School network roles and responsibilities

Helping young New Zealanders achieve their learning goals and aspirations is a big job. As well as parents, caregivers, families and whānau, there are lots of other people, groups and organisations involved. We’ve got plenty of roles and responsibilities in place to help keep things running smoothly.

The education sector


Children and young people

Our education system must be supported by a network of schools that responds and adapts to the current and future needs of all young New Zealanders. Like teaching and learning, there’s no one size fits all, and the network must bend, stretch and shrink as the individual and unique requirements of every New Zealand community and its tamariki change over time.

Children and young people are at the centre of the education system, and it’s critical the network of schools can offer options that reflect the distinctive circumstances and situations that different ages, levels, abilities, locations and cultures require.

Parents, caregivers, families and whānau

Parents, caregivers, families and whānau want access to quality education opportunities every child and young person is entitled to. You’ll want the right information at the right time to inform your enrolment decisions, and you’ll want it to be clear when and how you can be involved if changes are proposed for a school, or a group of schools, in your community.

Through their enrolment decisions, parents, caregivers, families and whānau play a crucial role in ensuring the network is in the best shape to provide access to education opportunities for everyone. Perceptions about a school have flow-on effects for other schools in the network – sometimes resulting in overcrowding in areas where schools can’t cope with demand, and other schools that are overlooked declining as their roll numbers decrease.

The uneven distribution of students in one area of the network can mean a change is needed to a school, or group of schools, to help restore the balance.

Parents, caregivers, families and whānau have a responsibility to ensure their enrolment decisions are made based on fact not perception, and that when applying for a child’s enrolment the information provided is genuine and doesn’t disadvantage other students who are entitled to attend the school.


Boards of Trustees

All state and state integrated schools and kura in New Zealand have a Board of Trustees. They’re a team with members elected by the parents and caregivers of students, and school-based trustees (the principal, a staff-elected representative, and a student-elected representative for schools with Year 9 students and above).

Proprietors of state integrated schools can also appoint trustees to a board, and a board can co-opt additional trustees for gender, skill or ethnic balance.

Boards are responsible for governing and managing each school and ensuring their decisions are always made in the best interests of the students. They make their decisions within a framework of plans, policies, processes and procedures, and in compliance with the requirements of the Education and Training Act 2020.

As well as their strategic responsibilities, Boards of Trustees are responsible for all financial, property and employment matters, including recruiting school staff. They employ the school’s principal to oversee the day-to-day management of the school.

The network of schools has to operate for the maximum benefit of all young New Zealanders. The core responsibility of Boards of Trustees is to help their students achieve and succeed to the best of their ability. A big part of this is monitoring and managing their school’s roll and physical capacity so any changes in growth don’t affect student learning or disrupt the rest of the network.

Proprietors of state integrated schools

All state integrated schools have a proprietor. Proprietors are responsible for determining and maintaining the special character of a state integrated school. They either own, hold in trust or lease the land and buildings (ie the premises) of the school. General provisions relating to proprietor responsibilities are covered under Schedule 6 of the Education and Training Act.

In areas of New Zealand where there are significant changes and shifts in school-age populations, as part of our analysis of impacts on the network, we look at the capacity of local state integrated schools. Proprietors are required to factor changes such as roll growth into their planning and management of the overall capacity of the network of state integrated schools.


Principals are the chief executives of schools. Their leadership commitment is to student learning and wellbeing, and nurturing an environment and school culture focused on learning and development. Their main day-to-day responsibilities involve managing people, planning and reporting, finances and school property, and overseeing development and performance in the school in line with the Board of Trustees’ policies, plans, decisions and delegations. As principal, they are also a member of the Board of Trustees.

The principal of a state integrated school operates in mostly the same way as the principal of a state school, but their management also reflects the school’s special character. That means if the school has a religious special character, they will also take part in religious activities appropriate to their school.

Principals are education leaders who draw from the strength of a school’s connections with the wider community to inspire the values, culture and identity of a school. When parents and caregivers are making their decisions about which school to enrol their child at, they will likely meet with local principals to understand the different school cultures, leadership styles, student outcomes and teaching and learning priorities.


