Choosing a school in New Zealand – What you need to consider


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A major reason why Britons migrate to New Zealand is for a more balanced lifestyle.  New Zealand’s education system certainly caters for this with many saying that children are able to be children for longer – much how British parents remember their education to be. New Zealand state schools offer a welcoming environment where parents are normally free to pop in to visit the teacher and classroom in action. School grounds are not surrounded by high fences and locked gates and kids often stay after school or pop-in at the weekend to use the playground and school field.

The New Zealand education system is highly rated in the OECD rankings and has a strong emphasis on self-development, while still providing a high degree of discipline. There is also flexibility around the year group your child will go into when you relocate and often each child is assessed on their individual needs and ability rather than just their date of birth.

Schooling in New Zealand starts on a child’s 5th birthday and from this date onwards they go to school for a full school day.  Depending on the system in the area you chose to live your child will either go to primary school (Yrs 1-8) followed by secondary school (Yrs 9-13) or primary (Yrs 1-6), intermediate (Yrs 7-8) and then secondary school (Yrs 9-13).

There are four terms a year, with a two week break between each term and a six week summer holiday.  Schooling is compulsory for children aged 6-16.

There are three types of schools in New Zealand; state, state integrated and private (independent).  Both state and state integrated schools teach the national curriculum. Some New Zealand schools have recognised the increasingly globalised world and offer the International Baccalaureate (IB) programme for their children. These schools can be found at

The majority of pupils in New Zealand go to state schools. These schools are secular (there is no religious education) and education is free for New Zealand residents. Parents are expected to pay a voluntary annual contribution to the school.  This amounts to around $300-650 per year and you can usually claim a third of this back as a tax credit at the end of each tax year.

Many of the state secondary schools are single-sex particularly in the cities.

Around 10% of students attend state integrated schools – which are schools with a special character. Often they are faith schools or have strong learning philosophies. Although state integrated schools are funded by the government there is usually a compulsory fee of around $1500 per year.

Private schools account for 5% of students and these charge around $20,000 per year and tend to be located in the major cities.

New Zealand schools have embraced technology and many schools including state schools now require students to BYOD (bring your own device) at both secondary school and often in the final years of primary school.
Children in New Zealand usually go to their local school and many schools that are popular are ‘zoned’ with an enrolment scheme in place.

If you want to go to a school where there is an enrolment scheme if you live within the zone’s boundaries then your child’s place is guaranteed.  Places are sometimes given to children outside the zone if they have a sibling at the school or if any places are available.

Apart from location other factors that may influence your decision are the ‘decile rating’ and an Education Review Office (ERO) report.  A decile rating (measured from 1-10) is not a measure of the school’s quality but is more a reflection of the community that the school is situated within. The lower the decile the more funding the government gives the school to help them overcome any barriers to learning that students from lower socio-economic communities might face.

ERO reports (similar to Ofsted reports) are produced every three years by the Education Review Office and focus on the quality of education and student learning and achievement.  These are a key source of information.
The Ministry of Education offer a school finder service by region which shows any boundary zones for enrolment, the decile of the school and the ERO reports.

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