Choosing a school

When it comes to state schools, children are generally expected to go to the school that's geographically nearest them.

To see which school’s zone you live in, check the Ministry of Education’s ‘school finder’ website.

You can apply to go to another school, but if it’s popular and there aren’t enough places, children living in its local or home ‘zone’ will get preference while everyone else will go into a ballot for any remaining places.

The Ministry of Education’s website has more information about New Zealand’s schools, and how to make a choice and enrol.

Not all schools restrict enrolments to children in their local zone - but where they do, they’re usually strict about it.

Which makes school zones definitely something you want to think about when you’re deciding where you want to live.

‘State integrated’ schools, those with a ‘special character’ eg. Catholic or Montessori schools, don’t have geographic zones. Students are allocated places simply on the basis of who will benefit most from that school’s special character.

School zones and how they work | Ministry of Education 

NZ school zones Mapfinder | Ministry of Education

Researching the school

Once you know what the options are, there is all sorts of information available to help you make a decision.

The Education Counts website of the Ministry of Education can tell you lots about the schools you may be considering, including how many pupils it has, its attendance record, and how its students are performing against National Standards or qualifications.

Family choosing a school in New Zealand

From age six to 16, schooling is compulsory in New Zealand. 

The Education Counts website also has a link to each school’s ERO report. ERO is the government’s Education Review Office. It assesses every school in New Zealand at least once every three years and publishes its reports online.

One way to assess a school is to look at its ‘decile rating’. This is a calculation the government uses to decide how much funding a school needs. They’re not a measure of the school’s quality - they’re more a reflection of the community it serves. Schools with lower decile ratings usually have students who face more barriers to learning and so they get more funding.

See the Ministry of Education’s website for more information about deciles and how they are calculated.

Schools in New Zealand also have their own websites that you should visit. Things you’ll want to check for include:

  • Costs
  • Is there a uniform?
  • Is there a cafeteria?
  • What extra curricular activities are offered (sports, arts, special subjects)?
  • What before and after-school care is available?

You should definitely visit the school in person, speak to the staff and check for yourself what its grounds and facilities are like. Contact the school directly and make an appointment, or ask when its holding the next ‘Open Day’.

Find a school | Education Counts

About ERO reviews | Education Review Office

Deciles - questions and answers | Ministry of Education

Choosing a school | Ministry of Education

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Page last updated: 17/08/2016

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