There are lots of different types of schools you can send your child to in New Zealand. What are they? How are they different? Find out more in Types of Schools.

Getting to grips with the education system can be daunting let alone understanding all the terms that are used to go along with it. Types of schools in New Zealand are just another example of this. There are state, integrated, private, independent schools, composite and full primary schools as well as secondary and middle schools…what does it all mean?

This article will cover two aspects of school types, firstly school types to do with how your child will progress year by year and secondly, school types based on the authority of the school; who governs and runs the school.

School Types through the School Years

In the past we used to refer to our school years as Primer 1, 2, Standard 1, 2, Form 3, 4, 5 and so on. In more recent years New Zealand has adopted the term ‘Year’ when referring to where a child sits in terms of their school ‘career’. It’s also called year structure.

A child who starts at primary school for the first time between 1 July and 31 December, and who is aged between 5 and 6, will be classed as Year 0. The school roll is counted in July for Ministry of Education purposes and that is why July is the cut-off point.

Children who begin school for the first time between 1 January and before the July roll count will be classed as being in Year 1. The use of Year levels continues right through to secondary school where a student who continues through school till graduation point will finish their schooling at Year 13.

Primary School

Your child will begin their school life in Primary School. Depending on which school they are enrolled at they could attend their first school up to and including Year 6 (contributing school) or right through to Year 8 (full primary school). If the school they attend is a contributing school, then they are likely to attend an Intermediate school for Years 7 and 8 of their schooling.

Here’s a breakdown of the Primary School types and which years of schooling they cater for.


Full Primary School (Year 1-8)

Contributing School (Year 1-6)

Intermediate School (Year 7-8)

Kura Kaupapa Māori (Primary)

Composite School

A composite school is one that combines different year levels and often those that cross the ‘levels’ of education. For example a composite school may combine the Intermediate School level with the Secondary School level, or may cover every year of schooling.

Below is a list of the combinations you may find –


Composite School (Year 1 – 13)

Restricted Composite School (Year 7-10)

Kura Kaupapa Māori (Composite) (also Wharekura)

Correspondence School

Secondary School

Once your child reaches Year 9 they are officially in the secondary school phase of their education. Other names used to refer to secondary school are college and high school. Secondary school is where your child will sit their national examinations and prepare for leaving school, whether it be to further his or her education or to begin a career.

A secondary school may be either of the following combinations –


Secondary School (Year 7-13)

Secondary School (Year 9-13)

Other Schools

There are other school types in New Zealand not yet been mentioned.

One of these is Special Schools. A Special school is one that provides specialist education or support for students with specific physical, behaviour, sensory or intellectual support needs.

Another is home school. Home schooling is an education option available to all parents in New Zealand provided they meet the criteria set by the Ministry of Education. For more information on home schooling read our article Home Schooling.

A new type of school is Partnership SchoolsPartnership Schools | Kura Hourua are a new way of delivering public education. Their specific purpose is to enable New Zealand’s most disadvantaged students to achieve greater educational success.

Co-ed or single-sex?

Schools are also classified in New Zealand as either co-educational, co-ed, or single sex.

A co-ed school caters for both sexes, boys and girls whereas a single-sex school caters for either boys only or girls only. There is an increasing trend for single sex schools to become co-ed in the senior years of school.

School types based on authority

Every school in New Zealand has an authority. The authority describes the ownership of each school.

Most schools in New Zealand are part of the state system meaning they are state schools but there are schools that are not a part or are partially a part of the state system. These schools are either independent/private schools of integrated schools. Confused? Keep reading.

State Schools

A state or public school is one that is fully state funded. This means the school is fully owned and administered by the Ministry of Education.

State schools are co-educational at the primary level, and may be either single sex or co-ed at the secondary level.

Because a state school is fully state funded there is no legal requirement for parents of those who attend a state school to pay fees. However, it is usual for parents to pay for some costs, often referred to as a donation, as well as costs for uniforms, stationery, certain subject or materials expenses, as well as school trip fees, etc.

