Choosing a School

Indicator IconChoosing a School
msword-iconChoosing a School

The Ministry of Education has created for Parents; a site for parents, families, whānau, carers and anyone else involved in a child's education. It has been developed with help from parents, and is expanding based on what you tell us you want. Please visit the: for Parents website.

for Parents includes practical information and tips on starting school and progressing through the schooling system. We recommend going to for Parents and reading the advice on-line so that you get the most up-to-date information. This download, accurate as at November 2014, has been created from pages on for Parents related to choosing a school. In particular:

  1. Choosing a school.
  2. Choosing a secondary school.

Children can start school or kura in New Zealand anytime between the ages of 5 and 6. Once they turn 6 they must be enrolled and attend a school or kura every day. Most child start school when they turn 5, although they don't legally have to start until their 6th birthday.

Many children have the option of one local school to go to. If you do have more options, then choosing the right school or kura for your child is important and can make a big difference to their happiness and wellbeing, as well as how well they do at school.

Similarly, choosing a secondary school is an important decision, and if you have a choice of secondary school it's worth you and your child taking the time together to look at possible schools and explore the options available.

What's important when choosing a school?

Think about the practical things

  • How will your child get to and from school? Is there a safe route to walk or cycle, or is someone available to take them and pick them up? Is there a school bus?
  • Under 14s need to be supervised before and after school. Does the school have before- and after-school care? Will your child be able to play or meet up with friends after school?
  • Does the school have a uniform?
  • Do you have to pay to go to the school?
  • Do you live in the school zone?
  • Are there any schools that family or friends have recommended?
  • What schools are your child's friends going to?
  • List your education priorities

    Your priorities will depend on your child's needs and your circumstances and preferences. What are your must-haves and what could you compromise on?

    Here are some examples of priorities that you might see as important:

  • the school or kura's approach to supporting children with learning support needs or talents
  • a bilingual unit or te reo Māori schooling
  • a particular education philosophy
  • a strong emphasis on a particular curriculum area of interest to your child, eg music or sport
  • size; would your child suit a large school or a smaller one?
  • particular subjects offered at senior level that will support your child's interests and possible career path.
  • Make a short list

    Make a list of schools near your home and any others you might want to consider.

    To see what schools are available a good place to start is:

    • Find A School Here you can search for a school based on a range of criteria, including geographic location, school type, medium of education, etc.
    • Schooling Directory This is a spreadsheet listing every school in New Zealand with all the information included under Find A School pages mentioned above.

    If you need more help to find a school or kura in your area, or a particular type of school, you can contact your local Ministry of Education office.

    When you've decided on a shortlist:

  • talk to other families whose children go there
  • read the school website.
  • for primary schools and intermediates in particular make an appointment to visit the school or kura and meet with the principal, and possibly your child's potential teacher.
  • visit the school or kura at different times of the day - see if you can observe some class time, and also visit during a break or lunch time. You can often get a good feel for the school by seeing how the children interact with each other at play and how the teachers interact with the children.
  • go to the open days or information evenings.
  • many secondary schools will advertise open days and parents' evenings for you to find out more about the school. Secondary schools encourage you to also arrange your own meeting with the school if you are not able to go to these events.
  • ask for the enrolment package.
  • You can also check the Education Review Office (ERO) report for the schools you are considering. ERO is a government department that reviews schools as part of its work. ERO's reports provide information for parents and communities about a school's strengths and next steps for development. The reports cover things like learning environment, processes and procedures, how teachers relate to students, the commitment to bicultural practices, how they review and monitor themselves, and their vision and philosophy. Visit the ERO website to ask for ERO reports.


    Cohort Entry

    Where a school is operating a cohort entry policy students start school in groups (cohorts) at the beginning of each term. A student will start at the school in the term closest to their fifth birthday, or the beginning of a later term.  This means that some children, depending on when their birthday falls may be able to start school up to two months before they turn five.  The majority of schools in New Zealand operate a continuous entry of new entrants into Year 1 throughout the school year, rather than cohort entry.

    Education Institution Number

    A code assigned by the Ministry of Education to uniquely identify each institution. More often called school number when used in a schooling context.

    Education Medium

    Indicates the language in which the students receive education instruction. The options are:

    1. All students in Māori Medium
    2. Some students in Māori Medium
    3. All students in Pasifika Medium
    4. Some students in Pasifika Medium
    5. All students in Māori Medium or Pasifika Medium
    6. Some students in Māori Medium and some in Pasifika Medium
    7. All students in English Medium

    In Māori medium education students are taught all or some curriculum subjects in the Māori language for at least 51 percent of the time (Māori Language Immersion Levels 1-2). In Pasifika medium education students are taught all or some curriculum subjects in a Pasifika language for at least 12 percent of the time (Pasifika Language Immersion Levels 1-4).


