It’s the land made famous by Lord of the Rings – sweeping landscapes, outstanding scenery and plenty to do outdoors – no wonder so many people are making the international move to New Zealand. Many are doing so with children, which of course, raises the questions of finding the best school.
About the New Zealand School system
Education is compulsory between the ages of six and sixteen and comes in three tiers – primary, secondary and tertiary. It is possible to home-school children, but for this you’ll need a special certificate of exemption.
Most children stay on at school beyond 16 and move onto years 12 and 13 where they will acquire the New Zealand equivalent of an A Lever – the National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA). It’s an internationally regarded qualification and will be recognised by universities around the world.
The school year runs from January to December, rather than September to June in the UK. State schools are free for New Zealanders, but foreign nationals will have to obtain a student’s Visa and pay a fee. However, these are generally not too high.
Types of schools
New Zealand has many of the same types of schools that we have in the UK: namely state schools, private schools and faith schools, as well as some specialist international schools. State Schools are backed by the Government and are free to people from New Zealand. However, foreigners will have to pay a fee which contributes towards the national education system.
In general, you will be expected to attend the state school closest to you, so when choosing where to live you should consider the reputation of the local schools. New Zealand’s education system is one of the best in the world, but standards inevitably vary from place to place. Do a little research to see what people are saying about the local schools to decide if it’s for you.
Private schools generally provide a very high level of education, although this can always vary. They are partly subsidised by the state which takes some of the sting out of the fees.
Whether you go private or public will depend on your own finances, and what you’re looking to get from a school. Many expats will choose a private school or an international school for their children as this may seem to be an easier and more comfortable option.
However, choosing a state school can be a better way to fit in with the local community. In general the state system is extremely good in New Zealand, and the fees affordable. One option could be to start at an international school, but if the local state education is good move your child once you’re a little more settled. You can expect a warm welcome in most state schools and, with no language barrier, should find it easy to fit in.