School enrolment and attendance

Who must be enrolled in a registered school?

All domestic students must be enrolled in a registered school from when they turn six until they turn sixteen.

Children with special needs or disabilities have the same rights to enrol in and receive education as children who do not.

Education and Training Act 2020, section 34 – Legislation website

Domestic students

A child has the right to be enrolled from five years old but enrolment is not mandatory until that child turns six.

A child who lives more than three kilometres walking distance from the nearest school need not be enrolled until the first day of their seventh birthday. 

Education and Training Act 2020, section 35 – Legislation website

This rule is not absolute and there are limited exemptions including home schooling and early leaving exemptions for 15 year olds. However, the majority of New Zealand children and young adults will be subject to this rule and must be enrolled and attend school.

There are penalties for failing to enrol a child and irregular attendance by the child.

Legal responsibilities and national guidelines on attendance – Ministry of Education 

International students

International students may enrol in a state school, although they are governed under a separate regime, the Pastoral Care of International Students Code of Practice 2016.

Code of practice - Legislation website

Updated: August 2020

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