Enrolling your child in school is not always simple, there are school enrolment and school zones issues to consider. Learn more in our Enrolment and Zoning article.

It would be wonderful to believe that because all New Zealand children between the age of 5 and 19 years are entitled to free education, we parents could send them to whichever school we deemed best for them.

Unfortunately, it’s not quite that simple and this is because the Education Act 1989 requires some schools to put in place enrolment schemes.

The idea for this came about from the government changes in the 1990s known as ‘Tomorrow’s Schools’. The Tomorrow’s Schools review currently underway looks set to keep this system in place.

Enrolment schemes that specify home zones and ballot processes apply to state schools only. For State Integrated, Kura Kaupapa Maori or Designated Character Schools the rules are different. These schools may operate enrolment schemes but need not include a home zone or provide for a ballot. (Further information down page).

School Enrolment and School Zones

What is an enrolment scheme?

An enrolment scheme is a means of limiting a school’s roll to prevent overcrowding. It also enables the Ministry of Education to make best use of the current classrooms at schools in the surrounding area.

Legally an enrolment scheme should:

  • as far as possible exclude no more students than necessary to avoid overcrowding;
  • enable the Ministry to make best use of the existing network of State schools;
  • ensure that the selection of students for enrolment at the school is carried out in a fair and transparent manner;
  • enable students to attend a reasonably convenient school;
  • as far as possible, not exclude local students.

Each school’s Board of Trustees is responsible for the details of the enrolment scheme, but the Ministry of Education has to agree that a scheme is necessary and approves the content of the scheme.

What about a school with no enrolment scheme?

Enrolment schemes are not compulsory for schools to put in place.  It may be the case therefore that the school you approach doesn’t have one.  This will be the case if the schools’ roll is not full and there is no need for it to restrict the number of children enrolling there.

If the school you wish to enrol your child/children at does not have an enrolment scheme then there is no reason for them not to enrol your child/children.  If this happens you need to contact the Ministry of Education.

If a school has cause to put an enrolment scheme in place after you have enrolled your child/children there will be no effect on their enrolment.  This is even the case if you find you are living outside of the new ‘home zone’.  Once your child is enrolled in a school their position is secure.

What is school zoning?

Each enrolment scheme must contain a home zone with clearly defined boundaries and this is where the terms ‘zoning’ and ‘zoned’ come from.

Students who live in the home zone of a particular school have an absolute right to enrol at that school.

How is ‘living in the home zone’ defined?

To be deemed as “living in the home zone” means that the residential address you use and your usual place of residence must be within the school’s home zone. You will be required to provide this information and declare that it is true when you enrol your child.

If the school finds that you have given false information, the school may cancel your child’s enrolment.

If you currently live at an in-zone address but move to an out-of-zone address before your child’s first day of attendance at the school, your child will not be entitled to enrol at the school.

You can check with your intended school regarding their zone, and whether your home address is in-zone for this school.

there are school enrolment and school zones issues to consider. Learn more in our Enrolment and Zoning article.

Alternatively the TKI website will show you an interactive view of all schools and school home zones.

What if I live outside the home zone?

If you find you live outside the home zone of a school you’d like your child to attend, then you are entitled to apply for enrolment.

Students who apply to attend a school on enrolment scheme grounds must be accepted in the following order of priority:

  1. students accepted for enrolment in a special programme run by the school;
  2. brothers and sisters of current students
  3. brothers and sisters of former students
  4. children of board employees
  5. all other students.

If there are more applicants in priority groups (2)-(5) than there are places available, selection within the priority group must be by ballot.

What if I want to apply for my child to attend a school?

Where a school does have an enrolment scheme in place the school’s Board of Trustees must place a notice in a newspaper circulating in the area every year.

This notice must state:

  • how many out-of-zone places are likely to be available;
  • the date by which applications for out-of-zone places must be received;
  • the date(s) of any ballot(s) for out-of-zone places.

If the Board receives fewer out-of-zone applications than there are places available, then there is no need for a ballot to be held and all applicants will be enrolled.

What is a school zone ballot and how does it happen?