Integrated Schools

Integrated schools are schools that used to be private and have now become part of the state system. In New Zealand there are integrated schools which cater for every level of schooling, primary through to secondary.

They teach the New Zealand curriculum but keep their own special character (usually a philosophical or religious belief) as part of their school programme. Because of the special character of the integrated school, there may be special requirements for some teaching positions.

Integrated schools receive the same Government funding for each student as state schools but their buildings and land are privately owned so they charge attendance fees to meet their property costs.

The Government is responsible for the day-to-day expenses of the school including teacher salaries. Due to their level of government funding, the fees charged to parents are more moderate than those charged by Private (Independent) Schools.

Independent/Private Schools

Independent schools are also called Private Schools. They are privately owned and operated and require all students to pay tuition fees. An independent school does receive some limited subsidy funding from the government.

These are the most expensive schools for your child to attend. Fees vary by school, but are typically around $10-$20,000 per year. There may also be extra-curricular fees to pay on top of this.

They are governed by independent boards but must meet certain standards in order to be registered. They do not have to follow the New Zealand Curriculum but must follow a learning programme of at least the same quality.

Kura Kaupapa Maori

Kura Kaupapa Maori is a State school where teaching is in the Maori language and the school’s aims, purposes and objectives reflect the Te Aho Matua philosophy. These schools are total immersion meaning that the first language spoken, taught and learned is in Te Reo Maori. Kura Kaupapa Māori can either be a primary school or a Composite School.

Wharekura is a Kura Kaupapa Maori school that is composite or secondary total immersion school.

To search for a school in New Zealand click here. This website gives you all the details you need about any school, including what year groups it caters for, whether it’s co-ed or single-sex and what type of school it is in terms of authority.

For more expert advice on schooling in New Zealand, check out 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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Mary Lynn Burke

Hello Kylie, We are planing to move from Boston, Massachusetts with our two daughters, ages 6 and 8, currently Kindergarten and 3rd grade. We are only interested in public schools and value high-quality education with well-balanced offerings in art, music, sports/movement and the environment. We are hoping for a friendly, safe, active community which provides wide choices in outdoor play and adventure near mountains and ocean. Our oldest is a competitive gymnast and it would be important for her to continue her sport, my husband is an emergency room physician, I am a photographer and social worker- dream of building… Read more »


Hi Mary, thanks for your question. If you’re still deciding about moving to New Zealand, here’s a few ideas for you. Your daughters will probably be in Year 2 and Year 4 in the NZ school system. So that is primary school, and you’ll find that most primary schools are public schools here. In terms of the location, you are never further than 2 hours from either a mountain or the sea in New Zealand. And most major centres are within just a short drive to mountains, rivers, forests and the sea! So plenty of outdoor activity options here. It… Read more »

Mary Lynn Burke

Hello Jarrod, thank you so much for your thoughtful and informative reply! These are great recommendations and we’ll be sure to consider them if we do decide to visit. Just concerned about the massive pay cut my husband would have to take, he’d make a third of his current US salary, coupled with the high cost of living/traveling. We are having second thoughts about our future (retirement plan?), the future of our children (savings for college, being isolated from other parts of the world), etc. How do families view and survive these issues?


Hi Mary, New Zealand can be an expensive country to live in. Our salaries are generally lower, and the cost of living quite high (especially in the city). That said, physicians are among the highest paid professionals here: and the job opportunities outside of the 3 main centres are very high, and pay very well: You also have the added benefit that housing (one of the major costs here) is much cheaper in the regions (a great home in a great location might be NZ$6-800k). Anyway, I hope some of that helps, and best of luck in your… Read more »


hi there, I wonder if you can help. We are moving to New Zealand, GISBORNE as my husband is a an orthopaedic surgeon and has accepted a role at the hospital there. I have a year 1 boy who is very smart and is far above school level. As he is a very smart little boy it has been recommended that he skips a year. I hesitate as socially I worry that he will be out of his depth in an older age class. Can you PLEASE recommend a school in Gisborne who has a high academic level which will… Read more »


Hi I would like to know if state schools teach English language beside NZ language? how much money do we have to pay?

