More information on setting term dates, holidays and closing days

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.

Key features of the current model used for setting school terms and holidays

  • Schools are able to choose a start date between Auckland Anniversary Day (the Monday closest to 25 January) and the day after Waitangi day (6 February) and end no later than 20 December in any year.
  • The number of half-days prescribed for secondary and composite schools is 380 half-days every year.
  • The number of half-days prescribed for primary, intermediate and special schools is between a minimum of 384 half-days and a maximum of 390. The key reason for this fluctuation is the shifting timing of Easter.
  • In most years, the first school holidays are timed to include the Easter break. To create terms of a reasonably uniform length in years when Easter falls particularly early, all or some of the Easter break will be during the first term. In these years, fewer half-days can be completed before the latest end date (20 December).
  • Schools sharing common community interests are expected to work together to establish a common start date for their community.

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

Days schools must close

State and integrated schools must be closed on Saturdays, Sundays public holidays (external link) and Easter Tuesday (a school holiday). It's possible for schools to apply for an exemption to be open on Saturday and Sunday. Contact the Director of Education at the nearest Ministry of Education office to request this.

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

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

Days schools may close

Teacher preparation, teacher only days and local events

Your school may close from time to time for teacher preparation, teacher only days, in service training days and local events including local gala or show days. As your school is not open for instruction on these days, you must ensure you make up for any closures before December 20 in order to meet the requirements of the prescribed number of half-days in a year.

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)


Your school may need to close 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 or strikes cannot be classified as emergencies.

Varying school opening hours

Schools can now vary their hours of instruction - the Education Legislation Amendment Act 2016 included an amendment to enable schools to do this. 

Previously, schools were required to be open for instruction for a minimum of 4 hours per day, including a minimum 2 hours before noon (one half-day) and another minimum 2 hours after noon (another half-day). The Minister of Education’s approval was required before schools could vary these hours.

Boards of trustees may now vary their opening hours without approval by the Minister but must consult with parents, staff and the community before doing so. Guidelines for boards of trustees who want to vary their school opening hours are available from the New Zealand School Trustees Association. (external link)

State and integrated schools still need to be open for 2 half-days per full school day and must follow the terms and holidays prescribed by the Minister of Education. For example, it is not possible to be open for 3 half-days in a school day and then be open for less than the number of prescribed half-days.

Cohort Entry

The Minister of Education has said that, in 2018, he will amend the Act to limit cohort entry to children over 5 years of age. See the Changes in Education page for further information and updates (external link) .

In the past the Education Act only provided one way for schools to manage the flow of new entrants into school, known as continuous entry. The Education (Update) Amendment Act 2017 allows schools to implement a policy of cohort entry following consultation with their community. This means that schools can choose to enrol new entrants as part of a cohort at the beginning of the term closest to their fifth birthday. See the mid term dates for 2018-2020 which schools can use to determine which term new entrants can start. 
The earliest a school can implement a cohort entry policy is term one, 2018. Go to the New Zealand School Trustees Association Website (external link)  for more information on this.

2018 mid term dates for schools implementing cohort entry 

TermStart of term dateMid term date*End of term

















2019 mid term dates for schools implementing cohort entry 

TermStart of term dateMid term date*End of term

















2020 mid term dates for schools implementing cohort entry 

TermStart of term dateMid term date*End of term

















*This date is the mid-point between the start of term and the start of the next term. If a child’s birthday falls before the mid term date, then they can start school at the beginning of that term or at the start of any later term until their 6th birthday. If their birthday falls on or after the mid term date then they can start school at the beginning of the following term or at the start of any later term until their 6th birthday.

**The date used for the first term is the latest possible term start date. Even if your school uses an earlier start date than the day after Waitangi Day, or finishes before the latest possible end date for Term 4, the proposed mid-term dates will apply for the purposes of a cohort entry policy. 

*** This is an indicative date that will be confirmed when the terms and holidays are set for 2021 and beyond.

Easter Tuesday            

The Tuesday following Easter Monday is a school holiday (not a statutory holiday), meaning schools must not be open.

Schools closing on Easter Tuesday was part of the Education Terms and Holiday Regulations as far back as 1954. It was introduced into the Education Act legislation nearly 30 years ago.  

The terms and holidays are usually set so that Easter occurs during the first term break and the Easter Tuesday school holiday goes unnoticed. However, in some years Easter falls much earlier than usual such as in 1997, 2005, 2008, 2013 and 2016.

To have the first 2-week break at Easter in those years would shorten the first term to only 8-9 weeks, instead of around 12 weeks, and mean that at least one of the other 3 terms would have to be correspondingly longer. As the Minister aims to set 4 terms of reasonably uniform length, in years when Easter falls particularly early, all or some of the Easter break will be during the first term.


From 2014 the public holidays for ANZAC Day (25 April) and Waitangi day (6 February) are Mondayised. This means that when either of these dates fall on a Saturday or Sunday, the corresponding public holiday will be observed on the Monday immediately following. 

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