Frequently asked questions about enrolment schemes

As a parent or caregiver, you might have specific questions about enrolments and enrolment schemes. If it’s not covered here, you should ask your school or get in touch with one of our team at your nearest Ministry office. We’re here to help.

When should a child be enrolled at school?

Children are entitled to free enrolment and education at any state school from their 5th birthday to 1 January after their 19th birthday. They can start primary school between the ages of 5 and 6, but they must be enrolled at school by their 6th birthday. Some students might attend school after their 19th birthday. Young people receiving funding through the Ongoing Resourcing Scheme (ORS) can stay at school until the end of the year in which they turn 21. ORS funding is used to provide specialist services and support for students with the very highest learning support needs.

Can I enrol a child at any school?

How do I know if a school has an enrolment scheme?

If it does, you’ll be able to view the home zone on a map of the local area and its written description. Copies of enrolment schemes must also be made available at the school, and if a school has one it will usually explain this on its website as part of its enrolment information. Each year, the Board of Trustees must also advertise out-of-zone enrolment information for the following year in a local newspaper, if they have places available for out-of-zone students.

Why do some schools have enrolment schemes and others don’t?

Is it just ordinary state schools that have enrolment schemes?

No. State integrated schools, Kura Kaupapa Māori and designated character schools can have enrolment schemes to manage their rolls but there are differences between the enrolment schemes of ordinary state schools and these types of schools. Enrolment schemes at these types of schools don’t have to include a home zone or provide for a ballot.

What is a home zone?

How is living inside the home zone defined?

If a student’s usual place of residence during the school week is inside the geographic boundary around the school as it’s described in the school’s enrolment scheme, it means they are living inside the school’s home zone. To be entitled to enrol as an in-zone student, the school might require proof of residence such as a copy of a tenancy agreement, certificate of title, phone or electricity bills. Parents and caregivers might also be requested to provide proof that an address is a student’s usual place of residence when the school is open for instruction. If the school finds an address is temporary or false information has been provided as part of a student’s enrolment application for the purpose of gaining enrolment, they can refuse or annul an enrolment.

If we live inside the home zone of a state school, does that school have to accept our enrolment application?
Yes. If a student’s usual place of residence during the school week is at an address inside a school’s home zone and you can provide evidence of this, they’re automatically entitled to enrol (unless they’ve previously been excluded or expelled from the school).

Home zones and state integrated schools

Enrolment schemes for state integrated schools are different to those for state schools. Every state integrated school has a maximum roll that it must not exceed. A state integrated school has to cater for students whose parents or caregivers meet the school’s special character requirements and if there’s room left for other students, the school is able to enrol a small number of non-preference students who don’t meet the special character requirements.

Boards of state integrated schools might choose to include in their scheme a home zone with geographic boundaries and give first priority to preference students living inside the zone, or they might prioritise enrolments from students based on the distance they live from the school. There are a number of ways a state integrated school might determine their selection criteria.

If we live outside the home zone of a state school, can we still get my child into that school?

If it has out-of-zone places available, the Board of Trustees will routinely invite applications for enrolment. To ensure fairness and transparency, selection and acceptance of an out-of-zone application will be subject to the outcome of certain pre-enrolment processes – it might be accepted automatically if there are enough places available for all out-of-zone applications, it could be accepted under one of the priority categories of the Education Act, or it might need to go into a ballot if there are more applicants than places available. You will need to contact the school to find out more.

If we live one street or a few street numbers away from a school’s home zone boundary, can my child still attend the school?

You’re considered to be outside the zone. If the school has out-of-zone places available, the Board of Trustees will routinely invite applications for enrolment. You will need to contact the school to find out more.

How does a ballot work?

What if we’re unsuccessful in a ballot?

Out-of-zone enrolment applications that aren’t accepted in a ballot are put on a waiting list in the order they were drawn. Applicants are offered places as they become available up until the next ballot occurs. Only schools with an enrolment scheme can have waiting lists and these apply only to out-of-zone students who want to enrol. A waiting list expires after the next ballot is held.

Boards of Trustees are required to advise all applicants of the outcome of their enrolment application, and should be able to advise you on other schools your child could attend.

What can I do if a school tells me they can’t enrol my child?

If the school doesn’t have an enrolment scheme, or if it does and your child lives inside the home zone, all enrolments must be accepted (unless they’ve been excluded or expelled from the school). If your child meets this criteria, ask the Board of Trustees to put it in writing that the application has been declined, and let your nearest Ministry office know what has happened.

If your child lives outside the home zone, and the school has places available for out-of-zone students, you can apply to enrol, but acceptance of the application depends on whether it’s drawn in a ballot for out-of-zone applications.

If the school doesn’t have places for out-of-zone students, or your out-of-zone enrolment application isn’t successful in a ballot, you will need to enrol your child at another school.

If your child is an international fee-paying student who lives inside the school’s home zone, under section 4(3) of the Education Act they can’t be enrolled at a school if it means there isn’t a place for an in-zone domestic student to be enrolled. The school will be able to advise you on options available to you if this is the situation.

My whānau are coming to live with me – can they attend the local school?

