Schools in New Zealand are mainly English speaking with a small number of Maori and Pacific Island language schools. Class sizes range from 10 to 40 pupils.
The Ministry of Education oversees educational policy and budgeting in New Zealand. Funding for state schools comes from a mixture of government budgeted grants and parent ‘donations’. Private schools are funded by fees with some additional government subsidies.
The Education Review Office reviews all schools and early childhood centres at least once every three years to ensure that education and student care standards are maintained. Any schools that have received a bad report will be reviewed more frequently. Their reports are made public and can be viewed on the Office’s website.
Extra curricular activities are available at most schools and are viewed as an important way of increasing knowledge and striving for excellence. However, priority is stressed on ‘achieving’ NCEA (the national curriculum) levels by attending classes and completing homework. Universities in New Zealand and Australia don’t review extra curricular activities when considering applications; they are only interested in your overall school grades.
- Birth to 5 years – early childhood education
- Ages 5 to 13 years – school years 0/1-8 or primary/intermediate school
- Ages 13+ – school years 9-13 or secondary school
- Ages 16+ – tertiary education (not compulsory)
Most state schools teach the national curriculum, or NCEA, which is organized into eight levels of learning. When the child shows most of the skills required to achieve a level, they can move up to the next level. NCEA is not a pass/fail driven curriculum so no one fails. As a result, most private schools, and now some state schools, offer more stringent and internationally acceptable alternatives such as the Cambridge International Exams or the International Baccalaureate. In fact, some schools have dropped the NCEA system completely in favour of systems that encourage students to excel and compete to do better than their peers.
The first step is to find a school in your local area that you wish your child to attend. Most schools will allow you to visit and inspect the school as part of your decision process about where to send your child. Make sure you arrange this in advance as most schools will not appreciate casual drop-ins.
Once you have decided upon a school, you should then contact the school directly to apply, or, you can write directly to Education New Zealand Student Enquiry Officer, Education New Zealand, PO Box 10-500, Wellington, New Zealand. When applying you will need to provide some supporting documentation, such as study records/transcripts, proof of English language ability and vaccination records. The school will give you a complete list of what you will need.
If you are still overseas, then you can still start to create a short list of schools you are interested in as this may impact upon where you decide to settle. Also, you may wish to approach the New Zealand embassy or consulate in your current location. They will be able to help you with the Education New Zealand centralized student enrolment system for international students.
Most private schools have admission closing dates that need to be adhered to. These will vary from school to school and you will need to contact the schools you are interested in for more information. Quite often they will also have a ‘late pool’ list of students as well, so even if you miss a deadline, you can still submit an application for your child and you may get lucky. State schools will not have the same admission deadlines, however, you may need to live in the correct zone to be eligible to attend.
State schools are generally zoned in order to prevent overcrowding, so if you find a school you like, check to make sure you live within the enrolment zone. You can check the school enrolment zones online at http://www.tki.org.nz/Schools/Auckland-Region.
If you are overseas and planning to move to New Zealand as a permanent resident, then you should be able to apply to any school at any time, though it is best to start the process as soon as you have been approved for residency to ensure placement in your school of choice.
If coming to New Zealand on anything other than a permanent residency visa, you may need to acquire a student visa for your child.