Going to school is compulsory for all children in New Zealand aged six to 16 although most children start when they turn five.
Everything a growing body and mind needs
Discipline is excellent in New Zealand schools and young people are made to feel comfortable and safe.
Typically New Zealand schools are well equipped with computers, Internet and technology and have lots of room for outdoor play and sport – schools here usually have their own playing fields and sometimes even swimming pools. Cultural activities are well catered for too.
Teachers support a wide range of activities out of school hours – coaching sports teams in a huge variety of codes, leading drama clubs or school orchestras etc. Pupils in New Zealand also get many opportunities for educational trips, exploring New Zealand’s flora and fauna or challenging themselves with outdoor recreation pursuits they might otherwise never experience.
The country – like South Africa offers three types of schools which are state schools (funded by the government), ‘state integrated’ schools and private schools.
State schools are the choice for the vast majority of New Zealand children (85%). Schooling is free at these schools, although parents are asked for a contribution to help cover costs of activities that are outside of the core curriculum. Typically this will be around NZ$250- $650. There will also be other charges for sports, school trips, special tuition, exam fees, and other course related costs.
‘State integrated’ schools are schools with a special character - they may be run by a particular religious faith e.g. Catholic or use specialist education methods like Steiner or Montessori. Just over 10% of students are enrolled at these schools. Education in state integrated schools is also funded by the government but the schools may charge fees for various facilities which are usually around NZ$1,500 a year.
Just under 5% of children go to private schools which charge around NZ$20,000 in fees a year.
The school day and holidays
School usually starts at 9am and runs to 3pm or 3:30pm. There are four school terms running from late January to mid-December with two-week breaks between them and a six-week summer break at the end of the year.
Disciplining children in New Zealand
Schools in New Zealand, as is the case in South Africa too, have outlawed physical punishment as a form of disciplining children, but it’s illegal for anyone to use force to discipline a child. A parent may only use force to prevent a child from harm, but a teacher may not use force in any situation.
What will our kids learn?
At primary school, what pupils study is guided by our ‘National Curriculum’.
New Zealand’s National Curriculum for primary schools aims to create ‘confident, connected, actively involved, lifelong learners’ with a strong foundation in reading, writing and maths. The curriculum focuses on eight learning areas: English, the arts, health and physical education, languages, mathematics and statistics, science, social sciences, technology.
Pupils’ reading, writing and maths are regularly assessed against expectations for their age level as set out by the National Standards.
As a parent you’ll receive reports twice a year. You’ll also have the opportunity to discuss your child’s progress in regular ‘meet the teacher’ sessions.
Of course there is a lot more to learn about what you and your child will encounter in the New Zealand educational system, but rest assured, your child will have amazing opportunities in a positive environment which respects and protects children.
It’s a good idea to get more information from your immigration specialist or join an online support group for immigrant parents with children in Kiwi schools.