Types of schools in New Zealand

Types of schools in New Zealand

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 Schools. Partnership 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.

Kylie Valentine

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

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