When should I enrol my child to go to school?

Your child can start school in New Zealand between age 5 and 6. All children must be enrolled at school by their sixth birthday.

When your child has started at school, they must go to school every day. This is a change from the earlier rule, where regular attendance was required only from age 6.

Enrolling early helps the school with their planning. As soon as you’ve decided on a school get in touch with them to enrol your child, arrange a time for your child to start and arrange some visits to get your child used to school.

Cohort entry
If the school your child is going to has cohort entry, new entrants will start in groups throughout the year, up until they turn 6.

From 2020, new entrants will only be able to start school after they have turned five, and there will be two entry points per term (beginning and mid-point).
Schools adopting cohort entry need to consult with their communities first.

Changing schools
If your child is changing school for any reason, you need to let the school know they are leaving and which school they will be going to, and make sure they are enrolled in their new school. This includes moving to a new primary school, intermediate or secondary school.

Once your child is enrolled at a new school, all their personal records will be sent from the previous one.

How do I enrol my child? What paperwork do I need to provide?

You enrol directly with the school or kura. Contact them to find out their enrolment process, and to get their enrolment forms.

Documents for enrolling
Check with the school or kura to see what paperwork they want. They will want things like:

  • a copy of your child’s birth certificate or passport as proof of age
  • a copy of their immunisation certificate (this is in the back of your Well Child book or ask your family doctor for a copy)
    medical information including your doctor’s contact details
  • any legal documents, for example custody or access agreements the school should know about
  • if you child has been enrolled in early childhood education, their National Student Number (NSN), and ECE leaver’s record
  • contact details – your family phone numbers and address and someone the school or kura can call in an emergency if they can’t get hold of you.

Can I enrol my child at any school I like?

If the school has an ‘enrolment scheme’, in other words, is zoned, this gives them the authority to restrict enrolments to families living without the zone. If you want your child to attend a zoned school and you live outside the zone you will have to apply to go into their ballot.


Zoning means:

  • Children who live in the school’s area (the zone) are guaranteed a place at their local school.
  • If the school has extra places, children who live outside the zone can apply for those places.
  • If the school has zoning you need to give an address within this zone when you apply to enrol your child. This must be your usual place of residence. If the school finds that you have given false information, they may cancel your child’s enrolment.

Not all schools have zoning.

To see if a school has an enrolment zone and whether you live within that go to the find a school tool on the education counts website, type in a school or address and search. You can then choose to see the enrolment zone in place for that school or address.

What if I want to enrol my child at a school, but I’m not in their zone?

Each year, schools are required to put a notice in a local newspaper saying:

  • how many out-of-zone places are likely to be available
  • the closing date for applications for these places
  • any ballot dates for out-of-zone places.

However, you can contact a school at any time to ask about zoning and have them send you an enrolment pack which will have important dates.

How does the application process work?

Applicants are accepted in this order:

  • First priority must be given to any applicant who is accepted for enrolment in a special programme run by the school.
  • Second priority must be given to any applicant who is the sibling of a current student of the school.
  • Third priority must be given to any student who is the sibling of a former student of the school.
  • Fourth priority must be given to any applicant who is a child of a former student of the school.
  • Fifth priority must be given to any applicant who is either a child of an employee of the board of the school or a child of a member of the board of the school.
  • Sixth priority must be given to all other applicants.

If the board receives fewer applications than there are places available all applicants will be enrolled. If the school receives more applications than there are positions the school will hold a ballot.Within 3 school days of the ballot happening, the school must post letters informing applicants of the outcome of the ballot.

Successful applicants then have 14 days to confirm they accept or reject the offer of a place. If they don’t respond within that period, the place will be offered to the first person on the waiting list established by the ballot.

How can I help my child get ready for school?

Here are some ideas to help your child become familiar with the school:

  • visit the school or kura with your child
  • get the principal and teacher to meet your child
  • arrange some settling in visits with their teacher before their first day
  • have a play at the school in the weekend – run around, climb on the playground equipment, kick a ball on the field


Talk to the teacher about your child
When teachers know children well they are better able to support their learning. Talk to the teacher and let them know things like:

  • if your child has any special health needs, and what to do
  • what your child likes to do, what they are good at and what makes them happy
  • after-school plans and who picks up your child when you can’t
  • anything that might affect how your child is feeling.


Teach your child the practical skills they’ll need
Before your child starts school, it’s helpful if they can:

  • do up their shoes
  • put on and take off their coats
  • go to the toilet and wash their hands
  • blow their nose
  • unpack and hang up their bags where they are told
  • recognise when they are thirsty and get a drink of water
  • ask for things they need.


Help them get ready to learn
They may find it easier to participate in the class if they:

  • can sit on a chair at a table for a short time to complete an activity
  • are comfortable being away from you
  • know how to take turns, and wait for things
  • know the names of colours
  • know the letters of the alphabet
  • know the numbers 1 to 9
  • can hold a pencil correctly and use scissors
  • can write their name
  • are able to hold a picture book and turn the pages carefully.

Checklists for starting school and getting settled

Starting school for the first time or beginning a new school is a new and exciting stage for all the family. These checklists cover some of the important things to help the first days run smoothly. They are also useful for settling your child in at the start of each new school year.


In your child’s school bag

  • lunch and a water bottle. Get your child to help you pack their lunchbox. Talk about what is for morning tea and what is for lunch
  • pencils, exercise books, and other supplies the school has asked your child to bring. Some schools and kura provide a list before school starts, others will give you a list in the first week
  • in the spring and summer terms a sun hat and sunblock (it’s a good idea to apply sunblock at home before they leave as well)
  • in the autumn and winter terms a warm hat and some extra layers in case it gets really cold
  • their name on everything particularly hats, shoes and sweatshirts. Show your child where to look for their name on their clothes.
  • a change of clothes. This can be reassuring for a child starting school or kura for the first time, especially if they prone to toileting accidents


In the morning before you leave

  • get up early so that you have plenty of time to get ready and your child doesn’t feel rushed and stressed
  • have a nutritious breakfast
  • if there is no school uniform, choose clothes and shoes that are easy for your child to manage by themselves
  • allow plenty of time for getting to school or kura. On the way chat about what they think their day will be like and what they want to do when they get home.


When you get to school

  • go into the classroom and say hello or kia ora to the teacher with your child
  • tell the teacher about after school arrangements if you won’t be the person picking your child up – although it can help them settle in quicker if you can pick them up for the first few times
  • show or remind your child where the toilets are and any other place it is important to know about, such as where they will be collected at the end of the day
  • it helps children to feel they belong if they know other children. Make a point of stopping to chat with children and parents and/or carers you know as you arrive
  • make goodbyes short. Teachers have a lot of experience helping children to settle in and managing an upset child.


After school

  • if you pick up your child ask the teacher how their day went
  • expect your child to be very tired in the first few weeks. Make time when you get home to just hang out. They might need to run around outside, chill out on a bean bag with some picture books, or just collapse in front of the TV
  • don’t schedule in lots of afternoon activities to begin with – let them just get used to their new routines first
  • offer them a nutritious afternoon tea. They will probably be very hungry!
  • Let them adjust to being at home before asking too much about their day. It’s a lot easier to get children of any age to talk about their day when they are doing something else with you – helping to make dinner, tidying up, or drying the dishes
  • have a space where school papers goes – this is the beginning of you being inundated with newsletters, permission slips, parent help requests etc. It’s useful to make the space close to a calendar so you can write in important dates
  • make a time to read together. Some schools will send home a reading book to share on the first day – others may not. But get in the habit of having some shared reading every day, right from the start.

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