Varying school opening hours

New legislation

Boards of trustees may now vary their opening hours without approval by the Minister of Education but must consult with parents, staff and the community when doing so, under section 65B of the Education Act 1989.

The Education Act 1989 has been amended by the Education Legislation Act 2016 that came into force on 29 October 2016.

Previous situation

Previously, schools were required to be “open for instruction” for a minimum of 4 hours a day, including a minimum 2 hours in the morning (a “half-day”) and another minimum 2 hours in the afternoon. The Minister’s approval was required before school could vary these hours.

Impact of the legislation

This change gives schools the opportunity for more flexibility in their timetables to cater to the particular needs of their school and students.

Schools must still be ‘open for instruction’ for a minimum of 4 hours a day, including at least 2 hours in the morning and another 2 hours in the afternoon.

The amendment enables boards to vary when the 2 blocks of 2 hours can be taken and removes the need to seek authority from the Minister. Boards must consult with parents, staff, the local community and anyone they believe is affected.

More flexible hours does not mean reduced hours. Students will spend the same time in school over the year as students in comparable and other local schools.

Why the change?

Schools are seeking more flexibility in how they operate their timetables to fit in with the wider range of learning options available to their students.

The Taskforce on Regulations Affecting School Performance considered that increased flexibility in the school day could benefit student achievement.

Considerations for boards of trustees

Boards of trustees should contact the New Zealand School Trustees Association (NZSTA) to discuss their approach before proceeding formally with any changes to school opening hours, including how they should conduct community consultation.

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