Boarding allowances

If your child is struggling to attend school and achieve NCEA level 2 or above because they live too far away from school or face other difficulties in their life, you can apply for funding so that they can board away from home and focus on their studies.

What is a boarding allowance?

It is funding from the Ministry of Education so that your child can board away from home, either at a boarding school or a private boarding arrangement with someone who is not your child’s legal guardian.

There are two different types of boarding allowance:

Access barrier

This is for students in New Zealand who live too far away from an appropriate school and the Ministry’s school transport assistance programme(external link) does not provide a solution.

Multiple barriers

This is where a student experiences more than one of the following difficulties in their life that makes it hard to go to school or do well as school:

  1. Poor participation at school
  2. Poor relationships
  3. Behavioural issues
  4. Low educational achievement
  5. Environment

Is my child eligible?

Access barrier

Your child is eligible if they live too far away from an appropriate school and the Ministry’s school transport assistance programme does not provide a solution.

“Too far away” is defined as living an unreasonable distance from the nearest appropriate school (eg more than 60 km) and:

  • the closest school transport service to get to their nearest school is unreasonable (eg 20 km), or
  • they have to travel longer than 60 minutes one way to their nearest school each day, or
  • they have to drive an unreasonable distance (eg 60 km) to the nearest school.

Multiple barriers

Your child is eligible if they are experiencing more than one of the following:

  1. Poor participation at school – difficulty engaging in everyday classroom learning, completing school work, keeping up adequate attendance and engaging in extra-curricular activities.
  2. Poor relationships – socially isolated or lacks respect for others.
  3. Behavioural issues – disruptive, harms others or themselves, participates in criminal activities, or has a history of stand-downs, suspensions or expulsions.
  4. Low educational achievement – shows significantly lower attainments (lower than same age peers) in literacy, numeracy, oral language and other subjects.
  5. Environment – lacks family and community support, has poor or negative role models, is exposed to physical or psychological harm, or multiple community or government agencies (eg Police, Oranga Tamariki, a health or mental health service) are involved with the young person.

Your child is not eligible if they have custody or guardianship orders under sections 78, 101,102, 110 or 141 of the Oranga Tamariki Act 1989.  Their boarding fees will be met by Oranga Tamariki or the Ministry of Health.

Can I choose what school my child goes to?

Yes. You can choose any state, state-integrated school, kura or private school.

You will have to still have to meet the school’s usual enrolment and acceptance criteria, and there will need to be a space available in the boarding hostel. 

How much is the allowance?

It depends on the type of boarding allowance.

Access barrier

Boarding school and private boarding $3,200 per year

If your child’s family home is on Great Barrier Island, Pitt Island or the Chatham Islands funding is also provided for 4 return trips home each year.  Actual and reasonable costs of air and/or boat fares will be paid. This will be calculated based on the cheapest appropriate mode of public transport and will be paid direct to you at the beginning of the school term. 

Multiple barriers

Boarding school $8,000 per year (which includes $500 for pastoral care to help your child address the barriers they face)

Private boarding $4,500 per year (which includes $500 for pastoral care)

The government provides $11.3 million for boarding allowances every year to help young people achieve their education. In 2014, around 1,300 students received a boarding allowance because they faced an access barrier and 1,000 students because they were facing multiple barriers.

- Ministry of Education

The allowance might not cover all of your child’s boarding fees.  If it doesn’t you have to pay the rest yourself.

The boarding allowance continues for as long as the student is at school, or until the barriers they are facing no longer exist.

How is it paid?

If your child goes to a boarding school the allowance is paid directly to the school at the beginning of each term.

If your child is boarding privately, it is paid directly to the school at the beginning of each term.  The person providing the board needs to arrange to receive their payment from the school.

How do I apply?

You can apply online or in writing.

Boarding allowances application(external link)

If you are applying for a multiple barriers boarding allowance, you and a referrer need to complete the application together.  There are lots of people that can help you and be a referrer, like:

  • Your child’s current teacher
  • Your family doctor, or other health professional
  • A social service provider
  • Learning Support, Ministry of Education
  • Oranga Tamariki
  • Youth Aid, New Zealand Police

More than one referrer can help with your child’s application. This can give a fuller picture of the issues your child is facing.

Is the information I provide confidential?

Absolutely.  All the information you and your referrers provide is confidential.  The Ministry will not share it with anyone else unless they are part of the application and selection process.

When are applications due?

Applications for Boarding Allowance to commence at the start of each school year close at the end of October. Any applications received after October will be assessed and considered for the start of Term two.

In the instance that your child moves to a Boarding School during the school year, applications are due two weeks before the end of the current term.

For all enquiries about the application and approval process for boarding allowance applications please contact our Boarding Allowances Team at

How does the Ministry assess my application?

The boarding allowance team assesses all the information you provide in your application.

All applications must meet the the eligibility criteria.  On top of that consideration is given to approving applications from priority learners, ie Māori and Pasifika students, students from low socio-economic backgrounds and students with special education needs.

A sample of applications will also be reviewed by a moderation panel. Panel members are from organisations like the New Zealand Police, Child, Youth and Family, Special Education and Maori and Pasifika staff from the Ministry of Education. The moderation panel checks that the assessments made by the boarding allowance team to approve or decline applications are fair, unbiased and consistent.

The number of boarding allowance applications approved each year will depend on the number and type of applications that are received, and the number of students approved in previous years who are continuing to attend boarding school and receive the boarding allowance.

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