Retention of students in senior secondary schools

Why This Is Important

Completion of upper secondary education is associated with a range of economic and social benefits both in New Zealand and across the OECD.  Retention to senior secondary schooling is linked to higher levels of skills and knowledge required for participation in our increasingly knowledge-based society and the wider global community (OECD, 2017).

According to Norton et al. (2000) the risk of unemployment for those with no school qualifications or only Year 11 qualifications is higher than for those with Year 12 or Year 13 qualifications.  The positive effect of each additional year of schooling on incomes has been estimated to range from 5 to 10%.

Lashlie (2005) found that one of the factors important for successful school leaving for boys was merely staying at school until the end of the Year 13.  This is because it takes boys longer to achieve a high level of maturity and self-management than girls, and that boys’ schools in particular can “hold boys steady while the chaos of adolescence sorts itself”.  Simply keeping boys at school (by making school relevant) until they have decided what they want their next step in life to be can reduce the chances of a boy “arriving at a prison gate”.


Retention of students in senior secondary schools to age 17


Numerator: (Data Source: Ministry of Education: ENROL)


Total number of school leavers aged 17 or above in a given year excluding foreign fee-paying students.

Denominator: (Data Source: Ministry of Education: ENROL)


Total number of school leavers in a given year excluding foreign fee-paying students.

Inclusion and Exclusion Criteria for School leavers

School leavers in 2019 are students that permanently left school to enter the workforce and/or undertake further education and training outside of the compulsory schooling system sometime between 1 March 2019 and the last day of February 2020 (inclusive). School leavers are identified using ENROL. Students counted as school leavers are:

  • Domestic students who were aged less than 19 in their first enrolment in ENROL; including alternative education students, students 16 or over on 1 March 2020 and students attending teen parent units.
  • Students with leave reason; 'end of schooling' or 'early leaving exemption'
  • Students with leave reason 'transferred to another school in New Zealand' or 'transferred to home schooling' but did not reenrol in another school according to ENROL
  • Students with leave reason 'gone overseas permanently', who meet the age criteria
  • Students who attend for a period of time at the start of 2019 but leave before 1 March 2020 are counted with 2019 leavers.

This excludes:

  • Returning adult students (aged 19 or more) with a year gap in their attendance
  • Exchange and International fee-paying students
  • Students who successfully transferred to another school in New Zealand or to home schooling
  • Deceased students

Alternative education students are counted with the school that enrolled them in alternative education; this may not be the school that manages their enrolment while they are in alternative education. This is to reflect that the enrolling school is responsible for ensuring the students’ education needs are met.

School leavers are counted under the last school they attended for at least 70 days. If they did not attend a school for 70 days within the school leaver year, then they are included under a ‘transitory leaver’ group.

Total Response Ethnicity

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

Total response ethnicity is when people who have been identified in more than one ethnic group have been counted in each ethnic group, except for overall totals where each student is counted once only. Total response ethnicity has been used for all analysis in this indicator.

The “Not Applicable” status for education region, regional council and territorial authority relates to alternative students from schools where campuses are in more than one of the geographic regions, or learning institutions that do not give a geographic location status.