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Education is compulsory for children and young people between their sixth and 16th birthdays, although in New Zealand, children generally begin school at age five.
This section of the website may assist you with any queries you have about a child or a young person as they progress through their school years.
On this page, you will find information on
School discipline process
Under the Education Act 1989, schools are required to follow prescribed procedures when they stand-down, suspend, exclude, and expel a student. These procedures are outlined on the Ministry of Education's school discipline website.
Parents Legal Information Line for School Issues (PLINFO) is focused on solutions and based on rights. It provides parents with information about their rights as well as options about how to work effectively with schools to ensure the best possible outcomes for children. You can call PLINFO on toll free 0800 499 488.
In addition, there is a comprehensive guide for parents called 'Schools and the Right to Discipline' (PDF, 991.9 kB). You can order hard copies of this publication from the Office of the Children's Commissioner through the publications order form, by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, or by calling the publications order line on 0800 224 453 extension 201.
YouthLaw Tino Rangatiratanga Taitamariki is a community law centre for children and young people throughout Aotearoa/New Zealand. Lawyers are available to answer questions on all legal matters relating to children and young people. Visit the YouthLaw website, call them on (09) 303 6967 (to avoid toll charges, you are able to make this a reverse-charge call by dialling 010 first and following the instructions), or email email@example.com.
Bullying in schools
Children and young people need to be protected against all bullying. All schools (state, integrated and independent schools) have a responsibility to provide a safe "bully-free" learning environment for their students. Schools are not only morally obliged to do this, but are obliged under the Ministry of Education's National Administration Guidelines (NAG 5) and the Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992.
Bullying is behaviour that makes a student feel afraid or uncomfortable. It can be physical, when one or more students bodily attack one of their peers; verbal, including insults or taunts such as teasing and name-calling; and, relational, which is about damaging relationships through exclusion from social groups, gossip, and humiliation.
More recent forms of bullying include the use of text messages, mobile phones, the internet, and other interactive or digital technologies. These devices may be used to threaten, harass, humiliate, embarrass, intimidate, or otherwise target a peer.
Find out more about text bullying and cyber bullying at the Netsafe website. Download the Children's Commissioner's fact sheet on bullying in schools (PDF, 65.9 kB).
School enrolment scheme (zoning)
Some schools operate a school enrolment scheme. Students who live in the 'home zone' have an absolute right to enrol at the school. Out of zone students who apply for enrolment at the school must be accepted in the following order of priority:
2. Siblings of current students;
3. Siblings of former students;
4. Children of former students;
5. Children of board employees or board members;
6. All other students.
If there are more applicants in priority groups (2) - (6) than there are places available on the school's roll, selection within the priority group must be by ballot.”
The Education Act 1989 (section 8) provides that "... people who have special educational needs (whether because of disability or otherwise) have the same rights to enrol and receive education at state schools as people who do not." These rights to education mean that "... every person... is entitled to free enrolment and free education at any state school during the period beginning on the person's fifth birthday and ending on the first day of January after the person's 19th birthday" (section 3).
It is therefore the right of every child who has special educational needs to attend school with the supports they require to function effectively. It is their right to inclusive education.
To find out about your child's special education entitlements, visit the Ministry of Education's special education website. You can also download the Children's Commissioner's fact sheet on special education support (PDF, 132.1 kB).