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 and state-integrated schools must provide free education. This means they may not charge school fees.
  • The only exception is that proprietors of state-integrated schools may charge a compulsory fee called ‘attendance dues’. The proprietor provides land and buildings for these schools, and this fee is to cover their 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:

  • stationery 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. In the first instance talk to your school. You might be able to get financial assistance.

You might also be asked to pay for voluntary activities or events such as weekend or after-school sports.

The school can charge for voluntary activities or events only 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 school’s curriculum (like seeing a play students will be assessed on, a camp or trip, or a school report), then your child has a right to be included whether or not you pay any voluntary donations.

If the activity or event isn’t part of the school’s curriculum (like a sports event, or a school social event) your child can not take part if you do not pay.

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. You can pay them in part, in full or not at all.

Donations can be for general purposes, or tagged for a specific item such as a camp, a classroom subject, or a trip.

Decile 1-7 schools and kura are eligible to opt in to receive a $150 per student Government payment for that year in exchange for not asking for donations- with the exception of school camps and overnight trips that are part of the school’s core learning programme.

Decile 8 -10 schools and those who chose not to opt-in can still ask for donations but payment cannot be compelled or enforced.

Schools are required to let their school community know whether they have opted in to the scheme.

Payments schools can and can’t ask parents to pay for and further parent guidelines

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 asked to pay?

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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