonably convenient school" is defined as meaning a state school that a reasonable person living in the area in which the school is situated would judge to be reasonably convenient for a particular student, taking into account the student’s age, the distance to be travelled, the time likely to be spent travelling, the reasonably available modes of travel, common public transport routes and relevant traffic hazards.

The meaning may vary depending on whether the school is:

  • a single sex or co-educational school
  • an ordinary state school, a Kura Kaupapa Māori, a designated character school, a state-integrated school, or a specialist school
  • a primary, intermediate, secondary, or composite school.

When developing an enrolment scheme, the above interpretation of "reasonably convenient" is used by the Ministry to help determine the boundaries of the school’s home zone, in order to be able to differentiate between the enrolment applications of students living inside and outside the home zone.

A "reasonably convenient" school might not be the one that is closest to where you live.

Home zones

A home zone is a clearly defined geographical area around a school. The home zone is usually presented as a map and described in a way that makes it easy to identify any address as being inside or outside the zone.

  • Students who live inside the home zone are guaranteed a place at the school.
  • Students who live outside the home zone can apply to enrol but acceptance of their application is subject to places being available to them.
  • If there are places available, but more applications received than places, their acceptance is subject to the outcome of a pre-enrolment process – a ballot.

Consulting the community and network

When developing or amending enrolment schemes, the Ministry must meet its consultation responsibilities as outlined in Schedule 20, clause 4 of the Act.

Exploring options for an enrolment scheme requires an open, community-focused, network-wide approach. Community engagement and formal consultations are critical because they ensure a strong foundation for informed decision-making, understanding decisions, and having trust and confidence in decision making.

The goal is to ensure that anyone in a community who might be impacted by an enrolment scheme understands what the implications might mean for them and is kept well informed whenever any aspect of a scheme changes. Everyone must have access to up-to-date relevant and factual information when they need it and be aware of the opportunities they have to share their views on a proposed change.

As outlined in schedule 20, clause 4 of the Act, we are required to formally consult with: 

1. the board of the school
2. the parents of the students at the school
3. the people living in the area for which the school is reasonably convenient
4. the students and prospective students of the school (depending on their age and maturity)
5. the boards of other schools that could be affected by the proposed scheme
6. if it is a state integrated school, the proprietor of the school.

Early learning services

The network of schools does not include early learning services, but our planning for growth in the network takes early childhood education (ECE) roll data into account to make sure nearby primary schools are ready for any potential increase in enrolment numbers.

We should factor early learning services into its planning conversations when a new enrolment scheme, or a change to an existing one, is proposed. This is because introducing a scheme could influence the decision-making of parents, caregivers, families and whānau when they are considering early learning options, which would then have flow-on effects for local primary schools in the network further down the track.

Steps to initiate an enrolment scheme

  1. The Ministry will advise the school in writing that an enrolment scheme is required and that the Ministry will be developing it. This step typically happens as part of initial discussions about roll growth.
  2. The Ministry will work with the board to discover its views to develop the scheme.
  3. The Ministry will consult as required by the Act on the draft scheme and make any changes it considers appropriate.
  4. The Ministry will finalise the scheme and direct the board to implement it.

Reviewing and amending an enrolment scheme

We must review the need for each enrolment scheme at least once every 3 years.

As part of the review process, we assess whether there is still a need for the scheme or if the scheme requires amendment. We will then discuss our recommendation with the board.

Examples of situations that might impact your school’s enrolment scheme include:

  • a nearby school might be introducing their own enrolment scheme or have had in-zone growth if they already have one
  • a new housing development might be planned for land nearby
  • changes to public transport routes
  • a major upgrade to a road.

Amendments to an enrolment scheme require the same consultation as the creation of a scheme, unless the amendment is minor.

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