We advocate for the interests, rights and wellbeing of children and young people

If your child is having issues at school - from being stood down or bullied, to issues with a teacher or difficulty accessing special needs support - this page lets you know what you can do and where you can get support and advice.  

Questions on this page:

My child has been 'stood down' from school - what does that mean?

A stand down means the principal removes your child from the school for a set period. They can return to school after the stand-down period has finished. They can’t be stood down for more than five school days in a term or 10 school days in a year.

If a child or young person is sent home without being formally stood down or suspended by the principal, this is sometimes referred to as a 'Kiwi suspension'. If a child is sent home from school, the principal needs to advise that it is being done under Section 14(1) of the Education Act and provide documentation to their parents or caregivers.

My child has been suspended from school - what can I do?

When your child has been suspended, the school has to follow the right process. Your child has certain rights that must be upheld.  A suspension means the principal temporarily removes your child until the Board of Trustees decides whether they should be permanently excluded. The Board of Trustees has to hold a suspension meeting within seven school days of the suspension, attended by you and your child, a student support person(s), and the principal.  The Board can decide to:

  • lift the suspension without conditions
  • lift the suspension with 'reasonable' conditions
  • extend the suspension with 'reasonable' conditions for a 'reasonable' period, or
  • exclude or expel your child. 

My child has been expelled - what happens next?

If your child is under 16, the school can 'exclude' them.  This means they're not allowed to go to the school but the principal has to find a new school for them – if they aren’t successful, the Ministry of Education has to find another school for your child.

If your child is over 16, the school can expel them.  This means they're not allowed to go to the school, and the principal and Ministry of Education don’t have to find a new school for them.  If your child wants to keep going to school, they can enrol themselves at another school.

My child is being bullied at school - what does the school have to do to sort this out?

All schools are required by legislation to provide a safe and bullying-free learning environment for their students. Bullying is any behaviour that makes a student feel afraid or uncomfortable, and can be physical, verbal or online.  You can ask to see a copy of the school’s anti-bullying policy and to meet with the principal. The school should work with you to come up with a plan to provide a safe environment for your child. 

You can find more information on recognising bullying and supporting your child on the Ministry of Education's website. Your child can learn more about how to deal with bullying on the 0800 What’s Up website or by calling 0800 What’s Up (0800 942 8787) daily from 1pm - 11pm.

My child has special needs and isn't getting the education support they need, what can I do?

The law says that every child who has special education needs has the right to go to school with the support they need to learn and succeed.  You can find out more about your child’s entitlements on the Ministry of Education's website.

If your child needs extra support:

  1. Talk to their teacher, the school principal or the special education needs coordinator if the school has one
  2. If you’re not happy with their response, contact your local Ministry of Education office
  3. If you’re still not satisfied, contact the Human Rights Commission or Health and Disabilities Commissioner to find out how to make a complaint.

How does school zoning work?

Some schools have an enrolment or 'zoning' scheme.  Students who live in the 'home zone' have an absolute right to enrol at the school. Out of zone students who apply to go to the school are accepted in the following order of priority:

  • students accepted for enrolment in a special programme run by the school
  • siblings of current students
  • siblings of former students
  • children of former students
  • children of board employees or board members
  • all other students.

If there are more applications than there are places available, a ballot is held. 

You can find more information on the Ministry of Education's website.  To find out if a school has an enrolment scheme, you can either ask the school go to the nzschools website (find your school on the map, click on its icon to see its zone)

How do I make a complaint about my child's teacher?

If you’re concerned about a teacher's behaviour or competence:

  1. the first step is to discuss your concerns with the head teacher or school principal
  2. if you’re not happy with their response, you can make a complaint to the school’s Board of Trustees
  3. if you’re not satisfied with the response, you can make a complaint to the Teacher’s Council

What help can I get to pay my childcare fees?

You may qualify for the Work and Income childcare subsidy - to find out whether you qualify and how much you could get, visit the Work and Income website or call 0800 559 009.  Once your child turns three, you can apply for the the 20 hours ECE subsidy - to find out more, visit the Ministry of Education website or call 0800 ECE ECE (0800 323 323)

For more information or advice

To find out more or to talk about an issue, you can contact:

For more information about rights at school - including school rules, bullying, behaviour contracts, daily reports, detention, and disciplinary procedures - visit the Youth Law website or download the Wellington Community Law Centre’s Schools and the Right to Discipline guide


Education rights under UNCROC

Articles 28 and 29 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCROC) say that all children and young people “have the right to a good quality education that helps you develop your personality, talents and abilities to the full. You should be treated with respect and be encouraged to respect each other’s rights and values. Discipline in schools should respect your dignity.”

The Education Act 1989 section 3 provides for the right to free primary and secondary education from age 5-19.

Advice on the disability sector

To get advice and support on disability issues, and to understand the roles of different organisations and what support is available, visit the Parent and Family Resource Centre website to order their support guide