More information on setting term dates, holidays and closing days

You may close your school for various reasons, such as teacher only days, gala or show days and in-service training days. Schools may also be closed in an emergency, such as a flood or fire. Schools must be closed at weekends and public holidays.

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.

Days schools must close

State and integrated schools must be closed on Saturdays, Sundays  and Easter Tuesday (a school holiday).

Public holidays and anniversary dates — Employment NZ(external link)

It's possible for schools to apply for an exemption to be open on Saturday and Sunday. You should contact the Director of Education at your nearest Ministry of Education office to request this.

Local Ministry offices

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's 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.

Days schools may close

Teacher preparation, teacher only days and local events

Your school may close from time to time for:

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

As your school isn't 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.

Paid union meetings and requirements to keep schools open — NZSTA(external link)


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

If the emergency means that your school won't be open for the required number of half days, you'll 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.

Local Ministry offices

Emergencies don't include paid union meetings or strikes.

Varying school opening hours

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

Guidelines for boards of trustees who want to vary their school opening hours are available on the NZSTA website.

NZSTA website(external link)

State and 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's not possible to be open for 3 half-days in a school day and then be open for less than the number of prescribed half-days.

Cohort entry

Prior to 2017, the Education Act 1989 required all State schools to allow children to start school on or after their fifth birthday (with enrolment becoming compulsory on their sixth birthday). This is known as continuous entry and is the default position in New Zealand State schools.

Changes made under the Education (Update) Amendment Act 2017 allowed schools to develop policies so that children could start in cohorts (groups) on the first day of each term only. From 1 January 2020, changes made to the Act (through the Education Amendment Act 2019) took effect so that:

  • children will be 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.

2020 mid- term dates for schools implementing cohort entry





















* The mid-point of each term will be the Monday nearest to half way 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.

Easter Tuesday            

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

Schools closing on Easter Tuesday was part of the Education Terms and Holiday Regulations as far back as 1954. It was introduced into the Education Act legislation nearly 30 years ago.  

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 and 2016.

To have the first 2 week break at Easter in those years would shorten the first term to only 8-9 weeks, instead of around 12 weeks, and mean that at least 1 of the other 3 terms would have to be correspondingly longer. As the Minister aims to set 4 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.


From 2014 the public holidays for ANZAC Day (25 April) and Waitangi day (6 February) are Mondayised. 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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