Education 2018-08-03T13:24:31+00:00

We can help you understand more about New Zealand


0800 234 2185


Education In New Zealand

The education system is very similar to the UK in structure but does have some differences. Many of the schools in New Zealand have wide open spaces and some have outdoor swimming pools. Wearing a hat is compulsory in early childhood centres and primary schools when playing outdoors because its sunny, unlike the UK! This also means kids get to run around a lot more and spend much more time outside the classroom.

Most schools are zoned, so the school your child goes to will largely depend on the area you live in. This does not usually apply to state integrated religious-based schools or private schools.

Early Childhood

Children start kindergarten at 3 if they wish (or their parents wish!) and children can also go to early childhood centres too. They generally start school on their 5th birthday and school is compulsory from age 6 to 16.

The school year has 4 terms starting at the end of January/beginning of February and finishing in December. At the end of terms 1-3 the children have 2 weeks holiday. At the end of term 4 they have 7 weeks off (summer holiday). The school day is generally between 8.50 am and 3.00 pm.

Primary School

Primary school runs from age 5 to age 11, not unlike the UK but instead of going straight to secondary school, children either go to Intermediate school for two years and then onto High School from 13-16 or 18. Some children have the alternative of going to a Middle School which is both primary and intermediate combined before going to High School. There are both state-run schools and private schools as well as religious-based integrated schools.

Intermediate School

Intermediate School is designed as a stepping stone to High School, taking away what can be a big shock going straight from primary to secondary education. Childen take core classes in their form rooms but also take options which they will often move around the school for. Intermediate schools also have low school numbers, so again the shock of High School is softened.

High School

High school is the equivalent of secondary modern, comprehensive or grammar school in the UK. Children start in year 9 and are legally allowed to leave at the end of year 11, though many stay on till year 13. Schools can be either single sex or co-ed. Examinations (called NCEA) take place over years 11-13. The exams are both course-based and exam based and children have to earn enough credits to move onto the next year. If students have enough credits, they can then choose to go to University, Polytechnic or a Private training establishment.

Sport features very highly in New Zealand High schools with rugby, netball, cricket, swimming and rowing being very popular.  The number of students playing football is increasing everyday, especially after the exposure of the recent world cup and the English Premier League being available on TV.

Most schools wear a uniform similar to the UK and each school has its own motto and/or crest. Many schools have their own individual haka which they perform before sports matches. It is an amazing sight when you see whole school hakas before a game.

Due to the proximity of Asia and the Pacific, children learn Chinese and Japanese at school while French and Spanish are also still taught. Maori language (Te reo) is available to High school students but most children learn basic Maori at primary or intermediate school . If your child learns a language you can expect them to go on a school trip to China, Japan, South America if they are learning Spanish and the Pacific Island of New Caledonia if they are learning French.

Private Schools

There are private schools in most of the main centres and many have boarding facilities. Class sizes tend to be lower and there are usually excellent sporting and other facilites. These schools tend to be faith-based with Anglican schools being in the majority. Private schools tend to cater very well to more able students who do not require special needs or behaviour support. Some schools start at pre-school age (prep school) while others can go up to year 13. Many private schools allow students to study for Cambridge Exams (A Levels) or the International Baccalaureate.


There are 8 Universities in New Zealand which cover a wide variety of subjects but each specialises in a particular field. For example, Otago University specialises in Dentistry,  Massey University in Science and Animal Health, Lincoln University in Agriculture and Farming, Waikato University in Business amd Management and Auckland University in Engineering.

Universities often have halls of residence but many students find ther own student accomodation, often sharing a house with friends. The first year of tertiary education is free in New Zealand. Student allowances are available for those whose parents are below a means tested threshold. There is a stand down period for new residents. Student loans are available to New Zealand residents.

In order to attend university, students have to attain sufficient credits from NCEA and have high enough grades. Once again sport is very popular and there is often an active student union.


Polytechnics are ideal for people who want to get hands on, industry relevant experience while still studying at tertiary level. There are 16 polytechnics in New Zealand covering the whole country. Polytechnics provide both Diploma courses and Bachelor degrees. Some even provide Post Graduate and Masters degrees.

Private Training Establishments (PTEs)

In addition to the state owned and run tertiary institutions, there are also private training establishments which offer English language and trade or career related courses such as Hospitality, Cookery, Tourism, Beauty, Mechanical Engineering etc.