Considering, proposing and establishing an enrolment scheme

When the Ministry or a board becomes concerned about a school’s roll, capacity and the potential for overcrowding, an enrolment scheme might be considered as a response to growth (if the school does not already have one). Schools must abide by the requirements stated in the Education Act when preparing a scheme.

Level of compliance Main audience Other



  • Boards
  • Principals and Tumuaki
  • Administrators
  • Parents, Caregivers and Whānau

Sections 11A-11Q of the Education Act 1989 must be abided by when a school prepares an enrolment scheme.

Note: The Education and Training Act 2020 is making some changes to the way enrolment schemes are developed and operated. These changes will be in effect from 1 January 2021, and the advice on this page will be updated. Until the end of 2020, the enrolment scheme provisions in the Education Act 1989 (ss11A-11Q) still apply. For more information about the changes, see development and consultation of school enrolment schemes.

Background - enrolment schemes

Schools are not required to have an enrolment scheme unless overcrowding might be an issue and the Ministry directs them to develop one.

Boards need to consider current and future student numbers when developing enrolment schemes. These numbers should be monitored against the physical capacity that the school has available (or the maximum roll for those types of schools that have them).

If a state school does not have an enrolment scheme, any student can enrol and attend that school provided there are no other criteria applied to their application (there might be if it is a state-integrated school or a designated character school, or their enrolment might be turned down if they are currently excluded or expelled).

Roles and responsibilities

To ensure a balanced school network, boards monitor their school rolls and the Ministry monitors and analyses enrolments across the network of schools.

The Education Act 1989 is very specific in regards to the obligations and responsibilities of boards and the Ministry when developing and operating enrolment schemes.

See Enrolment schemes – Roles and responsibilities 

The Education Act 1989

The Education Act requires that an enrolment scheme:

  • enables students to attend a reasonably convenient school
  • as far as possible, excludes no more students than necessary to avoid overcrowding
  • makes the best use of existing networks of state schools
  • ensures the selection of applicants for enrolment is carried out in a fair and transparent way
  • as far as possible, not exclude local students.

The Act also requires that an enrolment scheme must contain:

  • a home zone with clearly defined geographic boundaries
  • zone boundaries that touch or overlap the boundaries of the home zone of any adjacent state school that has an enrolment scheme (unless there is a school in between that does not operate one)
  • a home zone drawn in such a way that every student within its boundaries can attend a reasonably convenient school
  • evidence of consultation with:
    • parents and caregivers of students at the school
    • people living in the area for which the school is reasonably convenient
    • current and prospective students of the school
    • Boards of Trustees of other schools that could be affected by the enrolment scheme proposal.

Before approving a home zone, we need to be satisfied it meets the above requirements.

Enrolment schemes for other types of schools

State-integrated schools, Kura Kaupapa Māori and designated character schools can have an enrolment scheme to manage their rolls, though enrolment schemes at these types of schools do not need to include a home zone or ballot.

Types of schools

  • A state-integrated school has to cater for students whose parents or caregivers meet the school’s special character requirements. If there is room left for other students, the school is able to enrol a small number of non-preference students who do not meet the special character requirements. Every state-integrated school has a maximum roll that it must not exceed.

  • Kura Kaupapa Māori are a type of designated character school that teach in te reo Māori and operate in accordance with Te Aho Matua. Kura Kaupapa Māori accept enrolments from those who accept their aims, purposes and objectives. They also have maximum rolls that they must not exceed.

  • A designated character school (other than a kura kaupapa Māori) is a state school with a particular character that is different from ordinary state schools but which can also restrict enrolments to the children of parents who accept the school’s aims, purposes and objectives. It also has a maximum roll that it must not exceed.

Implementing enrolment schemes in each school

  • Sections 11A and 11PA of the Education Act 1989 refer to enrolment schemes of ordinary state schools.

  • Section 11PB of the Act sets out the modifications that apply to state integrated schools, Kura Kaupapa Māori and other designated character schools. Provisions specific to these types of schools are outlined under section 11PB.

The main priority

If a state school does not have an enrolment scheme, all enrolments from all students who apply to enrol must be accepted, regardless of where they live.

When an enrolment scheme is proposed to manage overcrowding, it means enrolments from students who live inside the school’s home zone must be accepted. Enrolments from students who live outside the home zone may be accepted if there are out-of-zone places available and an application meets requirements.

To be able to do this, boards at state schools keep an eye on the number of applications received from in-zone students, to help them determine the places they might have available for out-of-zone students once all in zone enrolments are accepted.

