New Zealand has a highly regarded government-funded education system
that is free until the age of 19. School is compulsory between the ages of 6 and 16, though most children start school on their fifth birthday. Most students attend government funded (state) schools, which rate well by OECD standards. There are also private, independent and boarding school options.
There are a number of childcare and early education options available if you have children five years or younger.
Under a government initiative introduced in July 2007, three and four-year-olds enrolled in a teacher-led early childhood centre qualify for free early childhood education up to 6 hours a day, up to 20 hours per week.
There are childcare centres operating throughout Wellington region. Centres are a mix of privately run and community or church-based operations.
Kindergartens provide early childhood education for children from three to five years. Many have waiting lists so it is advised that you put your child's name on the waiting list early. The Government subsidy covers most kindergarten fees but help with fundraising is also expected.
Most kindergartens run from 8.45am to 11.45am and from 12.45pm to 3.30pm.
Playcentres operate parent-run, learning and play sessions for children aged 0-6. A parent education service is provided free to all members. Session times and days vary according to demand.
Compulsory education in New Zealand is divided into primary, intermediate and secondary schooling.
Primary & Intermediate Schools
For a list of primary and intermediate and secondary schools in the Wellington region click here.
In the Wellington region, there are 32 secondary schools. Students progress through classes in accordance with their year but have different teachers and go to different classrooms for each subject. Secondary schools serve as gateways to tertiary level study, including university. Students qualify for university by passing the required number of National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA) standards from the required number of subjects. At secondary school level, there is a choice of co-educational or single sex schooling within the state system.
There is a choice of private primary and secondary schools in the Wellington region. These schools are dependent on fees. Each school determines its own fees scale. Private schools are governed by their own independent boards but must meet government standards in order to be registered. They are also subject to the same ERO audits as state schools. Private schools are usually single sex at both primary and secondary levels.
Choosing a school
There are primary schools in almost every residential area in Wellington, as well as a good choice of secondary schools. Most children attend the school closest to where they live, but parents and caregivers can enrol their children at any state school.
Families have the right to visit schools and meet with the principal and staff before deciding to enrol their children as students. They can ask to see the latest ERO report. Many schools also have a prospectus or brochure that sets out their ideals and what the school offers it students. Schools also operate open days when interested parents can wander through, during or after class, talk to teachers and students, and inspect the resources and level of education offered at a school.
If a state school has too many children wishing to enrol, the Ministry of Education may allow the school to have an enrolment scheme to prevent over-crowding. An enrolment scheme must contain a 'home zone' with clearly defined boundaries. Students who live within the home zone have a right to enrol at the school. Students living outside the zone can still apply to enrol, but if there are more applicants than available places, a ballot will be held to determine who can enrol. Brothers and sisters of current and former students have a higher priority for the out-of-zone places.
Other School issues
For detailed information about students with special education needs, English for speakers of other languages (ESOL) the national curriculum, and school terms and holidays , visit
the Ministry of Education.
Education providers including secondary schools in the Wellington region host international students each year. These students are attracted to Wellington’s high educational standards, learning assistance (particularly for English language assistance), and ongoing pastoral care and support. Wellington is also seen as a safe, friendly, relaxed and cosmopolitan environment in which to live and study. Up-to-date information on fees charged for international students is available on individual schools’ websites. These can be accessed through the Education Wellington International.
There are three universities in Wellington. Victoria University of Wellington and Massey University are the main tertiary providers in the capital, and the Otago Medical School has a presence at the Wellington Hospital site. Teachers are trained at the Victoria University College of Education.
Other Tertiary Education Providers
There are many other tertiary providers located in the Wellington region. These are institutions that deliver degrees, diplomas and certificates in vocational, technical and professional fields.
The Open Polytechnic of New Zealand offers distance learning courses in a broad range of topics. Whitireia Community Polytechnic is based in Porirua and has campuses in Wellington city and Kapiti. The Wellington Institute of Technology has its main campus in Petone and one in central Wellington.
Te Whaea houses Toi Whakaari – the New Zealand Drama School and the New Zealand School of Dance, both highly regarded tertiary providers. The New Zealand Drama School confers degrees and diplomas. The New Zealand School of Dance offers diplomas in different forms of dance.
There are also private training institutions and English language schools in the Wellington region. You can search for these on the Education Wellington website.