More information on setting term dates

You may close your school for various reasons, such as teacher only days, gala or show days and in-service training days. Schools may also be closed in an emergency, such as a flood or fire. Schools must be closed at weekends and public holidays.

Setting school term dates

The length of the school year is measured in half days. A half day means that a school needs to be open for teaching and learning for either 2 hours in the morning or 2 hours in the afternoon. A standard school day is therefore 2 half days. Under the Education Act 1989 (external link) , your school must be open for a minimum number of half days each year. 

You must consult with other schools in your community to set a common opening day.

In Term 4 of each year it's recommended that you tell school bus operators your school’s term dates for the following year.

Varying school opening hours

The Education Legislation Bill includes an amendment to the Education Act 1989 to allow school boards of trustees to vary their opening hours without approval by the Minister of Education. Boards must however consult with parents, staff and the community.

Previously, schools were required to be “open for instruction” for a minimum of four hours a day, including a minimum two-hours in the morning (a “half-day”) and another minimum two-hours in the afternoon. The Minister’s approval was required before school could vary these hours.

The change in legislation means that schools must still be ‘open for instruction’ for a minimum of four hours a day, including at least two hours in the morning and another two hours in the afternoon. However, boards can vary when the 2 hour periods are taken without approval from the Minister, subject to certain requirements including consultation and written notification. Further information is available on the NZSTA website (external link) .

Days your school must close

Your school must be closed on Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays (external link) . It is possible for your school to apply for an exemption to this. Contact the Director of Education at the nearest Ministry of Education office (external link)  to help you with this application.

If Waitangi Day or Anzac Day falls on a weekend, the next Monday is the public holiday.

If the local Anniversary Day holiday falls within school term dates, your school will need to stay open for an extra day to ensure that it is open for the required number of half days.

Days you can close your school

Your school may also close from time to time for the following reasons:

  • Teacher preparation, teacher only days and local events
    Your school may close for teacher only days, local gala or show days, and in-service training days. As your school is not open for teaching children on those days, you must ensure that you make up these days to meet the required total number of half days for the year.

  • Closing your school in an emergency
    Your school may need to close at any time because of an epidemic, flood, fire, earthquake or other emergency. You do not need to get permission from the Ministry of Education to close a school in an emergency, but please tell your local Ministry office of the closure.

    If the emergency means that your school will not be open for the required number of half days, you will need to apply for approval to reduce the number of half days. Contact the Director of Education at your nearest Ministry of Education office to help you with this application. Emergencies do not include paid union meetings or strikes. 

Paid Union meetings

Members of the Post Primary Teacher’s Association (PPTA) and the New Zealand Educational Institute (NZEI) are entitled to attend at least 2 paid union meetings per year. During these meetings, the board must make arrangements to ensure that the school remains open for instruction. Go to the NZSTA website for more information on union and board responsibilities (external link)
Paid union meetings or strikes cannot be classsified as emergencies. However, you do not need to reduce the number of half-days for the year if your school is closed due to a strike or lockout because your school is considered to be open, under the Education Act 1989.

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