NZ school zoning explained (and how to get into a school from out of zone)

Kiwi kids who live within a school’s area are guaranteed a place at their local school. Let’s explain the ins and outs of school zoning and out-of-zone enrolments.

Cluey Learning Monday, 5 July 2021

Many primary, intermediate and high schools in New Zealand have enrolment zones. This means that children who live within the school’s area (zone) are guaranteed a place at their local school. It’s done so the most sought-after schools don’t get overcrowded, and eases traffic around schools in urban areas at peak times.

The lines on the map can make a big difference. That’s why for some parents, school zoning is an important thing to consider when deciding where to buy or rent a house. If you would like your child to attend a particular school, an all-boys or all-girls school for instance, the surest way is to live within the area covered by that school’s zone.

If the school has extra places, children who live outside the zone can apply. To check a school’s enrolment zone, go to and use the ‘find your nearest school’ tool. However, zoning does change from time to time, so it is best to contact the school you’re interested in directly. They can provide you with the most up to date information about their school zone.

Once you’re ready to enroll your child in the local school, you will need to provide proof
of your address that shows you live within the school’s enrolment zone. This must be your usual place of residence. If you have other family/whanau dependents living with you, you’ll need to provide evidence that you have primary duty of care. You will need to prove that your home is their usual place of residence during the week.

Finding a local school can become a little difficult when you’re moving towns or countries and don’t yet have a permanent address. The good news is that some schools have extra spaces for children who live outside the zone, and other schools do not have a zoning system at all.

How can I get my child into a school if I am out of zone?

The best approach is to contact the school you are interested in for your child directly. They should be able to tell you how many out-of-zone places are likely to be available as well as the closing date for these places. Schools are also required to put a notice in a local newspaper saying:

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

You can ask the school to send you an enrolment pack with the dates and information about how the application process works.

If you would like to apply for an out-of-zone enrolment for your child, there is a priority list that schools must follow. Your child will be considered depending on where they sit on that list.

  1. First priority is given to applicants who are accepted for enrolment in a special programme run by the school. This could be in the arts, sports or academic fields.
  2. Second priority is given to applicants who have a sibling that is already enrolled at the school.
  3. Third priority is given to applicants who are the sibling of a former student of the school.
  4. Fourth priority is given to applicants who are the child of a former student of the school.
  5. Fifth priority is given to applicants who are either a child of an employee or member of the board of the school.
  6. Sixth priority is given to all other applicants.

If you are interested in the full legislation, you will find it in the Education and Training Act 2020.

If the board receives fewer applications than there are places available all applicants will be enrolled. If there are more applicants than places, the school will create a ballot (draw) to fill the places available.

If your child is successful, you will have 14 days to accept or reject the school’s offer of placement. It is important you respond within this time otherwise your place will be offered to another child on the waiting list.

If you are applying for two or more siblings at the same year level, these names will be kept together for the purpose of the ballot so that if one sibling’s name is drawn, the other is automatically selected as well.

Some primary schools with enrolment zones hold more than one ballot each year to cater for children starting school as they turn five years old.

What if school zoning boundaries change?

If your child is already enrolled at their local school, they can continue their education for the rest of the school years offered by the school, even if your address now falls outside of the zoning boundary. However, sometimes a change to a school zone means siblings of current students are not automatically guaranteed a place at that same school. You will need to contact your school for more specific information about this.

Are there schools in New Zealand without zones?

Yes. State-integrated and private schools have their own selection criteria and cater for students and families who meet their special character requirements. Zoning applies only to state-funded schools, which is most schools in New Zealand.

The selection criteria vary from school to school. Catholic Integrated Schools for example give preference to children who have been baptised Catholic, with a small percentage of places allocated to non-Catholic or non-preference students. If you or your child are not Catholic, you will need to send a completed enrolment form to the school with a letter explaining why you wish for your child to attend a Catholic school.

For more details about enrolment schemes, check the FAQ section on the Ministry of Education’s website.

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