    The term "ethnicity" refers to the ethnic group or groups to which an individual belongs. The concept of ethnicity adopted by the Ministry of Education is a social construct of group affiliation and identity. The Ministry of Education uses the definition of ethnicity used by Statistics New Zealand, namely:

    A social group whose members have one or more of the following characteristics:

  • they share a sense of common origins,
  • they claim a common and distinctive history and destiny,
  • they possess one or more dimensions of collective cultural individuality,
  • they feel a sense of unique collective solidarity.
  • Where possible, ethnicity data is presented as a multiple response. Multiple response works by considering each ethnicity a person affiliates with as one data entry. For example, the data relating to an individual who affiliates as both Māori and Pasifika will be included in both categories. They are, however, included only once in the total. This approach is easily undertaken when data is collected in a disaggregate fashion.

    Prioritisation of ethnicity is when people are allocated to one of the ethnicities they have recorded that they affiliate with. This usually occurs when data are collected manually and/or aggregate data returns are collected centrally. This allocation is performed using a predetermined order of ethnic groups. Where ethnicity is prioritised it is in the order of Māori, Pasifika, Asian, MELAA (Middle Eastern, Latin American, and African), other groups except European/Pākehā, and European/Pākehā.

    European/Pākehā refers to people who affiliate as New Zealand European, Other European or European (not further defined). For example this includes, but is not limited to, people who consider themselves as Australian (not including Australian Aborigines), British and Irish, American, Spanish, and Ukrainian.


    Students subject to exclusion are not allowed to return to the school they have been excluded from, but must enrol elsewhere. Only students under the age of 16 can be excluded.

    For a school or region the observed number of exclusions is the number of exclusions that actually occurred while the baseline number of exclusions is the number of exclusions that would have occurred if the age-specific rates of the school or region were the same as a standard population (in this case the national population). Exclusions and age-standardisation are discussed more under Student Engagement.

    Funding Decile

    (see School Deciles)


    The proportion of students that remain at school beyond the minimum school leaving age. Students can leave at 15 years-old if they receive an early leaving exemption, or they can once they are 16 year-old without meeting any special requirements. Convention is to measure retention until they are 17 which is beyond the compulsory schooling age and by when the average student will have had opportunity to fully complete senior secondary school.

    School Authority

    Describes the ownership of schools, that is, State, State-integrated, Private.

    School Deciles (aka Deciles and Funding Deciles)

    Students from low socio-economic communities face more barriers to learning than students from high socio-economic communities. Schools that draw their roll from these low socio-economic communities are given greater funding to combat these barriers. The mechanism used to calculate and allocate this additional funding is most often known as school deciles.

    Schools are assigned a socio-economic score based on five census derived socio-economic factors. Schools are then ranked in order of this score and divided into 10 even groups called deciles. The 10 percent of schools with the lowest scores are considered decile 1 schools; the next 10 percent of schools are considered decile 2 schools, etc. Decile 1 schools have the highest proportion of low SES students, decile 10 schools have the least (NB: this does not mean students from decile 10 schools are 'rich'). See the Schools Directory for a list of each school's decile.

    Deciles are also used in many of the education sector indicators as a proxy for socio-economic status. Education sector indicators can be accessed through the Indicators home page.

    School Gender

    The gender of students that a school caters for, for example, co-educational school, girls' school.

    School Type

    The type of school is based on the levels students are taught at, for example, Full Primary School (Year 1-8), Contributing School (Years 1-6).

    Year levels have been included to help understand school types. Here the year level is current year level, which is the year level of the student's class cohort and the level at which the student spends most of their time at school.


    Students on stand-down are removed from a state school for a specified period. The school principal can decide whether a student should be stood-down and how many days the stand-down will last for. Stand-downs, for any student, can total no more than five school days in any term, or 10 days in a school year. Following a stand-down, the student automatically returns to school.

    For a school or region the observed number of stand-downs is the number of actual stand-downs that occurred while the baseline number of stand-downs is the number of stand-downs that would have occurred if the age-specific rates of the school or region were the same as a standard population (in this case the national population). Stand-downs and age-standardisation are discussed more under Student Engagement.


    Students who are suspended are not allowed to attend school until the board of trustees decides the outcome at a suspension meeting. The school principal can suspend a student, but the school board decides the next step. The board may decide to list the suspension with or without conditions, to extend the suspension, or, in the most serious cases, to either exclude or expel the student.

    For a school or region the observed number of suspensions is the number of actual suspensions that occurred while the baseline number of suspensions is the number of suspensions that would have occurred if the age-specific rates of the school or region were the same as a standard population (in this case the national population). Suspensions and age-standardisation are discussed more under Student Engagement.

    Year Level

    There are two common forms of year level in education data.

    Current Year Level (CYL)
    This is the year level of the student's class cohort and the level at which the student spends most of their time at school studying.

    Funding Year Level (FYL)
    Prior to 2008 this was known as Year of Schooling or MOE Year Level. The funding year level measures the number of years of schooling a student has received and provides the Ministry of Education with a method of counting students for funding and staffing purposes. The funding year level for most students is based on the date they first started school.

