Enrolment schemes (school zones)

School enrolment zones stop schools from getting overcrowded, and give children who live in the school area (the zone) a guarantee that they can go to their local school.

What does zoning mean?

In a nutshell, zoning means:

  • Children who live in the school's area (the zone) are guaranteed a place at their local school.
  • If the school has extra places, children who live outside the zone can apply for those places.
  • If the school has zoning you need to give an address within this zone when you apply to enrol your child. This must be your usual place of residence. If the school finds that you have given false information, they may cancel your child's enrolment.

Not all schools have zoning.

How do I know if a school has zoning and whether I'm in their zone?

To see if a school has an enrolment zone and whether you live within that go to the find a school tool on the education counts website, type in a school or address and search. You can then choose to see the enrolment zone in place for that school or address.

Find a school tool – Education Counts(external link)

You can also talk to the school – they can tell you if they have an enrolment zone and whether you live within in.

What if I want to enrol my child at a school, but I'm not in their zone?

Each year, schools are required to put a notice in a local newspaper saying:

  • how many out-of-zone places are likely to be available
  • the closing date for applications for these places
  • any ballot dates for out-of-zone places.

But you can contact a school at any time to ask about zoning and have them send you an enrolment pack that will have important dates.   

How does the application process work?

Applicants are accepted in this order:

  1. First priority must be given to any applicant who is accepted for enrolment in a special programme run by the school.
  2. Second priority must be given to any applicant who is the sibling of a current student of the school.
  3. Third priority must be given to any student who is the sibling of a former student of the school.
  4. Fourth priority must be given to any applicant who is a child of a former student of the school.
  5. Fifth priority must be given to any applicant who is either a child of an employee of the board of the school or a child of a member of the board of the school.
  6. Sixth priority must be given to all other applicants.

If the board receives fewer applications than there are places available all applicants will be enrolled.

What if there are more applicants than places?

The school must hold a ballot (draw) to fill the places available, and create a waiting list for applicants who are not successful in the ballot.

Within 3 school days of the ballot happening, the school must post letters informing applicants of the outcome of the ballot.

Successful applicants then have 14 days to confirm they accept or reject the offer of a place. If they don't respond within that period, the place will be offered to the first person on the waiting list established by the ballot.

The Secretary of Education's instructions to schools are that siblings at the same year level should be kept together for the purpose of the ballot, so that if one sibling's name is drawn, the other is automatically successful also.

Some primary schools with enrolment zones will hold more than one ballot each year. This is for 5-year-olds who are starting school.

What if my application isn't successful?

The school will put you on a waiting list, and tell you your place on the list. If a place comes available and you are first on the list, the school will let you know, and you will have the option of accepting or rejecting the offer of the place. The waiting list expires when the next ballot is held.

Meanwhile, you will need to enrol your child at another school.

Will my children be able to continue attending their school if the boundaries of the school's home zone change?

When a home zone changes, all currently enrolled students can continue at the school for the rest of the school years offered by the school.

We endeavour to keep siblings together at the same school where possible. Sometimes a change to a home zone means siblings of current students are not automatically entitled to enrol at the same school, unless the Ministry has allowed the scheme to include additional entitlement provisions to cover this scenario. Siblings of current students are a priority category when applying to enrol from out of zone.

You will need to contact the school to find out more. 

When a zone changes or a new scheme is going to be implemented, the Ministry always consults.

Developing and establishing an enrolment scheme – Ministry of Education(external link) 

Frequently asked questions about enrolment schemes – Ministry of Education(external link) 

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