If the school doesn’t have an enrolment scheme, your whānau will be able to enrol and attend. If it has an enrolment scheme and you live inside the home zone, you’ll need to provide evidence that you have primary duty of care and that where you live is their usual place of residence during the school week. If the school finds an address is temporary or you’ve provided false information, enrolments can be refused or annulled.

My children’s school is changing the boundaries of its home zone. Currently we live inside the zone, but when it changes we won’t. Will my children be able to continue attending the school?

When a home zone changes, current students who are living at an address that’s now out-of-zone are allowed to continue at the school for the rest of their education. But sometimes a change to a home zone causes anguish for families and whānau because it means siblings of current students aren’t automatically entitled to enrol at the same school. They would need to apply following the same pre-enrolment processes as any other out-of-zone student, with their application accepted in the order of the Education Act’s six priorities. You will need to contact the school to find out more.

We’re moving to a new address which means moving from inside to outside the home zone of my children’s school. What does this mean for their enrolments?

Circumstances and situations can change during the year and schools are careful to ensure when things change there’s minimal disruption to a student’s education. When a home zone changes, current students who were in-zone but are now out-of-zone are allowed to continue at the school for the rest of their education. You’ll need to let the school know you’re moving to the new address and if any of your children aren’t current students, they would need to apply following the same pre-enrolment processes as any other out-of-zone student, with their application accepted in the order of the Education Act’s six priorities. The school will be able to advise you on options available.

Why are we considered to be out-of-zone for a school we can see from our kitchen window and we’re in-zone for another school further away?

When Boards of Trustees are developing enrolment scheme proposals and determining boundaries for their school’s home zone, they look at a range of factors including the distance of the school from other schools and their available space, whether neighbouring schools also have enrolment schemes, road safety, transport and access for students to get to school. They might also be planning for growth in a particular area of the community, and at the same time ensuring all children and young people can attend a school that’s close to where they live. While one school might seem geographically closer to your address, some or all of these factors might mean another school is what your family and whānau are zoned for.

I’d like to send my daughter to the same school as my son. Since he started, the school has introduced an enrolment scheme and we’re outside the home zone. What does this mean for my daughter’s enrolment at the same school next year?

As populations grow in some parts of New Zealand, some schools might have to put an enrolment scheme in place to control the number of out-of-zone students they can take because of increased numbers of in-zone students. Current students who are living at an address that’s now out-of-zone are allowed to continue at the school for the rest of their education. But sometimes this causes anguish for families and whānau because it means siblings of current students aren’t automatically entitled to enrol at the same school. They would need to apply following the same pre-enrolment processes as any other out-of-zone student, with their application accepted in the order of the Education Act’s six priorities. You will need to contact the school to find out more.

Why does the boundary of our school’s home zone cut across the middle of our street between houses?

When Boards of Trustees are considering boundary options for a home zone proposal, they will look at a range of factors. The distance of the school from other schools and their available space, whether neighbouring schools have an enrolment scheme, road access for students to get safely to school, and transport options available will all be considered. Boards also have to take into account any projected growth in their communities, even for developments that might still be some years away. This means while one school might seem geographically closer to your address, some or all of these factors could result in another school or schools being where you are zoned for.

Boards of Trustees have to consult with their communities on enrolment scheme and home zone proposals and this feedback informs our decisions. When we’re making decisions, we’ll always look at what’s best for all students and all schools in an area, and consider the views of the community.

The high decile school I want to send my son to has a home zone covering an area where properties are outside our range of affordability. Is there any way I can still get my son into the school?

If it’s a state school and it has out-of-zone places available, your son can apply to enrol but acceptance of the application is subject to the outcome of certain pre-enrolment processes. His application might be drawn in the ballot of out-of-zone applications, or it might be accepted automatically if there are fewer applicants than places available.

It’s important to remember a school’s location and decile rating aren’t related to its performance, leadership, quality of teaching and learning, or student outcomes. Deciles indicate the level of funding a school receives to help support educational achievement by its students. The lower the decile the more funding it gets. Home zones can be contentious because being in a particular school’s zone might be seen as desirable by some parents and caregivers.

We’ve just moved into a new area and have missed the advertised deadlines for a school’s out-of-zone enrolment applications. What do we need to do to ensure our children are enrolled at school?

Circumstances and situations can change during the year and schools can receive enrolment applications at any time. You can search online for schools in your area using Find a School, which also tells you if a school has an enrolment scheme.

If it does, applications from in-zone students will be automatically accepted when they’re received, but out-of-zone applications received outside of an advertised pre-enrolment period can’t be accepted unless the school has out-of-zone places available or until a new ballot is held. If you live outside the zone of the school and there aren’t any out-of-zone places available for your children, there will be other schools with places for them.

We live inside the home zone of my children’s school, but are outside its school transport zone. Why is this and what does it mean for my children getting to and from school using school transport services?

Living inside the school’s home zone means your children are entitled to enrol at the school. A home zone provides for a student’s enrolment at a school that’s reasonably convenient to where they live.

A student might be enrolled at the school that’s closest to where they live, and although it’s a parent or caregiver’s responsibility to get their children to school, there might not be public transport options in the area. We use a school transport zone to determine whether they might be eligible for school transport services in order to attend the school that’s closest to where they live. Students don’t have to live within a school’s transport zone to be enrolled at that school, but if they live outside the transport zone they might not be eligible for school transport assistance.


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

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