School Education In New Zealand

We have described in details the early childhood education system in New Zealand. Now let’s dwell on the school system. Types of schools in New Zealand, class attendance, after-school care and much more in our article.


School system

New Zealand has a wide selection of secondary schools, both public and private. In schools, students receive not only high-quality secondary education, but also develop their creative, technical and communication skills.

You can start school at the age of 5-6. Schools are divided into Primary Grades 1-8, Intermediate Grades 7-8 and Secondary Grades 9-13. Education is compulsory for children from 6 to 16 years old or from 1st to 11th grade inclusive. Upon successful completion of the 11th grade, a National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA) Level 1 is issued. Further education in the 12th and 13th grades is optional, and upon successful completion, NCEA Levels 2 and 3 are issued.

State schools

Most Primary schools are public. They are fully funded by the government and the teaching program is in line with New Zealand’s national curriculum. The schools are self-governing. It is governed by a board of trustees, which is composed of elected members of the public, faculty, school principal, and a student representative (grade 9 and over).

For children of citizens, residents and work visa holders, education in public schools is free, the rest can be enrolled in school by obtaining a student visa. In this case, training will cost approximately NZ $ 12,000 per year.

Many public schools enrol children based on their residence in the school’s zone. Zoning can be checked on the school’s website or using the school search service. This rule only applies to children who are admitted free of charge.

Almost all schools welcome voluntary contributions or donations. You will be gently but persistently reminded of the need to pay for donation throughout the school year. The more prestigious the area where the school is located, the higher the voluntary contribution. The average amount is NZ $ 250 per year. The collected funds go to additional equipment for classrooms and school grounds. For example, buying musical instruments and sports equipment or a play area for primary grades.

Private and integrated schools

Along with public schools, there are integrated schools. These are private institutions in the past that have moved to the state education system. The teaching program in such schools corresponds to the national one but often has its own characteristics and emphasis, for example, philosophical or religious. These schools also receive government funding, but may charge mandatory “attendance fees”.

Private (or independent) schools are paid for everyone, regardless of visa status. They do not have to follow the National Curriculum, but the curriculum must meet a specific New Zealand Department of Education standard.

Perhaps the most popular private schools in New Zealand are the ACG Group colleges.

New Zealand also has Waldorf Schools, which are widespread throughout the world. There are two of them in Auckland: Michaels Park School and Titirangi Rudolf Steiner School. You can find out about the location of Waldorf schools in other cities of New Zealand on the official website of the school association.

New Zealand Schools

At what age to start

Most schools in New Zealand can accept a child from the very first day of their fifth birthday. The child is assigned to the first grade if the birthday fell on the first half of the school year or in the zero – preliminary grade if they turned 5 in the second half of the school year.

The preliminary grade is not too different from kindergarten and most of the time children play, do crafts, sing songs and walk around the school territory, which ensures the most smooth transition and adaptation to the school environment of the new student. The school even has a special room where, in addition to providing first aid, children can simply rest and lie down if they need it.

If you think that the child is in a class that is not suitable for their level of training, it is worth discussing with their class teacher or guardian teacher, who will pay more attention to the child, assessing the possibility and need of transfer to another level.

School Schedule

The school year starts in late January – early February and lasts until mid-December, thus, during the summer holidays in New Zealand it is the celebration of Christmas and New Year. The academic year is divided into 4 quarters of 9-11 weeks each. There is a 2-week vacation between quarters. By the way, holidays are a time of rest not only for students but also for teachers.

The start and end times of lessons may vary slightly from school to school. Primary school lessons (up to grade 9) usually start at 8:50 and end at 2:45 pm. During the school day, children have at least two breaks for food and rest. Most of the food is brought from home. Many schools offer ready-to-eat lunch options from a variety of vendors. Most often, these are sandwiches, sushi or pizza.

Help for children who are not native speakers

For children in need of additional help in mastering the English language, in many schools, there is a free opportunity to attend special classes with an ESOL teacher. It helps new learners to adapt to the language faster and easier. Classes are held during the school day in small groups or individually. When choosing a school, it is worth asking about the availability of such an opportunity.

Violin Lesson

Features of the school curriculum

An obligatory part of the school curriculum is teaching children to swim. Some prestigious schools have their own swimming pool for classes, while others take students to the nearest city pool during the warm season. In addition, music lessons, where children not only sing, but also learn to play various musical instruments, theatre and dance clubs, and football teams are common.

