Costs and financial assistance

Education is free in New Zealand state schools and kura, but you should be prepared to pay for school uniforms, stationery supplies and extra activities. Some state-integrated schools also charge fees, as do private schools. It pays to check all the costs before you enrol.

Do I need to pay school fees?

It depends on the kind of school.

  • State schools do not charge school fees - education in New Zealand state schools is free
  • State-integrated schools usually charge compulsory fees called “attendance dues”. These schools usually own their own land and buildings, and this fee is for property costs.
  • Private schools receive limited government funding, so they do charge a set fee each term, or for the year. The fees should be clearly set out in their enrolment information or prospectus.

Is there anything I do have to pay for?

You should be prepared to pay for:

  • materials and equipment such as exercise books, pens, pencils
  • school uniforms
  • before-school and after-school care if you need it.

If you can’t afford a school uniform or stationery or care outside of school hours, this should not hold back your child’s education. You might be able to get financial assistance.

You might also be asked to pay for:

  • learning experiences outside the classroom, such as school trips
  • activities or events over and above the New Zealand Curriculum.

The school can only charge for additional costs of trips and activities if they have told the parents beforehand, and the parents have agreed to pay them.

If an activity or item is a part of the core education curriculum (like seeing a play students will be assessed on, or a school report), then your child has a right to be included. They must be allowed to take part or receive the item, whether or not you pay any optional payments or donations.

If the activity or event isn’t part of the core education curriculum (like a sports event, camp or a school social event) the school can exclude your child if you do not pay for them.

What about donations?

Schools may ask parents or caregivers for donations, which are voluntary contributions to help with running the school. It is not compulsory to pay donations.

What financial assistance is available?

Subsidies

Out of School Care and Recreation (OSCAR) Subsidy

Out of School Care and Recreation (OSCAR) Subsidy is a payment which helps families with the costs of before- and after-school programmes, and school holiday programmes. It helps with the costs of before- and after-school programmes for up to 20 hours a week, and school holiday programmes for up to 50 hours a week.

Work and Income oversees the OSCAR subsidy. Find out if you are eligible and how to apply.

School and Year Start-up Payment

The School and Year Start-up Payment is a payment to carers of someone else's child to help with the costs that mostly happen at the beginning of the year, in particular pre-school and school-related costs such as clothing, school fees and stationery.

Work and Income oversees the School and Year Start-up Payment subsidy. Find out if you are eligible and how to apply.

Scholarships

Some private and independent schools provide financial assistance to students and their families through bursaries and scholarships.

Selection criteria vary depending on the scholarship, for example, there might be an exam for an academic scholarship or an audition for a music scholarship. Schools will usually interview scholarship candidates as part of the selection procedure, and they might consider the applicant’s progress over the years.

Some scholarships provide opportunities for children who might not otherwise be able to attend private or independent schools, by covering all or some of their school fees.

Some scholarships have been endowed or given in honour of the school’s centenary or as a memorial, and there may be certain conditions attached. Parents whose child is offered a scholarship should discuss the requirements of that particular scholarship with the school.

What can I do if I’m not happy about the costs I’m being charged?

In the first instance you should talk to the principal. You should not be made to feel like you have to pay any voluntary donations.

If you are not happy with the result of your conversation with the principal you can make a complaint to the board of trustees.

You can also contact your local Ministry of Education office for advice.

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