Rochelle @ Kiwi Families

Hi Mary,

Some state schools do teach ESOL (I assume that is what you are referring to?). If you are an international student, you will need to pay international fees. These vary from school to school so best to approach the school directly.

Good luck,



Hi my child currently attends a montessori school in south africa and I would like her to attend a montessori school in auckland new zealand until the age of 10 or so. I have heard that some montessoris have become state integrated please could you advise on montessori schools in particular north shore or pukekohe area that she would be able to attend until age 10? My daughter is currently 5.

Rochelle @ Kiwi Families

Hi Sally,

The Montessori schools website has a list of schools Hope this helps!



I am moving to attend Otago in Dunedin and have an 15yr old son & 12yr old daughter. It would be nice for them to attend a school together if possible. I am looking for an area that would be good to live with my family with a state run school do you have any suggestions for me?

Rochelle Gribble

Hi Woniya,

There are a number of co-ed state schools in Dunedin – the closest to the University is Logan Park High School. However, if you want to have a wider look, this page: help you to search for schools.

Good luck!


Marie Möller

Hello Kylie! We are a family with 4 girls (20, 17, 13 and 8 years old) and three of them (the oldest will go to University) should beginn schools somewhere south of Auckland in sept/oct 2012. We move from Stockholm, Sweden and please can you recommend a school that they all can go to (if there is any of course) because it will be so easy and safe to have them in the same school. We will find a house when we get to NZ so we can surely find a house whick hs good communications with the school. My… Read more »

Rochelle @ Kiwi Families

Hi Marie, Sounds like you’ve got a big move ahead of you! Good luck!!! There are only a few options for sending all of your children to same school and these are private schools, some of which go from primary through to secondary. These are much more expensive than public schools, although if you will have to pay international fees anyway, this may be less of a consideration. I am only aware of two on that side of Auckland and these are: St Kentigern’s and Strathallan Both have primary (for your 8 year old) and secondary (for your… Read more »

Marie Möller

Hello again!
Thanks for the answer. These schools you recommended are to expensive, unfortunaltely.
Can you please recommend state/public schools that are good, about 30 min south of Auckland.
Please recommend us schools for two daughters, 13 and 17 year old girls and one 8-year old girl.
Where should we live and what schools should we choose?
Regards Marie from Sweden

2012/9/3 Disqus


This is SO helpful! If I wanted to cite this article, what would be the year of publication?

Rochelle Gribble

Hi Dbesse, 

Glad you found it helpful 🙂 It was first published in 2007 and this version in 2012. 



Lovato Alessandra

What if I’d like to enroll my 16-year-old daughter to a semester in a School in New Zealand? Which year will she attend? Do I have to ask the headteacaher?
Thanks a lot

Rochelle Gribble

Hi Lovato,  Your daughter is likely to be in Year 11 or 12 – depending on when her birthday is. If she turns 17 this year, perhaps Year 12. If your daughter is not a New Zealand citizen or permanent resident, she will need to enroll as an international student. You can find some information about this here: International students generally pay fees to attend school in New Zealand and you’ll need to talk to the particular school about this. You’d be best to contact the school and talk to the appropriate person- whether it’s the principal or year level… Read more »


We are hopefully going to be settling in/around New Plymouth.
Our only child has just turned 11, she would ideally suit a smaller school or one with smaller classes as she struggles a tad keeping up with the larger classes we have here in South Africa, she is currently in a class of 36 children to 1 teacher.
I would love to hear your suggestions.
No private schools please, and possibly one that links to a good secondary school, so she can move up with the same children in years to come.

Rochelle Gribble

PS See our glossary for some more explanation of terms used in New Zealand schools 

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