The Ministry

We’re the government agency responsible for the New Zealand education system. We oversee the operation of the whole network of schools. We advise the government and set the direction on all aspects of early childhood, primary, secondary and tertiary education, and learning for international students. We employ around 3,000 people who work across 10 regions throughout New Zealand, including national office in Wellington.

Here’s what our people do:

  • About 1,030 are specialist teaching staff who work directly with children and young people
  • About 329 are education support workers and practitioners providing a range of learning support services to children and young people with additional needs
  • Some 440 provide front-line support to early learning services and schools or work with iwi, communities and other individuals and groups
  • 370 deliver services directly to the education sector or purchase services on their behalf – resourcing, ICT, school transport, property, professional development and other services such as communications support
  • 360 collect, analyse and monitor data, and provide advice to the government on how to get the most out of the education system based on what the data shows
  • 410 provide support to others to help them do their jobs

The Ministry in the regions

Our people in the regions provide a central point where we can come together with schools, Boards of Trustees and communities to work through any issues being faced at a local level. Our people ensure schools, Boards of Trustees and their communities have what they need in terms of expertise, programmes and resources to support all local students reach their potential in local schools.

Regional network analysts, education advisors, directors of education, education managers, learning support specialists, property advisors, school transport advisors and others provide advice and guidance, and deliver our initiatives and services in line with government policy. Because they’re on the ground working closely with schools, they know the issues being faced and can identify where there is space that could be used to meet current and future demand.

The Ministry and learning support

Demand for learning support services is increasing in schools for a range of reasons including population growth, the earlier identification of needs through early intervention services, and increased participation of children in early childhood education. There are also more children and young people with very complex needs in schools.

Our local learning support facilitators coordinate and connect the people, agencies and supports around children and young people, and work with our Learning Support team to equip adults and physical environments so that teachers and school leaders can recognise learning challenges and environments are accessible, and physically and emotionally safe and secure.

Support for children or young people can include:

  • equipment they need to get around and to access learning, including Assistive Technology
  • transport to and from school
  • specialist help to develop their skills and abilities such as in oral language, literacy, planning and organising, thinking, pro-social skills, fine motor skills, confidence and wellbeing
  • managing a serious health issue
  • ongoing Resourcing Scheme (ORS) which is used to provide specialist services and support for students with the very highest learning support needs.

Our Kaitakawaenga staff work proactively with Māori tamariki and their whānau, hapū and iwi, educators and learning support colleagues to identify and eliminate barriers to access learning support services for Māori students with additional learning needs. Kaitakawaenga are competent in te reo Māori and te āo Māori and use a range of culturally appropriate assessment and planning tools designed by Māori for Māori. These tools are used to collaborate with the tamaiti, whānau and in education settings.

The Ministry and school property

Local schools need to be able to accommodate every local student, and we work with Boards of Trustees to ensure the physical size and condition of their school is right for their school roll.

The Minister

The Minister of Education is responsible for the schooling network. The Minister’s priority is making sure the network is in the best shape and equipped to offer the best quality of education for every New Zealander. This means the network has a range of options to suit different circumstances and situations within communities – ages, levels, abilities, locations and cultures. Getting the balance right between good use of resources and investment is critical to what the network is able to offer. The Minister takes our advice on areas where the network needs to move and adapt with the growing needs of communities and their young people to help make this happen.

The Education Sector

To be able to offer the best quality of education for every New Zealander, the education system relies on the contribution, collaboration and support of a number of sector groups, organisations and representative bodies.

We work alongside Boards of Trustees, communities, schools, teachers, parents, caregivers, families, whānau and students – it’s a collective effort to achieve the best outcomes for students. Where there is this level of support it means the network of schools is well positioned to be able to provide access to schools and opportunities that young New Zealanders need to learn and achieve.

Communities of Learning ǀ Kāhui Ako

Communities of Learning ǀ Kāhui Ako are groups of local schools, parents, families, whānau, iwi and other groups in a particular area who work together to help all children and young people in the Kāhui Ako achieve their full potential throughout their learning pathway.

Although the network of schools doesn’t technically include Early Childhood Education (ECE), early learning services play an important part in Kāhui Ako because they know the community and the children and work collaboratively with schools to achieve the best outcomes for children and young people. This is particularly important when changes to a local school or schools are a possibility.

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