An independent school, more commonly known as a private school is another education choice available.  Find out more in our Independent Schools article.

There are three main types of schools, for the roughly 760,000 students at the 2,585 schools, in New Zealand. The “state” schools represent approximately 86% of students; “state integrated” schools (i.e. integrated into the state system, but preserving their “special character”) represent around 10% of students; and independent (or “registered” or “private”) schools represent about 4% of students.

The following sections provide a concise overview and summary of independent schools in New Zealand, and the key reasons why some parents decide to send their children to independent schools.


  • About 4% of students in NZ attend independent schools
  • 116 independent schools in NZ
  • Over 29,000 students currently at independent schools
  • Foreign fee-paying students constitute 4% of the independent schools roll
  • Receive approximately 25% of funding from the Government, with parents providing the remaining 75% via tuition (and other) fees.

Types of Independent School Ownership

  • Individuals
  • Private Companies
  • Charitable Trusts (the majority)
  • Religious bodies



Independent schools are governed by their own independent Board of Governors, but must comply with governmental standards in order to be registered.


Independent schools are not legally required to follow the NZ Curriculum, and consequently have the “independence” to choose their curriculum, but must follow a curriculum of at least the same quality.

Teaching Staff

Independent Schools (2004 statistics)

  • 2,383 Full Time Equivalents
  • 29,481 students
  • Student/Teacher ratio of just over 12 students per teacher

State & State Integrated Schools (2004 statistics)

  • 43,777 Full Time Equivalents
  • 719,226 students
  • Student/Teacher ratio of a little over 16 students per teacher

Types of Independent Schools

  • Some provide Primary school only (Years 1 – 6)
  • Some provide Secondary school only (Years 7 or 9 – 13)
  • Some provide Primary & Secondary (Years 1 – 13)
  • Some provide Pre-School (Age 2 – 5 years) & Primary school
  • Some provide Pre-School, Primary, and Secondary school
  • Some are single sex and some are co-educational, although some single sex schools are co-ed in Years 12 & 13.


  • 22 of the 116 independent schools provide the option of “hostel” boarding houses
  • Parents have the option for their child of being a “day” only; “flexi” (i.e. home on weekends); or “full-time” student (i.e. living at school every day of each term)
  • Boarding fees range around $4,000 – $7,500 +GST per annum

Other Fees

  • Tuition fees (for NZ Residents) vary, but are generally in the following range
    o Primary school :- $3,000 – $8,000 +GST per annum
    o Secondary school :- $4,000 – $14,000 +GST per annum
  • Building levy
  • Fees insurance
  • Uniforms & Stationery
  • Activities fees

Academic Achievement

Independent schools overall have very good academic results. From the 2006 examination results, private schools gained 16% of all Year 13 Scholarships and 8.4% of all Level 3 NCEA, whilst constituting only 4% of NZ students.

In 2004 senior students’ assessment, European/pakeha students were 1.9 times more successful; Maori students were 5.1 times more successful; and Pacific Island students were 4.8 times more successful in Independent schools than in State schools

The Benefits — Why do some parents choose Independent Schools ?

  • Greater probability of higher academic achievement
  • Immersion in social network with aspirations of tertiary qualifications
  • Some offer Cambridge International Exams or International Baccalaureate
  • High quality and well resourced teachers and staff
  • Individualised teaching for students
  • Strong pastoral (i.e. emotional and social) care by teachers & staff
  • Teaching and reinforcement of traditional values
  • Boarding school facilities (particularly for rural families)
  • Broad range of (and well resourced) co-curricular activities, including Music, Sport, Drama, Debating, and Arts
  • Special character for some
    • Philosophical or Pedagogical — eg. Montessori, Rudolf Steiner
    • Religious — eg. Christian, Protestant
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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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I am currently teaching in a NZ public primary school but am excited about the thought of starting up a small independent school. Any great links or suggestions for who to talk to about this?? Cheers.

Rochelle Gribble

Hi eagerbeaver,

I’m sure you’re already aware of them but there are some really interesting independent schools including: http://www.ficino.school.nz/, http://www.mthobson.school.nz/, http://www.discovery1.school.nz/

In addition, a new independent school has recently opened in Upper Hutt: http://www.uppervalley.school.nz/ 

Good luck with this!


Hi, I too am interested in founding an Independent School, and have searched for hours online for more information as to how to go about this,, unfortunately to no avail. Any ideas where one can access more information about the process of opening a school in New Zealand?

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