Different types of primary and intermediate schools

Here are many types of primary and intermediary schools available in New Zealand.

State schools

Most primary and intermediate schools are state schools. This means they:

  • are government-funded, so do not charge school fees
  • teach the National Curriculum (New Zealand Curriculum or Te Marautanga o Aotearoa).

Within the state school system there are English and te reo Māori options, options for different age-groups, language and cultures, values and religious beliefs:

Primary schools for years 1 - 6, or years 1 - 8.

Intermediate schools for years 7 and 8.

Middle schools for years 7 to 10.

Area schools and composite schools offer primary, intermediate and secondary education in one school.

Kura kaupapa Māori (commonly referred to as kura) are state schools where the teaching is in te reo Māori and is based on Māori culture and values. These schools are under the umbrella of Te Aho Mātua and follow the curriculum for Māori-medium teaching, learning and assessment, Te Marautanga o Aotearoa. They cater for students from years 1 to 8 or years 1 to 13.

Wharekura are schools that generally cater for students above year 8. However, there are some wharekura that include primary aged children. 

Designated character schools are state schools that teach the New Zealand Curriculum but as well as that, and have developed their own set of aims, purposes and objectives to reflect their own particular values. They may have a commitment to a particular philosophy or culture.

Te Kura (formerly The Correspondence School) provides distance learning for students who are unable to attend their local school. Students can also study with Te Kura if they have a medical condition, have special education needs, or meet the gifted and talented criteria for enrolment.

You can find out if your child is eligible to enrol at Te Kura on their website.

Te Kura website(external link)

Regional health schools are for students with significant health difficulties who can’t attend their local school because they are in hospital, recovering at home, or gradually returning to school. Health school teachers work with students both in hospital and at home. Three regional health schools based in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch cover the whole country.

Special schools provide education for children with particular needs, arising from special talents, learning or behavioural issues. They use the New Zealand Curriculum.

State-integrated schools

State-integrated schools teach the New Zealand Curriculum, but keep their own special character (usually a philosophical or religious belief) as part of their school programme. State-integrated schools receive the same government funding for each student as other state schools but their buildings and land are privately owned, so they usually charge compulsory fees called “attendance dues” to meet property costs. State-integrated schools can be primary, intermediate or secondary.

Private schools

Private (or independent) schools charge fees, but also receive some funding from the government. They are governed by their own independent boards and must meet certain standards to be registered with the Ministry of Education. They don’t have to follow the New Zealand Curriculum but must follow a learning programme of at least the same quality. Private schools can be primary, intermediate or secondary.


Homeschooling is when parents educate their children themselves, instead of enrolling them in a school. Parents who want to educate their children at home need to apply to the Ministry of Education for a Certificate of Exemption from enrolment at a registered school. The Ministry must be satisfied that the child will be taught at least as regularly and as well as they would be in a registered school.

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