1) The law requires that every person in New Zealand who is not an international student must be enrolled in and attending a registered school (primary or secondary) from their 6th birthday until their 16th birthday.
2) If a family who's child is otherwise required to attend school wishes to home educate, then they must apply for an exemption from the attendance requirement (aka a "home education exemption"). How to do that is fully explained in my guide HERE or you can see more information on the Ministry of Education's website HERE.
The phrase "not an international student" is important to understand....
- People who are international students do not have to attend school here, though they can under some circumstances, but will usually have to pay (high) fees. People who are not international students are known as "domestic students."
- Those with domestic student status are entitled to a "free" education through our public schools, and subject to the enrollment requirements outlined above.
- People who are NZ citizens (including those from the Cook Islands, Niue and Tokelau) or residents have "domestic student status" automatically, as do Australian citizens living in New Zealand (due to agreements with those countries currently in force).
- Other people in New Zealand may be "required to be treated as if they are not international students" depending in the visa they hold and their situation in New Zealand. In other words, if they fit one of the categories, then they are treated as domestic students and are subject to the requirements to enroll in and attend school, or gain a home education exemption, if between 6 and 16 years of age.
- A full list of the definitions and categories of those who are to be treated as domestic students can be found in the NZ Gazette HERE.
It is a long list. For quick reference, here is a paraphrased summary of the general scenarios where the child would have domestic student status and therefore need an exemption (be sure to check exact details in the Gazette):
- A child who has a student visa, and who is the dependent of a person who is a NZ citizen or resident and who's own application for residency or citizenship is currently being considered by Immigration NZ.
- A child who has a student visa, and who's parent/guardian has a current work visa for NZ
- A child with a student visa who has entered NZ for the purposes of adoption
- A child with a student visa who's parent/guardian is here on a military visa, as a recognized refugee or someone who has made a claim to be recognized as a refugee, or who is here to study under certain schemes.
- A child in the custody of the Ministry of Social Development (our version of Child Services) under certain orders
- A child with a student or visitor's visa here on an approved exchange program
- A child who has been confirmed as the victim of trafficking, and who has an unexpired temporary visa
- A child who is protected by diplomatic immunity
- A child who is unlawfully in NZ but holds unexpired approval from the Ministry of Education confirming they meet certain criteria
An anomaly in the policy.....
Proving domestic student status when applying for an exemption
If appropriate evidence is not submitted with the exemption application, Ministry staff will not begin processing the application until it is provided.
Understanding the national student database aka "ENROL" and time-limited statuses
If you apply for a home education exemption on the basis of domestic student status under a category that is time limited, then the expiry date will be loaded into the database, and when that date approaches, you can expect to be contacted by your local MoE office asking you to provide proof of updated/ongoing status (eg new visa).
A time-limited domestic student status is one that has a specific expiry date, as listed in the Gazette definitions - for example a student who has a student visa and is the dependent of a person with a work visa remains a domestic student until the end of the year in which the work visa expires.
Know your rights and obligations
- If your child's domestic student status is time-limited, then you need to make sure you provide the Ministry of Education with updated information in a timely manner, or your child's exemption could be "ceased" which may require a new exemption application in order to continue home educating.
- Be aware that the time limit under law may be different than that the Ministry try to enact - in this case, know your rights. Here's a real-life example that happened recently:
- If you should take your child overseas after an exemption has been granted, DO inform your regional Ministry office of when you will be travelling, and DO make sure they have an address to send the next 6-monthly declaration form to, but DO NOT cancel or return your exemption certificate, as under current law, once granted the exemption remains in effect until the child turns 16, or is enrolled in a registered school (other than for a trial of less than 10 weeks - see HERE), or the exemption is revoked/ceased by your request or by the MoE (only under certain circumstances). Going overseas, even for years, does not cancel the exemption, and if you return to NZ in the future, you can simply call and have them reactivate your child on the ENROL database with no need for a new exemption application. More info HERE
- Once your child's exemption is approved, you are required (as are all home educating parents) to complete and return a 6 monthly declaration that you have been and will continue to home educate your child, so DO make sure you keep the MoE informed if you change addresses. If you do not send in the declaration, and do not respond to the reminder they then send, they will cease your exemption. If you choose to, you are also entitled to receive the government paid Supervisory Allowance. See HERE.