Enrolling at school and enrolment schemes
Find information and resources about the school network and your enrolment options.
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Every child and young person in Aotearoa New Zealand has the right to an education. As parents and caregivers make their enrolment decisions, boards manage their school rolls. We monitor enrolments across all schools to ensure a balanced network that has places and opportunities for everyone.
- School network roles and responsibilities
- Starting school
- Learning support
- Māori medium education
- Attendance dues, donations and fees
- Factors influencing enrolment decisions
- More information
Note: The Education and Training Act 2020 is making some changes to the way enrolment schemes are developed and operated. These changes will be in effect from 1 January 2021, and the advice on this page will be updated. Until the end of 2020, the enrolment scheme provisions in the Education Act 1989 (ss11A-11Q) still apply. For more information about the changes, see development and consultation of school enrolment schemes.
Helping young students achieve their learning goals and aspirations is a big job. As well as parents, caregivers, families and whānau, there are lots of other people, groups and organisations involved. Everyone needs to know their roles and responsibilities to keep things running smoothly.
Children and young people
Children and young people are at the centre of the education system, and it’s critical the network of schools can offer options that reflect the distinctive circumstances and situations that different ages, levels, abilities, locations and cultures require.
Parents, caregivers, families and whānau
Through their enrolment decisions, parents, caregivers, families and whānau play a crucial role in ensuring the network is in the best shape to provide access to education opportunities for everyone. They have a responsibility to ensure their enrolment decisions are made based on fact not perception, and that when applying for a child’s enrolment the information provided is genuine and doesn’t disadvantage other students who are entitled to attend the school.
Boards are responsible for governing and managing each school and ensuring their decisions are always made in the best interests of the students. A big part of this is monitoring and managing their school’s roll and physical capacity so any changes in growth don’t affect student learning or disrupt the rest of the network.
Proprietors of state-integrated schools
Proprietors either own, hold in trust or lease the land and buildings (ie the premises) of the school. Proprietors are required to factor changes such as roll growth into their planning and management of the overall capacity of the network of state-integrated schools.
Principals are the chief executives of schools. They are education leaders who draw from the strength of a school’s connections with the wider community to inspire the values, culture and identity of a school. When parents and caregivers are making their decisions about which school to enrol their child at, they might meet with local principals to understand the different school cultures, leadership styles, student outcomes and teaching and learning priorities.
Here’s what our people do:
- About 1,030 are specialist teaching staff who work directly with children and young people.
- About 329 are education support workers and practitioners providing a range of learning support services to children and young people with additional needs.
- Some 440 provide front-line support to early learning services and schools or work with iwi, communities and other individuals and groups.
- 370 deliver services directly to the education sector or purchase services on their behalf – resourcing, ICT, school transport, property, professional development and other services such as communications support.
- 360 collect, analyse and monitor data, and provide advice to the government on how to get the most out of the education system based on what the data shows.
- 410 provide support to others to help them do their jobs.
The Ministry in the regions
Regional network analysts, education advisors, directors of education, managers of education, learning support specialists, property advisors, school transport advisors and others provide advice and guidance, and deliver our initiatives and services in line with government policy.
The Ministry and learning support
Our local learning support facilitators coordinate and connect the people, agencies and supports around children and young people, and work with our Learning Support team to equip adults and physical environments so that teachers and school leaders can recognise learning challenges and environments are accessible, and physically and emotionally safe and secure.
Support for children or young people can include:
- equipment they need to get around and to access learning, including Assistive Technology
- transport to and from school
- specialist help to develop their skills and abilities such as in oral language, literacy, planning and organising, thinking, pro-social skills, fine motor skills, confidence and wellbeing
- managing a serious health issue
- Ongoing Resourcing Scheme (ORS) which is used to provide specialist services and support for students with the very highest learning support needs.
