Early leaving exemption

The early leaving exemption (ELX) is for students aged between 15 and 16 who are intending to follow a successful pathway outside the formal school system (e.g. employment, training course).

An exemption may be granted if the assessor, on behalf of the Secretary of Education, is satisfied that it is sensible to do so. This satisfaction must be based on the person’s educational problems, their conduct and the benefit (if any) they will get from school. This is not a set of criteria where each of these aspects must be met before granting the exemption.

For students to have a greater opportunity to achieve NCEA level 2, staying in the education system until they are at least 16 years is optimal.

How do caregivers request an early leaving exemption

A caregiver contacts our local area office about an early leaving exemption to talk about their child’s needs, goals and aspirations. This would ideally be a face to face conversation.

After the initial conversation, if an early leaving exemption is the best way of resolving the situation, we send an application form to the caregiver.

The caregiver and provider sections must be filled in for the application to be considered. Caregivers can also ask for additional information from the school to support the application.

If we grant an ELX, we will make regular contact with either the child’s employer or training course provider, until the child is 16. This helps ensure the ongoing successful engagement of the child in the course or employment.

If we decline an ELX application, we will continue to work with the child and/or caregiver to advise and support where needed, to re-engage the child in mainstream education.

Responsibilities and roles


Applications can only be made by the child's caregiver.

Ministry area office

Ministry local area office senior advisors are repsonsible for assessing early leaving exemption applications and recommending outcomes for the delegation holder.

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