Legislation that governs New Zealand's education system and legislative changes affecting schools, kura and early learning services.

We work to make sure that everyone in the New Zealand education system is aware of and meets their legal responsibilities under the education legislation.

Key Legislation

Education and Training Act 2020

The Education and Training Act 2020 establishes the legal framework for our education system, including early childhood education, compulsory schooling, international education and tertiary education.

Recent Acts passed

Education and Training Act 2020

The Education and Training Act came into force on 1 August 2020. It incorporates and replaces the Education Acts of 1964 and 1989.

The Act is intended to make education legislation simpler and more user-friendly than the previous framework.

In addition to being a consolidation and refresh of education legislation, the Act also institutes some of the government’s major education reforms including:

  • key aspects of the Tomorrow’s Schools reforms
    • improving oversight and leadership of schools
    • amending the roles, responsibilities, and duties of school boards
    • ensuring schools give better effect to Te Tiriti o Waitangi
    • enabling independent dispute resolution panels to help students, parents and whānau resolve serious disputes with schools
    • moving responsibility for enrolment zone development and consultation to the Ministry of Education
  • stating the right of students to attend school fulltime
  • introducing additional licensing requirements for early learning services
  • amending the law regarding the use of physical restraint in schools
  • shifting participation in religious instruction for state primary and intermediate schools from an opt-out process to an opt-in process.

The Act also includes changes introduced during the legislative process to respond to COVID-19 and future emergencies and pandemics.

Further information:

Education and Training Act

Proposed new regulations relating to the operation of school boards, and the pastoral care codes for international and domestic students

Education and Training Act Regulatory Impact Assessments and Supplementary Analysis Report

Education (Vocational Education and Training Reform) Amendment Act 2020

The Education (Vocational Education and Training Reform) Amendment Act 2020 came into effect on 1 April 2020. It has been incorporated into the Education and Training Act 2020 and is part of the reform of vocational education announced on 1 August 2019. It repeals the Industry Training and Apprenticeship Act 1992 and the Education (Polytechnics) Amendment Act 2009. The Act:

  • establishes a new regulatory framework for vocational education and training
  • enables workforce development councils to be established
  • establishes the New Zealand Institute of Skills & Technology
  • provides transitional arrangements to enable a smooth transfer of functions and responsibilities from the current to the new system.

Further information about the Education (Vocational Education and Training Reform) Amendment Act 2020

Education (Pastoral Care) Amendment Act 2019

The Education (Pastoral Care) Amendment Act 2019 came into effect on 20 December 2019. It has been incorporated into the Education and Training Act 2020 and enables the Minister of Education to issue a code of practice for the pastoral care of domestic tertiary students. The Act:

  • enables an interim code to be put in place for the 2020 academic year
  • brings together a new regulatory regime for the pastoral care of domestic tertiary students with the existing regime for the pastoral care of international students
  • sets out arrangements relating to code administration, monitoring, compliance and enforcement, offences and penalties, and dispute resolution.

Further information about the Education (Pastoral Care) Amendment Act 2019

Education (School Donations) Amendment Act 2019

The Education (School Donations) Amendment Act came into effect on 22 October 2019. It amends the Education Act 1989 in order to support the school donations scheme announced as part of Budget 2019.

This Act:

  • creates a new category of grants called discretionary grants
  • provides that the Minister of Education may pay discretionary grants to boards subject to the condition that a board does not solicit voluntary payments from parents, and any other condition as determined by the Minister
  • enables funding provided as discretionary grants to be effectively recovered from boards that have failed to comply with the conditions of that funding.

Education (School Donations) Amendment Act 2019 further details

Current Bills

Bills are drafts of proposed new laws. Once a bill passes through the House of Representatives, and receives the Royal assent, it becomes an Act.

The Education and Training Amendment Bill is currently before the House. Click the link below to view the Education and Training Amendment Bill.

The Education and Training Amendment Bill

International Student legislation

Two regulations cover the care and wellbeing of international students studying in New Zealand. These are the:

  • Education (Pastoral Care of International Students) Code Of Practice 2016
  • International Student Contract Dispute Resolution Scheme (DRS).

Regulations to better support international students

There is also legislation that outlines the definition of a domestic student for schools and tertiary education.

Definition of a domestic student in New Zealand

Disclosure statements

Disclosure statements provide development and content information about legislation that is being proposed by Government.

Disclosure statements relating to education bills since 2013 are available on the New Zealand Legislation website.

Disclosures – New Zealand Legislation website(external link)

Regulatory Impact Statements

Regulatory impact statements (RIS) support all bills that are being introduced to House of Representatives. They also support all proposed regulations.

RISs include:

  • a high-level summary of the issue that is being addressed
  • the options and associated costs and benefits of each option
  • details of consultation regarding the issue
  • proposed arrangements for implementing and reviewing the legislation.

Regulatory Impact Statements – Treasury website(external link)

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