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The Education Act 1989 has recently been repealed and replaced by the Education and Training Act 2020 (see  YouthLaw is in the process of updating this page to reflect the new law. Please be aware that the law, as stated on this webpage, may not be current. If you need advice please email  or call us and leave a voice-message at 0800 884 529.

An education is an essential part of any young person’s life and helps young people to develop the social and academic skills necessary to proceed into adulthood. It can also be a very stressful and intimidating environment. Schools may demand you to pay fees which you are unsure about having to pay. You might, for some reason or another, be unable to make it to school on a certain day. Principals and teachers may enforce rules and punishments which you think are too harsh. You might even be suspended or expelled, and unsure of your options as to what to do next.

Through all of this, it is important to recognise that you have rights as a student. Whilst schools and principals wield a lot of authority, they must nevertheless act according to the law. This section will look at your rights and responsibilities in a number of areas of school life, including enrolment, attendance, school rules, behaviour and discipline policies.

What types of schools are there in New Zealand?

  1. State (Public) Schools
  2. State Integrated schools (Integrated Schools)
  3. Private Schools.

You may also attend school through Home Schooling or Correspondence in special circumstances.

What is a public school?

Public or State schools are funded by the Government and must normally teach the NZ Curriculum. They are also run by Board of Trustees made up of parents, staff, the Principal, other elected school community members and sometimes student representatives above Year 9. Public Schools include: your local school, Kura Kaupapa, Wharekura, Special Character Schools, Special Schools, Regional Health Schools and Correspondence.

What is an integrated school?

Integrated schools are former private schools that have become a part of the state system. They’re mainly funded by the Government and normally teach the NZ Curriculum, but often have a religious or philosophical underpinning. They are therefore also allowed to include the religious or philosophical elements in their teaching. Integrated schools can charge attendance dues (a fee) every year, but this fee is generally less than what private schools charge. Integrated schools can restrict who can and can’t enrol at their school dependent on their religious or philosophical underpinning.

What is a private school?

Private or Independent schools receive some government funding but are largely funded by compulsory fees. They are governed by their own independent Boards and can choose who they want to enrol in their school or not. Generally, these schools are run like a business. They don’t have to teach the NZ Curriculum but generally, do.

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