Changes to schools and the network

The school network responds as our communities change so there are places in local schools for local kids. Changes in population, employment, housing, public transport or roading can all affect enrolments, space and access to schools.

Level of compliance Main audience Other


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

Schools as well as parents, caregivers and whānau should be aware of how population growth may affect their schools. Boards are responsible for managing potential overcrowding in their schools, by keeping an eye on their school rolls and what is happening in education within their communities.

The National Education Growth Plan (NEGP)

The NEGP was developed to address growth, in a comprehensive and forward-looking way. Each region experiencing significant growth has individual catchment plans, which contributes to the NEGP. Those areas that are not experiencing significant growth are managed outside the NEGP.

National Education Growth Plan

Planning, urban growth and schools

While some parts of Aotearoa New Zealand are experiencing significant growth, other parts of New Zealand have static or declining populations and in these areas, there might be increased housing supply, affordability and an oversupply of resources.

Regardless of whether an area is in a state of population growth or decline, the network of schools needs to respond and adapt to the individual and unique requirements of Aotearoa New Zealand communities. Achieving a balance between investments and the use of government resources is critical to how the network is resourced. But the government cannot afford to offer all types of schooling options in all parts of the country.

Decisions on options are made based on an understanding of shifting student populations, community needs, and the resulting demand pressures on the network at national, regional and local levels. Options for isolated and rural areas are carefully considered.

Influences of change in the network of schools

Student population

Increases and decreases in the number of school-aged children and young people as they migrate in and out of a particular area, as they grow older resulting in changes to a community’s demographics, or as a result of economic or social pressures such as the impacts of changes in local employment.


The need for more schooling options in a particular area to better reflect changes in learning needs, circumstances and situations.

Public infrastructure

Such as changes to public transport which result in increased or decreased access to schooling options in a particular area.

Urban development

Building, housing and property market activity, such as a large number of new homes being built in a particular area, or properties staying on the market for longer without selling in another.

Innovation and technology

Resulting in new learning environments, teaching spaces, new ways of teaching and using new digital technologies.

School property and infrastructure

Responding to compromised performance and condition issues such as significant damage or deterioration.

Natural events

A natural event like a storm, flood, landslide, tsunami, earthquake or volcanic eruption that requires us, and other agencies, to work with an affected community or region to ensure they have the support, resources and infrastructure they need.

Preparing for the future: data and analysis

When considering options for the schooling network we look at the entire education system, rather than individual schools. This is to identify where the best supply and use of space is going to be to meet the demand of student populations in particular areas.

We monitor school rolls against population changes, the diverse and changing learning needs of students, and the condition of schools. We use this analysis to help schools identify and manage roll pressures and areas where there is spare capacity.

As part of this process, the following are analysed:

  • enrolment figures
  • the space available (or not) in neighbouring schools
  • census data and population projections
  • council consents for significant building and housing developments
  • transport options
  • property sales activity
  • local business and employment trends.

Options for creating balance in the network

Boards are responsible for managing potential overcrowding in their schools by keeping an eye on their school rolls and what’s happening in education in their communities.

Usually, boards work with us and their communities to determine the best solution when there could be an issue for their school.

Sometimes, an option might be to convert unused or underutilised space into teaching areas, or use temporary teaching spaces to manage roll increases.

A school might be allocated funding to provide extra classrooms to meet roll growth demand, or a new school might be established to cater to a surge in enrolments putting pressure on local schools that are already reaching full capacity.

Sometimes, a new enrolment scheme or changes to an existing one is proposed to address overcrowding in one school and too much space in others. A single sex school might grow its roll by changing to be co-educational. It might be proposed to close a school, or merge one school with another.

There is a national prioritisation process for roll growth classrooms and when prioritising a school for a roll growth solution, we consider a range of factors. These include whether:

  • the school has an enrolment scheme
  • its projected growth will be ongoing or sustainable, and
  • there is capacity in other nearby schools to accommodate surplus students.

Other options to resolve roll growth issues might require a school to change its type or size. For example, a single sex school might become co-educational to grow its roll, or a contributing school (Years 1 to 6) might change to become a full primary school (Years 1 to 8).

Most changes require the Minister to decide whether they will take effect.

A change to a school can be proposed for a number of reasons and be initiated in a number of ways, but all proposed solutions must meet requirements under the Education and Training Act 2020 before they can be approved.

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