    The funding year level is independent of the way schools are organised and independent of the particular programme of study that a student may undertake. It is therefore possible for a contributing school (year 1-6 current year levels) to have students in funding year level 7, or secondary schools that finish at learning current year level 13 to have students in funding year level 14 or 15.

    Student Population

    The roll data presented in these tables is from the July roll returns. Ethnic group information in July roll returns is prioritised. International students are treated as a separate ethnic group; therefore subtracting international students from the total roll equals the domestic roll.

    Year level information is funding year level, however funding year levels 14 and 15 are included with the year 13 students in the year 13+ category.

    Student Engagement

    Stand-downs, suspensions, and exclusions

    A state or state integrated school principal may consider the formal removal of a student through a stand-down from school for a consecutive period of up to 5 school days. A stand-down, for any student, can total no more than 5 school days in a term, or 10 days in a school year. Students return automatically to school following a stand-down.

    While stand-downs impact on actual opportunity to learn they are also a response to a wide range of concerning behaviours including drug and alcohol abuse and violence that are disruptive to the learning of the individuals concerned, and disruptive and unsafe for peers and adults in the school community. Stand-downs can offer an opportunity to reduce tension and reflect on the action which led to the stand-down. As such, if used in appropriate circumstances, a stand-down can be a positive mechanism for preventing escalation. However, its use should be part of a pro-active approach and should be kept to a minimum due to its inherent disruption.

    A suspension is a formal removal of a student from a school until a school Board of Trustees decides the outcome at a suspension meeting. Following a suspension, the Board of Trustees decides how to address the student's misbehaviour. The Board can either lift the suspension (with or without conditions), extend the suspension (with conditions), or terminate the student's enrolment at the school.

    If the student is aged under 16, the Board may decide to exclude him or her from the school, with the requirement that the student enrols elsewhere. This decision should be arrived at only in the most serious cases. If the student is aged 16 or over, the board may decide to expel him or her from the school, and the student may or may not enrol at another school. Again, this decision should be arrived at only in the most serious cases. Excluded (or expelled) students may face difficulties in enrolling in other schools. This may result in students:

  • accessing correspondence schooling through Te Aho o te Kura Pounamu,
  • entering Alternative Education provision (for excluded students),
  • dropping out of the education system,
  • entering tertiary study or employment.
  • Age-standardisation

    Standardisation is a technique which controls for the compositional variation between the groups being compared. Standardised rates give a 'true' comparison of the event being studied.

    An example of standardisation is age-standardisation where the age distribution could lead to misleading results. Age-standardisation removes the effects of the different age structure of the different groups (schools, regions, time periods) you are comparing.

    Comparison of suspension rates between schools or regions which may have different age structures would be inappropriate, because the age structure of the school or region can affect the number of suspensions and thereby the crude suspension rate. We standardise the suspension rates to take account of differences between the age structures of the schools and regions. This is also done for stand-downs and exclusions.

    The two main methods of standardisation are indirect standardisation and direct standardisation.

  • Indirect standardisation is essentially a comparison of the number of the observed events (suspensions) in a population with the number of expected events if the age-specific rates were the same as a standard population (in this case the national population). In this instance the comparison is multiplied by the overall national rate per 1,000 to give a rate per 1,000.
  • Direct standardisation is essentially an indication of the number of events that would occur in a standard population, say New Zealand, if that population had the same age-specific rates of the local population.
  • So more simply with indirect standardisation you apply a national rate to a local population and see which is higher/lower, while direct standardisation involves applying a local rate to a national population. For stand-downs, suspensions and exclusions indirect standardisation is used.

    Care should be taken when examining age-standardised rates, especially in the cases when small numbers are involved. When numbers are small, a very small amount of variation in the raw data can lead to a large effect on the age-standardised rate.

    Interpretation Issues

    From 2004 onwards, for a small number of schools, there was an abnormally large increase in the number of stand-downs recorded as belonging to 'Other' ethnic groups. Investigation of individual records, trends over time for each school, and each school's catchment area indicated a considerable number of records had an ethnic group erroneously coded as 'Other'. A conservative adjustment was made to the data to correct for this poor coding.
    Where for a particular school stand-downs in 2012 for 'Other' ethnic groups are greater than one-third of the number of 'Other' ethnic group students for that year, then the following adjustment was made:

  • The 2003 stand-down rate for 'Other' ethnic group was applied to all the school's 2012 'Other' ethnic group students to calculate the new number of stand-down records with an ethnic group of 'Other'.
  • The difference between that new number for 'Other' ethnic group and the supplied number of stand-downs coded as 'Other' ethnic group equals the number of erroneously coded records.
  • The erroneously coded records were then reassigned to new ethnic groups based on the distribution of the submitted non-'Other' ethnic groups. For schools where all stand-downs had 'Other' ethnicity, the distribution of cases across all schools has been used.
  • This adjustment to stand-down data allows more accurate ethnic comparisons to be made, however, it does stop other ethnic group comparisons being made for dimensions specific to individuals, such as, reason for stand-down.

    This same issue existed, and subsequent adjustment was made for suspension, exclusion and expulsion data.