More information on setting term dates, holidays and closing days

Boards, administrators, principals, parents, caregivers and whānau all benefit from knowing of the Ministry’s rules regarding the setting of school term dates.

Level of compliance Main audience Other


  • Boards
  • Administrators
  • Principals and Tumuaki
  • Parents, Caregivers and Whānau

This resource supports boards to set their school’s term dates. Schools must comply with requirements regarding occasions including public holidays, paid union meetings and more.

New Regulations for school opening hours

The Education and Training Act 2020 requires all State schools to open and close according to requirements in Schedule 21 of the Act or regulations made under the Act.

Changes from 1 January 2023

The new Education (When State Schools Must Be Open) Regulations 2022(external link) will replace Schedule 21, which will automatically be repealed on 1 January 2023.

The Regulations specify:

What is different in the Regulations?

For the most part, there are no changes to the minimum requirements for school opening hours. Schools will still need to open according to the published 2023 and 2024 terms and minimum half-days, and close on weekends, Public Holidays and Easter Tuesday. See further below.  

There are some changes that may affect some schools. These are the exclusion of three provisions from Schedule 21 in the 2022 Regulations that relate to the Minister's ability to:

  • Set additional days that schools must be closed.
  • Approve additional schools to open on a weekend - typically schools have been approved on a case-by-case basis to open on a weekend for a distinct purpose. However, there are no blanket circumstances where schools should be able to open on a weekend.
  • Approve additional schools to operate according to alternative terms – it is not operationally feasible in the short-term for the Ministry of Education to manage new schools or kura wanting to shift to alternative terms in 2023.

Schools already approved to operate on a Saturday or Sunday, or according to alternative terms, such as the Maramataka calendar, can continue to do so in 2023. 

Who might be impacted?

No additional schools can be approved to open on a weekend or to operate to alternative terms.

While we planned to replicate Schedule 21 into the Regulations, during their drafting a technical legal issue in the Act was identified which prevents Regulations from giving the Minister powers to set opening hours or make exceptions.

We will seek an amendment to the Act to resolve the issue and then update the Regulations by 1 January 2024 to restore the Ministers powers. During 2023, we will also work through the various system issues we have identified through the testing of three kura operating alternative terms.

Schools considering applying for alternative terms in 2023 will need to place requests on hold until the Act and Regulations are updated in 2024, and adequate systems are put in place for the Ministry to support more kura and schools to use alternative terms in the future.

Key features of the current model used for setting school terms and holidays

  • Schools are able to choose a start date between Auckland Anniversary Day (the Monday closest to 29 January) and the day after Waitangi Day (6 February) and end no later than 20 December in any year.
  • The number of half-days prescribed for secondary and composite schools is 380 half-days every year.
  • The number of half-days prescribed for primary, intermediate and special schools can vary between a minimum of 380 half-days and a maximum of 390. A key reason for this fluctuation is the shifting timing of Easter.
  • In most years, the first school holidays are timed to include the Easter break. To create terms of a reasonably uniform length in years when Easter falls particularly early, all or some of the Easter break will be during the first term. In these years, fewer half-days can be completed before the latest end date (20 December).
  • Schools sharing common community interests are expected to work together to establish a common start date for their community.

In Term 4 of each year we recommend that you tell school bus operators your school’s term dates for the following year.

School Closures

Must close:

  • state and integrated schools must be closed on Saturdays, Sundays and Easter Tuesday (a school holiday)
  • public holidays and anniversary dates
  • it is possible for schools to apply for an exemption to be open on Saturday or Sunday. Contact your Local Ministry office for further information
  • if your local Anniversary Day public holiday falls within school term dates your school will need to close on this day and stay open for an extra day to ensure that it is open for the required number of half-days
  • if Waitangi Day or Anzac Day falls on a weekend, the next Monday is the public holiday.

May close: 

Your school may close from time to time for:

  • teacher preparation
  • teacher-only days
  • in-service training days
  • local events including local gala or show days.

As your school is not open for instruction on these days you must ensure you make up for any closures by December 20 in order to meet the requirements of the prescribed number of half-days in a year.

Paid union meetings

Members of the Post Primary Teacher’s Association (PPTA) and the New Zealand Educational Institute (NZEI) are entitled to attend at least two paid union meetings per year. During these meetings, the board must make arrangements to ensure that the school remains open for instruction.


Your school may need to close because of an epidemic, flood, fire, earthquake or other emergency. You do not need to get permission from the Ministry of Education to close a school in an emergency, but you do need to tell your Local Ministry office of the closure.

If the emergency means that your school will not be open for the required number of half-days, you will need to apply for approval to reduce the number of half-days. You should contact the Director of Education at your nearest Ministry office to help you with this application. 

Emergencies do not include paid union meetings or strikes.

Varying school opening hours

Boards may vary their opening hours without approval by the Minister but must consult with parents, staff and the community before doing so.

State and integrated schools still need to be open for two half-days per full school day and must follow the terms and holidays prescribed by the Minister of Education. For example, it is not possible to be open for three half-days in a school day and then be open for fewer than the number of prescribed half-days.

Guidelines for school boards who want to vary their school opening hours are available on the NZSTA website(external link).

Cohort entry

In the past, state and state-integrated schools had only one way to manage the flow of new entrants into school. This was known as continuous entry, in which parents could enrol their child on their fifth birthday or any subsequent day.

Although some schools had previously adopted cohort entry, they hadn't been able to enforce it. From 1 January 2020, in schools which have adopted a policy of cohort entry:

  • children are able start school in cohorts, but only after they have turned five
  • there will be two entry points per term, one on the first day of term and one at a mid-point during a term.

2023 mid-term dates for schools implementing cohort entry





















2024 mid-term dates for schools implementing cohort entry





















* The mid-point of each term will be the Monday nearest to halfway between the first and the last day of the term. If the Monday falls on a public holiday the next working day will be used as the mid-term date.

**The date used for the first term is the latest possible term start date. Even if your school uses an earlier start date than the day after Waitangi Day, or finishes before the latest possible end date for Term 4, the mid-term dates will apply for the purposes of a cohort entry policy.

2025 Mid-Term Start Dates for Schools Implementing Cohort Entry Policy






7 February 2025

10 March 2025

11 April 2025


28 April 2025

26 May 2025

27 June 2025


14 July 2025

18 August 2025

19 September 2025


6 October 2025

10 November 2025

19 December 2025

Easter Tuesday            

The Tuesday following Easter Monday is a school holiday (not a statutory holiday), meaning schools must not be open.

The terms and holidays are usually set so that Easter occurs during the first term break and the Easter Tuesday school holiday goes unnoticed. However, in some years Easter falls much earlier than usual such as in 1997, 2005, 2008, 2013, 2016, 2021 and 2024.

To have the first two-week break at Easter in those years would shorten the first term to only eight or nine weeks, instead of around 12 weeks, and mean that at least one of the other three terms would have to be correspondingly longer. As the Minister aims to set four terms of reasonably uniform length, in years when Easter falls particularly early, all or some of the Easter break will be during the first term.


The public holidays for ANZAC Day (25 April) and Waitangi Day (6 February) are Monday-ised. This means that when either of these dates fall on a Saturday or Sunday, the corresponding public holiday will be observed on the Monday immediately following.

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