If it is the case that the number of students applying for enrolment is larger that the number of places available for out-of-zone students, then selection of those who get to enrol will be made by ballot.

The ballot involves the literal ‘pulling out of a hat’ of applicant names sufficient to fill the places available.

All ballots will be supervised by a Justice of the Peace (or, as appropriate, a practising lawyer or a sworn member of the Police or a local government returning officer).

Within three school days of the ballot taking place, the school is required to post letters informing applicants of the outcome of the ballot. Successful applicants then have 14 days to confirm their acceptance or rejection of the offered place. If they do not respond within that period, the place will be offered to the first person on the waiting list established by the ballot.

Some primary schools with enrolment schemes will advertise more than one ballot each year (perhaps one each term) for five year olds who are starting school.

What if I’m new to the area?

If you move to a new area and are within the home zone defined within the school’s enrolment scheme, then the school must enrol your child.

If you want to enrol your child in a school where you don’t live in-zone, then you will have to wait until the school next organises a ballot before your application for enrolment can be considered.

You can phone the school and ask when this is likely to be. You should ask at the same time whether or not there is a waiting list operating at the school and if you are able to place you child’s name on it.

What can I do if a school tells me it’s full and can’t enrol my child?

There are a couple of things you should check in this instance.

First of all ask whether the school has an enrolment scheme. If it does not, the school should not be excluding your child. If this is the case and you are still told your child cannot be enrolled, then contact your nearest Ministry of Education office for advice.

If the school does have an enrolment scheme, check to see whether you live in the home zone. You can ask for a copy of the scheme at the school or check the home zones online at http://www.schoolzones.co.nz/. If you don’t live in the school’s home zone, then there will be another school whose home zone you do live within. You will be able to enrol your child there until you are able to apply to have him or her enrolled at the first school of your choice.

If you live out of the home zone of the school you have chosen and your child is unsuccessful in the ballot, you may still feel there are good reasons why a school with an enrolment scheme should enrol your child. The Ministry of Education is prepared to listen to your case and discuss with you the special circumstances involved.

A word of warning

Enrolment schemes and zoning in particular have been controversial.

There are critics who believe these schemes deprive parents and children of the right to choose where they attend school. There have also been those who flout the rules in order to send their child to the school of their choice.

You need to be aware of the possible consequences of deliberately attempting to gain unfair priority in enrolment. Parents have been known to give a false address or make an in-zone living arrangement for their child that they intend to be only temporary.

This includes taking these measures:

  • renting accommodation in-zone on a short-term basis;
  • arranging temporary board in-zone with a relative or family friend;
  • using the in-zone address of a relative or friend as an “address of convenience”, with no intention to live there on an ongoing basis.

If the Board of a school has cause to believe this has occurred, they may withdraw any offer of enrolment if it was made on the basis of the given address.

Similarly, if the Board of Trustees learns that a student no longer lives within the zone once school has begun, and if they have reason to believe that the address given was a temporary measure in order to gain enrolment, then the Board may review the student’s right to attend the school.

If the Board of Trustees reviews the enrolment of their child, then parents have the right to provide the school with a satisfactory explanation within 10 days of notice .

How are things different at a State Integrated School, a Kura Kaupapa Maori or a Designated Character School?

These schools have the authority to operate enrolment schemes if it seems the number of enrolments may exceed the number of places available to students. As mentioned earlier these schools’ enrolment schemes need not include a home zone or provide for a ballot.

The enrolment schemes of these schools may be based on the following:

State Integrated Schools

Every integrated school has a maximum roll which it is not allowed to exceed. They must first cater for students who meet the school’s special character requirements. If there are vacant positions, the school is able to enrol a set small number of students who do not meet the special character requirements.

Kura Kaupapa Maori schools

Kura Kaupapa Maori is able to restrict enrolments to the children of parents who accept the Kura’s aims, purposes and objectives.

Designated Character Schools

These schools are able to restrict enrolments to the children of parents who accept the school’s aims, purposes and objectives.

Now that you know more about school enrolment and school zones, you might want to check out more expert advice in our Education section.

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Kylie Valentine is a qualified secondary school teacher, trained journalist, and the mum of two fabulous children.

