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School Fees

School fees

Do you have questions about whether you have to pay money to your school?

This section lets you know about what schools can and can’t charge you.

Is school free?    

Yes, if you’re a New Zealand citizen or resident between the ages of 5 and 19 years old, you have the right to free education at your local public school. However, there may still be fees you will have to pay.

Most private or integrated schools, generally charge a compulsory fee to attend those schools.

What is the difference between Fees and Donations?

Your family must pay fees to the school but can choose to pay donations.

Fees should only be charged for things that are not covered or taught as part of the core curriculum or for a take-home component in a subject. Examples of things the school can charge fees for are class trips that are not a part of the curriculum, extra curriculum activity fees (e.g. costs associated with sports activities), materials for tech/woodwork/art classes with take-home components, and NCEA fees. Fees generally can’t be charged for photocopying, except in exceptional circumstances.

Donations are always voluntary.


Do I have to pay for school trips and other activities?

If the trips are part of the core education curriculum – for instance, where the student is assessed for information gained from attending the school trip – a school cannot charge compulsory fees, nor can it legally stop you from attending for not paying.

However, where a trip or activity is not a part of the core curriculum or is optional, a school can legally require you or your caregivers to pay a fee. If a fee isn’t paid and the activity is during school time, the school must provide you with activities and supervision while it is happening.

Most schools will try to make sure you are not left out and may assist students struggling to pay these costs. If you cannot afford to pay the amount, talk to the school, and see if something can be worked out.

Can my school refuse to provide reports if I do not pay my fees or donations?

State and integrated schools are legally required to report on the achievement of individual students. For students enrolled in Year 1 – 8, your progress should be reported at least twice a year. A school cannot refuse to provide reports on the grounds that there are unpaid fees or donations. However, some schools have argued that any additional reports are a ‘benefit’ offered by the school and do not have to be provided if fees or donations remain unpaid. As this matter has not been put before a court, it is unclear whether this is the case or not.

Can my school refuse to provide Leaving Forms if I do not pay my fees or donations?

Your school may be able to say no to providing this if your fees or donation aren’t paid, because leaving forms are often more an administrative document, and not essential to your education. However, if you have a disagreement, you should speak to the principal or the board of trustees.

Can the school stop me from attending the school ball if I have not paid my school fees?

If the “fees” are actually donations, you should not be denied the privilege to attend the school ball. By refusing access, the school implies that a legally voluntary donation is not in fact “voluntary”. The school may also be seen as unreasonably discriminating you on the basis of family status.

However, some principals say that school balls have no educational purpose and are an invitational event, so they have the right to decline students. As this has not been considered in court, we cannot give a certain answer.

Many students contact us a few days before the ball, but it is harder to help at this stage. If you think there might be an issue, ask your caregivers to talk to the school before tickets go on sale.

What are Attendance Dues?

Attendance dues are a compulsory yearly fee for integrated schools only. The attendance dues assist with the costs of running the school. If you or your caregivers do not pay attendance dues, the school can suspend you and remove you from the school roll. They may also get a debt collection agency to pursue your parents for the money owed.

State or public schools do not have “attendance dues”, and cannot call donations “attendance dues”.

I am an international student. Do I have to pay school fees?

Yes. If you’re an international student, you probably won’t meet the residency requirements to have a right to a free education in New Zealand. Before choosing a school, you should find out exactly what is included in the school fee. There will also be other living costs involved.

Can unpaid school fees be passed to Debt Collectors?

If what you ‘owe’ is a fee (like sports fees, materials costs or attendance dues), then it’s possible your school may pass that information on to a debt collector to obtain payment from your parents.

Unpaid donations are not a debt and cannot be passed onto debt collectors.

Can I get help to pay for my transport to and from school?

Usually, your caregiver needs to pay any costs to get you to and from school. However, students who go to state or integrated schools may, in some limited circumstances, be able to get school transport assistance. You should talk to your school to find out more.

If your family doesn’t qualify for transport assistance, your family can contact Work and Income New Zealand (WINZ) to see if they might be able to support you to cover transport costs to and from school.

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