Requirements for term dates, holidays and school closures
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.
|Level of compliance
- New regulations for school opening hours
- Setting school terms and school holidays
- Easter Tuesday
- Monday-ised holidays
- School closures
- Varying school opening hours
- Cohort entry
- More information
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The new Education (When State Schools Must Be Open) Regulations 2022 replaced Schedule 21, which was automatically repealed on 1 January 2023.
The regulations specify:
- when state schools must be open, including the terms and school year length for 2023 and 2024 already set by the Minister
- when state schools must be closed, including public holidays, anniversary days and weekends
- that schools may close for bereavement of a current student or staff member
- circumstances for when state schools may be opened for fewer half days.
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.
There are some changes that may affect some schools. These are the exclusion of 3 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 by the new regulations?
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.
In August 2023, an amendment to the Act to resolve the issue was progressed through the Education and Training Amendment Act 2023. It is intended that an update to the regulations will be made in early 2024 to restore the Minister’s powers.
In 2023, we have also been working through the various system issues we have identified through the testing of 3 kura operating alternative terms.
Schools considering applying for alternative terms 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.
- 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.
The Tuesday following Easter Monday is a school holiday (but 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 2-week break at Easter in those years would shorten the first term to only 8 or 9 weeks (instead of around 12 weeks). In turn, this would mean that at least 1 of the other 3 terms would have to be longer.
The Minister aims to set 4 terms of reasonably uniform length. This means that 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.
- State and state-integrated schools must be closed on Saturdays, Sundays and Easter Tuesday (a school holiday).
- On 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 more 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.
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 2 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.
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 state-integrated schools still need to be open for 2 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 3 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.
In the past, state and state-integrated schools had only 1 way to manage the flow of new entrants into school. This was called 'continuous entry' and 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 January 2020, those schools that adopted a cohort entry policy could have children start school in cohorts, but only after they have turned 5.
- In cohort entry, there are 2 entry points per term: 1 on the first day of a term and 1 at a mid-point during a term.
- 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.
2024 dates for schools implementing cohort entry
7 February 2024
11 March 2024
29 April 2024
4 June 2024
22 July 2024
26 August 2024
14 October 2024
18 November 2024
2025 dates for schools implementing cohort entry
7 February 2025
10 March 2025
28 April 2025
26 May 2025
14 July 2025
18 August 2025
6 October 2025
10 November 2025
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