Student Rights

Free legal help for students, parents & caregivers

Your right to education

Who has a right to free state education in New Zealand?

Education Act 1989, s 3

Everyone who is a New Zealand citizen or a permanent resident here has the right to free education at state schools from their fifth birthday until the end of the year in which they turn 19.

Can I go to any state school I want?

Education Act 1989, ss 11D, 146A

No. Some schools have an “enrolment scheme”, which means you only have an automatic right to go there if you live in the school’s home zone. If the school doesn’t have an enrolment scheme, anyone can go there – see below.

Also, girls don’t have a right to go to boys-only schools, and boys don’t have a right to go to girls-only schools. For more information on how this applies to transgender or gender non-conforming students, see below.

If I have a disability, does that affect my right to education?

Education Act 1989, s 8

No. If you have special educational needs, whether because of a disability or some other reason, you have the same rights to go to state schools as other students.

see “Special education”