As a rule, preliminary grade students already know the alphabet and can read books of the very beginning level with an elementary set of words. By the time they turn 7, almost all children are fluent in reading children’s publications and writing short stories. In addition to English, schools also teach the basics of the language of the local Maori tribes: children sing songs in the language of the indigenous people, study their culture while memorising the basic words and names.

With the beginning of Secondary school, students have the opportunity to choose subjects, while mathematics, English and natural science remain compulsory for study. In the 12th and final 13th grades, compulsory subjects are usually absent, and students can focus on studying the subjects chosen based on their further professional preferences.

Features of the school environment

In most schools in New Zealand, children wear school uniforms. Regarding the rest, we can safely say that individuality is encouraged in schools. Teachers, whenever possible, try to take into account the level of knowledge and abilities in a particular subject of each student.

Separately, it should be said about the style of communication between the teaching staff and students. Raising the voice of a teacher in a New Zealand school is the exception rather than the norm, and teachers are very successful in achieving order and, if necessary, silence among students. How? You won’t understand right away. Apparently, the children have enough opportunities to talk, make noise, and move around during the school day on “legal” grounds during breaks. The relationship between children and teachers is very friendly and respectful. Regardless of the age of children, they are treated as individuals, they are interested not only in their studies, but also motivate to share their home achievements outside of school, emotions and experiences.

Teachers show interest not only in the study of children but also strive to support them in their personal interests and aspirations, participate with them in all sorts of activities, are not afraid to have fun with the children on occasion. This even applies to principals, who in many schools never stand aside and, along with teachers and students, take part in costume events, sports marathons and dance breaks. Thus, a very friendly atmosphere is built, aimed at the most comfortable stay of children at school. As a result, the vast majority of children love to go to school and really miss it during school holidays. After all, a school is a place where they learn new and often presented in an interesting form of knowledge, gain practical skills and meet interesting people and peers, communicate and have the opportunity to show their strengths, either in sports, mathematics or management skills.

School classrooms have interesting colour schemes, beautiful and well-equipped, often have fairly conventional zoning between parallel classes.

An interesting feature is that in many schools every year the composition of the class is formed in a new way. Thus, children have the opportunity to get to know the whole stream of peers and learn to build new relationships, while not losing touch with old friends, as they stay nearby.

Another feature is a kind of patronage of older children over younger ones. From time to time, high school students come to classes for younger children and help conduct lessons and carry out assignments with children. In addition, at sporting events in many schools, teams are not divided by age, but by groups that include children of all ages. Such competitions are very amicable and fun and in an atmosphere of help and care of the elders for the younger ones.


In order for school life to be varied and full of positive impressions, during the school year, children will find a lot of events and activities: discos, sports competitions, visits to interesting places and events in the city. Often interesting guests visit schools, for example, the fire department or the police with service dogs, telling and showing the specific of their work.

There is a great tradition in New Zealand schools to celebrate the achievements of the school and its students at a public gathering every week, where not only students but also their parents are invited. The distinguished children receive certificates for excellent study, good behaviour, success in sports, attentiveness, initiative and sometimes just for showing kindness and responsiveness. At the same meeting, they talk about the achievements of the school, get to know new teachers and, in tears, say goodbye to the old ones.

Modern technologies

The use of laptops and tablets in the learning process is common for students of all grades. The school teaches children to use modern technology, and while toddlers learn to read and count by playing on tablets, high school students use laptops for their already more advanced tasks and projects.

Many schools use internal online resources for communication between students, parents and teachers. The most advanced schools maintain Facebook pages where they share news and achievements, and also invite parents to install the school application on their smartphones in order to keep abreast of news and upcoming events, receive personal notifications and reports on the child’s progress.

New Zealand Pupil

After school care

Since, according to the laws of New Zealand, a child under the age of 14 should not be at home on their own – in most schools, there is after school care. There, the child can stay not only after school, waiting for the parents, but come an hour or more before the start of the lessons. During this period, children can spend time both outdoors, playing games, and indoors, doing crafts, homework tasks and so on. The cost of after school care is about NZ$ 5 per hour.

Choosing of a secondary school

Enrolling a child in Secondary school is a rather responsible task. If the majority chooses a primary school depending on the place of residence since it is believed that all primary schools are approximately the same, then when choosing a Secondary school, it is necessary to be guided by the quality of the school and its curriculum. If necessary, some change their place of living, moving to the zone of the chosen school.

When deciding which school is right for you, it can be helpful to review information about the school in official reports such as from the Education Review Office and on the Education Counts personal page. We recommend that you attend school open days.

It is worth noting that the cost of rent in the area of ​​the desired school can be much higher.

We hope this information was useful for you! 


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