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Dunedin City Council – Kaunihera-a-rohe o Otepoti

This page contains information on New Zealand school system and how it works.

How do New Zealand schools work?

All children in New Zealand must attend school from age 6 to 16 and most children start when they turn 5. Compulsory education is divided into primary, intermediate and secondary schooling.

Primary schools cater for children aged from 5 to 10 (years 1 to 6)

Children aged 11 to 12 (years 7 and 8) are mostly in a separate intermediate school in Dunedin, but may be part of a primary, secondary or composite school.

Secondary schools provide for students aged from 13-17 years (years 9 to 13). Single-sex education is generally only available at secondary level.

There are several tertiary options available: The University of Otago, which offers a College of Education, Foundation Year and Language Centre, and The Otago Polytechnic.

Some state schools offer special programmes for adult education classes. There are also state schools that provide education for students with special physical, sensory, emotional or intellectual needs.

Some schools, which used to be private and have now become part of the State system are called integrated schools.

'Designated charter schools' are governed by their own independent boards but meet certain registration standards. They can be either co-educational or single sex.

Boarding schools are schools that are either independent or part of a state-funded school. They charge boarding fees and students usually live at the school all week and may come home at weekends.

New Zealand also has correspondence schools, which provide distance learning facilities to students who may live a long way from their nearest school.

New Zealand parents are also able to home-school their children, provided they are granted an exemption by the Ministry of Education.

When are the New Zealand school terms and holidays?

The New Zealand school year is divided into four terms. Students have a six-week summer holiday and three two-week breaks between each of the four terms.

What fees should I expect to pay?

While education in state schools in New Zealand is free, schools may ask parents or caregivers for donations, which are voluntary contributions to the running of the school.

What curriculum does New Zealand follow?

What we want our children to know and be able to do by the time they leave school is set out in the New Zealand Curriculum.

  • Early Childhood (pre-school), Primary/ Intermediate and Secondary

Who runs New Zealand schools?

Every state school and state-integrated school has an elected Board of Trustees. The board is responsible for governing the school and setting its direction, including curriculum, staff, property, health and safety, finance and administration. The board makes decisions that the principal and teachers then put in place.

What are the tertiary education options in Dunedin?

There are several tertiary education options available including:

Most New Zealand tertiary providers also offer distance learning courses if you wish to study subjects not offered in Dunedin.

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