About enrolment schemes

Being able to attend a school that’s close to where you live is an important part of growing up in New Zealand. Our priority is ensuring all schools can accept all enrolments from students who are entitled to attend their local school.

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To offer the best quality of education, the network of schools has to be able to respond in areas where populations are growing, and the requirements of communities are changing.

Currently about 40 percent of all New Zealand schools have an enrolment scheme. The majority of these are in high growth cities such as Auckland and Christchurch, and other places experiencing rapid growth like Queenstown, Wanaka and Hamilton.

By 2030, our population is expected to be around 5 million. About 95,000 places will be needed in our schools and planning for growth of this scale underpins how Boards of Trustees manage their school rolls, and the Ministry manages growth across all schools. The National Education Growth Plan has been developed to address changes in high-growth areas.

When there are more students than places available, introducing an enrolment scheme to manage the risk of overcrowding is one of the first options that will be considered.

Managing overcrowding

When parents and caregivers decide on the school they want to enrol a child at, a number of influences play a role – but when a school has more students than places, there’s a potential for overcrowding which needs to be addressed. Under the Education Act, Boards of Trustees are responsible for monitoring their school’s roll, capacity and use of available space to avoid overcrowding.

Overcrowding at a school means it has more students than its facilities can cope with. This could include teaching spaces, acoustics, thermal comfort, air quality, lighting, car parking and plumbing among other things.

There are lots of factors that might lead to overcrowding becoming an issue for Boards of Trustees.

A new subdivision approved for development by a local Council might result in more school-aged children moving into the area. An increase in enrolments at a local secondary school could be because a larger group of year 8 students are transitioning from nearby primary and intermediate schools.

A new school might be opening that requires the rolls of other schools to be redistributed more evenly around the network, or employees of a local company might prefer to drop their children off at the school closest to where they work rather than where they live, leading to capacity issues for that school.

While Boards of Trustees keep an eye on enrolments at their school, we monitor enrolments across all schools in the area to ensure the best use of resources and investment, and that all schools are making the best use of the space they have available to meet the needs of all local students.

If a school has more students than other schools, our regional staff will assess the effect on enrolments and student and staff wellbeing at neighbouring schools.

Sometimes it might be proposed that the home zones of schools at risk of overcrowding be reduced and others expanded to absorb growth and spread students more evenly across a local network.

But before any change can be made, the views of the community are considered with enrolment and Census data, the physical capacity of all schools in the area, Council consents for significant building and housing developments, transport options, property sales activity, and local business and employment trends. This helps Boards, and us, understand how the network might respond so the best quality of education can continue to be offered for everyone.


[1] Education Act 1989, Part 2 Enrolment schemes, and suspension, expulsion, and exclusion of students, ss11A-11Q Enrolment schemes

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