‘Local’ and ‘reasonably convenient’

The requirements for enrolment schemes are set out in sections 11A-11Q of the Education Act 1989. Under the Act, an enrolment scheme of a state school must, as far as is possible, ensure that it does not exclude local students.

A ‘reasonably convenient school’ is defined as meaning a state school that a reasonable person living in the area in which the school is situated would judge to be reasonably convenient for a particular student, taking into account the student’s age, the distance to be travelled, the time likely to be spent travelling, the reasonably available modes of travel, common public transport routes and relevant traffic hazards.

The meaning may vary depending on whether the school is:

  • a single sex or co-educational school
  • an ordinary state school, a Kura Kaupapa Māori, a designated character school, a state-integrated school, or a specialist school
  • a primary, intermediate, secondary, or compositeschool.

When developing an enrolment scheme, the above interpretation of ‘reasonably convenient’ is used by boards of trustees to help determine the boundaries of the school’s home zone, in order to be able to differentiate between the enrolment applications of students living inside and outside the home zone.

A ‘reasonably convenient’ school might not be the one that is closest to where you live.

Home zones

A home zone is a clearly defined geographical area around a school. The home zone is usually presented as a map and described in a way that makes it easy to identify any address as being inside or outside the zone.

  • Students who live inside the home zone are guaranteed a place at the school.
  • Students who live outside the home zone can apply to enrol but acceptance of their application is subject to places being available to them.
  • If there are places available, but more applications received than places, their acceptance is subject to the outcome of a pre-enrolment process – a ballot.

Consulting the community and network

When approving enrolment schemes or a change to a scheme, the Ministry must be satisfied that boards have met their consultation responsibilities as outlined under section 11H of the Education Act.

Exploring options for an enrolment scheme requires an open, community-focused, network-wide approach. Community engagement and formal consultations are critical parts of the decision making process because they ensure a strong foundation for informed decision making, understanding decisions and having trust and confidence in decision making.

Boards must ensure that anyone in their community who might be impacted by an enrolment scheme understands what the implications might mean for them and is kept well informed whenever any aspect of a scheme changes. Everyone must have access to up-to-date relevant and factual information when they need it and be aware of the opportunities they have to share their views on a proposed change.

The Education Act 1989 requires community engagement when developing enrolment schemes.

As outlined in Section 11H of the Education Act, boards of trustees are required to formally consult with: 

1. the parents of the students at the school
2. the people living in the area for which the school is reasonably convenient
3. the students and prospective students of the school (depending on their age and maturity)
4. the boards of other schools that could be affected by the proposed scheme.

Early learning services

The network of schools does not include early learning services, but our planning for growth in the network takes early childhood education (ECE) roll data into account to make sure nearby primary schools are ready for any potential increase in enrolment numbers.

Boards should factor early learning services into their planning conversations when a new enrolment scheme, or a change to an existing one, is proposed. This is because introducing a scheme could influence the decision-making of parents, caregivers, families and whānau when they are considering early learning options, which would then have flow-on effects for local primary schools in the network further down the track.

Steps to initiate an enrolment scheme

Boards cannot start developing an enrolment scheme until the Ministry has given them permission to do so.

1. The Ministry will instruct the school in writing that an enrolment scheme is required. This instruction typically happens as part of initial discussions about roll growth.
2. If a board is slow to develop an enrolment scheme (within a reasonable time period), or is not taking steps to implement one, Section 11IA of the Education Act allows the Ministry to develop an enrolment scheme on their behalf. Direction as to when to implement the scheme will be given.

Reviewing and amending an enrolment scheme

Boards review the need for their enrolment scheme either on a yearly basis, or every two to three years. All boards with an enrolment scheme must complete a review of its operation every year before 1 May, or as specified by us. We will remind boards when reviews are due, and support the process.

As part of their review process, boards are required to assess whether there is still a need for the scheme or if the scheme requires amendment. They then seek our approval of their recommendation. Sometimes if we agree the scheme should continue, the board of trustees may be exempted from the annual review process for up to three years.

Examples of situations that might impact your school’s enrolment scheme include:

  • a nearby school might be introducing their own enrolment scheme or have had in zone growth if they already have one
  • a new housing development might be planned for land nearby
  • changes to public transport routes
  • a major upgrade to a road.

Amendments to an enrolment scheme usually require similar consultation as to implement a scheme. We support boards in this process.

[1]Education Act 1989, s11PB Enrolment schemes of certain State schools

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

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