Our Kaitakawaenga staff work proactively with Māori tamariki and their whānau, hapū and iwi, educators and learning support colleagues to identify and eliminate barriers to access learning support services for Māori students with additional learning needs. Kaitakawaenga are competent in te reo Māori and te āo Māori and use a range of culturally appropriate assessment and planning tools designed by Māori for Māori. These tools are used to collaborate with the tamaiti, whānau and in education settings.
The Ministry and school property
Local schools need to be able to accommodate every local student, and we work with boards to ensure the physical size and condition of their school is right for their school roll.
The Minister’s priority is making sure the network is in the best shape and equipped to offer the best quality of education for every student. This means the network has a range of options to suit different circumstances and situations within communities – ages, levels, abilities, locations and cultures. Getting the balance right between good use of resources and investment is critical to what the network is able to offer. The Minister takes our advice on areas where the network needs to move and adapt with the growing needs of communities and their young people to help make this happen.
The Education Sector
We work alongside boards, communities, schools, teachers, parents, caregivers, families, whānau and students – it’s a collective effort to achieve the best outcomes for students. Where there is this level of support it means the network of schools is well positioned to be able to provide access to schools and opportunities that young students need to learn and achieve.
Communities of Learning ǀ Kāhui Ako
Communities of Learning ǀ Kāhui Ako are groups of local schools, parents, families, whānau, iwi and other groups in a particular area who work together to help all children and young people in the Kāhui Ako achieve their full potential throughout their learning pathway.
Children are entitled to free enrolment and education at any state school from their 5th birthday to 1 January after their 19th birthday. They can start primary school between the ages of 5 and 6, but they must be enrolled at school by their 6th birthday¹.
Some students might attend school after their 19th birthday. Young people receiving funding through the Ongoing Resourcing Scheme (ORS) can stay at school until the end of the year in which they turn 21. Even if their 21st birthday is on 1 January, they can stay at school until the end of that year. ORS funding is used to provide specialist services and support for students with the very highest learning support needs.
Cohort entry is when children start school in groups at the start of each term rather than on their own on their 5th birthday. The mid-term dates for each year are set by the Minister of Education before 1 July in the previous year. If the Minister hasn’t determined mid-term dates for a particular year, the same dates as the year before apply.
Children can attend Early Childhood Education between the ages of 0 and their 6th birthday (or until they’re enrolled at primary school, whichever happens first). ECE isn’t compulsory in New Zealand but it's encouraged, as it helps prepare children for school. In 2019, nearly 200,000 children attended 5,682 early learning services (including kōhanga reo and playgroups).
The network of schools doesn’t include ECE, but when parents, caregivers, families and whānau are considering early learning options, their decisions have flow-on effects in terms of which school they might then decide on for their child. We take attendance at early learning services into account when we’re looking at how many places might be needed at a local primary school.
If a state school has an enrolment scheme and a student lives outside the school’s home zone, they might not have the option to go to the school, even if it’s where their siblings or friends are enrolled. If it’s a state-integrated school, enrolment will require parents and caregivers to show a connection with the special character of the school.
Learning support is available in your local school. Most children and young people with learning support needs will be in regular classes at their local school and have extra support provided by the school and/or the Ministry. Some who need the most intensive support might be able to go to one of the 28 day specialist schools around the country. Sensory specialist schools such as the Blind and Low Vision Education Network NZ (BLENNZ), and Ko Taku Reo, Deaf Education New Zealand are also available. Some specialist and sensory schools also run satellite classes or operate on the grounds of a regular school.
If you’re interested in enrolling your child in a specialist school or one of their satellite classes, you will need to have what is known as a Specialist Education agreement. Talk to your school about learning support options they have available.
Te reo Māori and tikanga Māori are part of our national identity and culture, and are protected as taonga under Te Tiriti o Waitangi. Under the Education and Training Act 2020, schools are required to instil in each child and young person an appreciation of the importance of diversity, cultural knowledge, identity, different official languages, and Te Tiriti o Waitangi and te reo Māori.