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Hi there
I would like to know as my both kids are successful for out of zone application in ballot. Can they study in the same school next year or we have to apply again for out of zone application

Jarrod Rendle

Hi, and congratulations for getting your kids in. I know the ballots can be a stressful time. No, you definitely should not have to reapply again. Once you’re in, you’re in, so to speak. In fact, if an older sibling is successful through a ballot, then all other siblings usually get priority application too. — Kiwi Families

J Proffitt

ok but what if you don’t live in a school zone? there is an area on outumoetai road in tauraga which is outside any school zones due to the local schools zone being shrunk.

Jarrod Rendle

You can still apply to that school through their ballot rules. And it might be possible there is another school without zoning rules you can apply to as well. But if you’re outside of any zone, and not close to a school I’d suggest talking to the Ministry of Education about what options you have. — Kiwi Families


Hi there. I am wondering what options if any that we have when all the schools in our area and beyond have declined my niece. She is disabled so not every school fits the bill and the family would have to move miles away (to a school that might not even accept her anyway) which is not ideal as we need to be close to her careers that took ages to accept and her pediatrician etc. She’s not has issues at her schools anything woth behavior so I know it’s just down to bad luck.

Jarrod Rendle

Your child must be enrolled in, and attend school regularly, by law. If there is no expulsion, exclusion or stand-down involved, then there is no reason a state school can decline a child attending. And it may be illegal for them to do so, and a breach of both the Education Act and possibly the Human Rights Act, based on your comment. However, without a lot more information I am just guessing about this situation. Your best next step is to contact your local Ministry of Education office to work through your options. The Ministry will advocate for you, and… Read more »


Myself and my ex partner own a property in a school zone where one of my son’s attend. We have 50/50 shared care (week on week off). After our separation I moved out of zone and had another child to my current partner. I had my baby’s name down to attend the same school as his brother since a week after he was born born as at that time the school allowed all out of zone siblings of a student enrolment. Now 4 months before he is about to start school I have been told me he can no longer… Read more »


Hi, we used to live in the school zone for about 1-2yrs and then moved out of the school zone as we bought a house and couldn’t afford to buy one in the zone (i.e lived in the zone in yr 9 moved out yr 10). However, we didn’t inform the school until 2 yrs later. They are now wanting to review my child’s enrolment who is currently going into yr 12. Do you think my child’s enrolment will be cancelled? Even though it would be super disruptive to their learning and she has only 2 more years left of… Read more »

Jamie Elizabeth Crook

I live next to someone who is the grandparent of a child who is clearly out of zone for the local school as the child is dropped off every day at the house and the grandparents take the child to and from the school. Should I be reporting this?

Jamie Elizabeth Crook

I am looking at moving to a location where there are no schools, what are my options for my children? The location is still within Auckland but the closest school is half an hour away and zoned


Hi Jamie, in New Zealand legally every child over the age of 6 must attend ‘school’. This can include homeschooling, which might be an option for you: https://www.kiwifamilies.co.nz/articles/home-schooling/. Otherwise, check out the Ministry of Education’s info on school transport: https://education.govt.nz/school/running-a-school/school-transport/ — Jarrod.


Hi there, This post was extremely informative. Currently my daughter is having a dilemma at school. Currently she is in zone for the high school she attends. As a family we will not be moving anywhere anytime soon. She is year 11 and wants to move to Rangitoto College this year but we are out of zone. There are many reason she wants to move. Such as getting away from some nasty girls, she also want to take six subjects (her current school only offers 5) as well as wanting to take IB in year 12 and wants to settle… Read more »

Rochelle Gribble

Hi Jessie – glad to hear that you found this article helpful – but sorry to hear that your daughter is having a tough time. Unfortunately, when schools have zones, there’s not much you can do to get around the zoning rules – and there’s not much the school can do either. I’m sorry not to offer any help in this respect! Kind regards, Rochelle


If she were able to convince the principle or a Secretary about why she wants to attend Rangitoto would there be a possibility of her attending or is that not possible?

Rochelle Gribble

It’s really impossible for me to say – but as a rule, probably not, I’m afraid.


