Home zones

If an ordinary state school has an enrolment scheme, it will have a home zone.

All students living inside the zone and wanting to enrol are guaranteed a place at the school. Students living outside the zone can apply to enrol but their enrolment depends on out-of-zone places being available.

A home zone is a clearly defined geographical area around a school, with its boundaries indicated by street names and numbers or other geographical features. The home zone is usually presented both as a map, and described in a way that makes it easy to identify any address as being inside or outside the zone.

Home zones help Boards of Trustees to prevent overcrowding and at the same time help guarantee local students a place at their local school. These are both requirements under the Education Act.

They help promote attending local schools rather than travelling outside communities to attend others. This helps balance student populations across local networks of schools, and the use of space and capacity within them.

Promoting local enrolments helps strengthen communities because bringing together all the different perspectives, cultural backgrounds, circumstances, histories and ties to the community that students and their parents, caregivers, families and whānau have, brings diversity and opportunity to all the options and support that can be provided to all students to help them learn and achieve.

Inside the zone

Students who live inside the home zone of a state school have an absolute right to enrol at the school, and Boards of Trustees must always accept enrolments from these students.

To ensure fairness and transparency for everyone who’s entitled to attend their local school, parents and caregivers must be genuine when providing an in zone address as part of an enrolment application (enrolments can be cancelled where it’s found that an incorrect address was provided to secure enrolment at the school).

There are strict criteria around what ‘living in the home zone’ means, but Boards of Trustees make their decisions on an application based on whether an address provided by a student is their usual place of residence. This means they are:

  • living with their parents or caregivers in a house located in the home zone which is owned, leased or rented by the parents or caregivers, or
  • living with a family member or another responsible adult who has primary duty of care for the student (students living in a school hostel are also covered by this description), or
  • over the age of 16, living independently, and own, lease, rent or occupy a house in the home zone either with the agreement of their parents or caregivers, or they’ve been granted an Independent Living Allowance.

Sometimes there are circumstances and situations that require Boards of Trustees to decide whether a student would be considered to be living inside the home zone. Shared custody or temporary living arrangements when people have recently moved into an area might mean the definition of "usual place of residence" is harder to apply.

Our enrolment scheme guidelines explain what happens in these situations in more detail.

Outside the zone

Each school determines how many places are available for students who live outside its home zone. Some schools experiencing roll pressure might decide not to accept out-of-zone enrolments. Others might have out-of-zone places available, which they advertise. The acceptance of applications for these places is according to a prority sequence and (potentially) a ballot to ensure the selection process is fair.

Some schools don’t hold ballots. If the number of out-of-zone applications received is less than the number of places available then all applications can be accepted and there’s no need for one.

For secondary schools that do, the ballot is held in the year prior to enrolment, at the same time each year and often at the same time as other schools in the area. Primary schools are able to hold a ballot once a term.

The Education Act requires that once all in-zone enrolments are accepted, if the school accepts enrolments from out-of-zone students and there are places available for them, out-of-zone enrolment applications must be accepted in the following order of priority:

  1. Students accepted for enrolment in a special programme run by the school.
  2. Brothers and sisters of current students.
  3. Brothers and sisters of former students.
  4. Children of former students.
  5. Children of board employees and board members.
  6. All other students.

If there are more students in any of the priority groups wanting to enrol than there are places available, a ballot is held to determine who will be offered a place. Applicants who are unsuccessful are put on a waiting list in the order they were drawn in the ballot and may be offered a place if places become available later in the year. A waiting list remains current until the school holds its next ballot.

Home zones and state integrated schools

Students who live inside the home zone of a state school have an absolute right to attend that school. It’s a bit more complicated for state integrated schools (schools with a special character such as a religion, philosophy or set of values). Due to their special character, state integrated schools often drawn their students from a wider geographic area than ordinary state schools.

Even though state integrated school students might come from a wider geographic area than state school students, state integrated schools still experience the same growth pressures. They could receive more enrolment applications from students than the maximum roll specified in their integration agreement allows, or than the school’s physical capacity can cope with. If this happens, the school might need an enrolment scheme.

The scheme might have a home zone just like an ordinary state school, or the Board might choose not to have one if its students come from a wide area so having a home zone is impractical. If it doesn’t have a home zone, priority must be given to applications from students for who the school is reasonably convenient – which generally means preference students who live close to the school must be preferred to preference students who live further away from the school.

Boards of state integrated schools might choose to draw up a home zone with geographic boundaries and give first priority to those living inside the zone, or they might enrol any preference student for who their school is the nearest state integrated school of its character and class. There are a number of options available.

Enrolment scheme home zones and school transport zones are similar in that they’re both a geographic boundary around a school designed to support access to education – but they serve very different purposes.

A home zone provides for a student’s enrolment at a school that’s reasonably convenient to where they live whereas a school transport zone helps assist them to attend the closest school if public transport to get to that school is limited.

We provide school transport services in areas where there’s limited public transport available.


[1] Education Act 1989, Part 2 Enrolment schemes, and suspension, expulsion, and exclusion of students, ss11A-11Q Enrolment schemes

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