The network of schools provides a range of primary and secondary Māori medium options through a number of schools and kura throughout Aotearoa New Zealand. Māori immersion and Kura Kaupapa Māori education is a setting in which teaching and learning is mostly in the Māori language – students are taught all or some curriculum subjects in Māori for at least 51 per cent of the time (Māori Language Immersion Levels 1-2).
Individual kura and schools develop a local level curriculum that reflects the aspirations of their learners, whānau and wider community. The curriculum is offered in Te Marautanga o Aotearoa – an indigenous curriculum unique to New Zealand – or the New Zealand Curriculum – which is taught in all state and state integrated schools, in English (note Te Marautanga o Aotearoa isn’t a translation of the New Zealand curriculum).
Learning in te reo is also offered in units at mainstream state schools and may be at immersion level (ie for at least 51 per cent of the time) or bilingual level (less than 51 per cent of the time). This is also known as ‘dual medium’ education – where some students learn in English and others learn in te reo.
Some designated character schools teach in English but use Māori philosophy and context as the basis of their teaching, but all state schools are expected to uphold and support Māori culture and language. Even though te reo Māori isn’t a compulsory subject in kura and schools, the Education and Training Act requires boards to take all reasonable steps to provide instruction in te reo Māori.
Where any school is at risk of overcrowding, an enrolment scheme would be considered to manage the risk, including those providing Māori medium education.
To find a Kura Kaupapa Māori or Māori medium school, see Find a school(external link).
The right to free education means state schools can’t charge parents and caregivers for information about enrolling, or request fees or donations for any part of the enrolment process including accessing forms and documentation. They can’t demand a fee for interviews and if the school has an enrolment scheme, they can’t charge for any pre-enrolment process such as entry into an out-of-zone ballot.
Attendance dues and donations at state-integrated schools
State integrated schools are schools with a special character reflecting their own aims and objectives, which are tied to particular values, a religion or philosophy. The majority of state integrated schools in New Zealand are Catholic. Proprietors can charge attendance dues as a condition of enrolment (to a level agreed by us and if their integration agreement allows them to) to meet remaining property costs.
Fees at private schools
Private schools, or independent schools, charge fees for enrolment and attendance at their schools. They might receive endowments and some government funding to help run the school, but mainly fund themselves or through fundraising initiatives.
Our priority is ensuring that wherever possible all local students can attend their local schools. Making this happen as communities grow and change requires an equal balance between the supply of places across all schools in a particular area, the demand for those places and access to them.
Changes at one school can have flow-on effects for other schools. We work with boards to determine a response when potential issues are identified.
Some responses might be managed by boards through their enrolment processes, while others might be managed in a different way.
Enrolments declined or annulled under the terms of an enrolment scheme
Boards are required to notify every applicant of the outcome of their enrolment application, including the outcome of a ballot as it relates to them. The parents or caregivers of a student whose enrolment is annulled must also be notified, explaining the reason why.
Enrolments can be annulled where a temporary address or false information is found to have been provided as part of a student’s enrolment application for the purpose of gaining enrolment. The parents or caregivers must be notified the enrolment is being reviewed and they must have the opportunity to meet with the board before an enrolment can be annulled.
Sometimes, if it’s necessary, and if the requirements of the Act can be met, we can direct a school with an enrolment scheme to accept a student’s enrolment when they live outside the school’s home zone. This provision is only used in exceptional circumstances and only in cases where there would be genuine disadvantage or serious consequences for a student if they weren’t enrolled at a particular school.
To protect the privacy of students, and because directions are based on disadvantage and exceptional circumstances (and each application is assessed on that basis), we don’t share reasons for directed enrolments. But for us to approve a directed enrolment, a parent or caregiver must provide specialist medical, psychological or other expert opinion that supports the reasoning a student would be disadvantaged by not attending a particular school, and that no other school can meet their needs.
We can’t direct boards of state-integrated, kura kaupapa Māori or designated character schools to enrol a student unless their parents or caregivers agree with the direction and accept the special character of the school.
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