I’d like to enrol my son in a school that is out of zone. We have no connection to the school. So he would be in the last category…
My friends told me to enrol earlier but when can I enrol him? Is there anything I can do to increase a chance to get into out of zone ballot? Thanks

Rochelle Gribble

Hi Tomo – this is a tough position to be in. You can put in an enrolment form any time you like; however, this won’t change his chances of getting in. Schools are required to ballot for places and it will all come down to the ballot. Good luck.


hi rochelle, we are currently ‘in zone’ for our school of choice. my girls is enrolled and has been for the last year, due to start end of oct. she will be doing their ‘bright beginners’ classes starting in 2 weeks . we got notification that the school is changing their zone and that could potentially put her out of zone 2 weeks before her 5th birthday. what do we do? the school has said pre enrollment doesnt guarantee a place even though they have started her in the starter classes! where do we stand? as the next nearest school… Read more »

Rochelle Gribble

Hi Bailiff – that’s an awful situation for you and your family – I’m so sorry to hear that! I’m assuming that you’ve spoken to the school about this but, if not, that’s the first thing to do. They will understand that you want to have some certainty about your position. It sounds like the school has yet to announce their new zone and it’s possible that the change won’t be applied immediately – but the best thing to do is find out the details from the school. If you’ve still got concerns, you can contact your local Ministry of… Read more »

Cheska Saavedra



Hi there. We know of a family who provided an inaccurate address to get their child in zone for a high school. We have 100% proof they never moved. Now the parent has been elected to the BoT. We believe this makes a mockery of the system and smacks in the face of integrity and good governance and sets a bad example. We know other parents have been turned away because they don’t live in zone and others who have moved at great expense into the zone. We have notified the principal who told us the family provided a bill… Read more »

kiwi mum

Hi we were declined because we were out of zone by 2 streets for a catholic school in our area (It is literally a 5 min drive from our home) Now we will have to drive out to a completely different suburb (15mins drive away) yet the next closest for our child to attend another catholic school. Am I allowed to request if the school we were declined at would reconsider our application based on this? thankyou 🙂

Rochelle Gribble

Hi Kiwi Mum,

Unfortunately, there is probably nothing you can do apart from go on the waiting list. You can ask the school to revisit this but it’s likely that they will tell you that you need to go on the ballot with other out of zone students. Good luck!


We are considering a move a short distance away but it puts us into a different school zone. Our children are year 1 and year 3 at their present school. We’d like to keep them in the same school as the distance to school is not greatly different if we do move and they are happy there and there is a very good after school club where they are now that pick up from school and will also drop off to sports etc. – which is really important as we both work full time. Will they be able to remain… Read more »

Rochelle Gribble

Hi Kiwi, Generally once your child is enrolled in a school, they are able to stay there even if they move out of zone. Some school have rules about needing to have been at the school for a period of time but schools are usually pretty reasonable about this. In my experience, it is very likely that they will be able to stay at the school; however, the best thing to do is talk to the school principal about this. Good luck!


hello. thank you for the comprehensive post on zoning. we are soon to be residents in auckland and i was wondering if you might know the answer to a question. if we are living in the zone of a school we want to enrol our kids in and move out say 2 years later, will that be considered zone-cheating? for example, when we first arrive we will have to rent accomodation in any case and we would be able to choose where we live based on what school we want to send our children too. eventually, we would want to… Read more »

Rochelle Gribble

Hi rj,

No, I don’t think you would run into a problem there – although it may check to see whether the particular school you are considering has an ‘in zone’ requirement. I have heard of some schools who say that you need to be in-zone for 1 year… but that is just anecdotal. Good luck! Rochelle

H Asret1

Meine Tochter geht momentan in die 2 .Klasse ab September kommt Sir in die 3.Klasseund mein Sohn fängt erst an ab September ich habe gestern einen Brief erhalten das sie in einer anderen Schule verlegt werden solln obwohl ich schon für meinen Sohn die einschreibung genehmigt bekommen habe.Diese Schule ist nicht im Home Zone bereich gelegt. Darf die Schule einfach ohne zu fragen an die Eltern die Kinder verlegen? Bitte um Antwort 

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