School started again today

The 4th term for primary and secondary schools started today after a two-week break. The end of the school year is December 18th for primary schools and December 16th for secondary schools. Then, students have a 6-week summer holiday.

Students in Years 11, 12 and 13 have NCEA exams and these start November 6th, 9th or 10th depending on the year level and the subject choice. The last exams are December 4th although most students finish before that. Schools usually give their students a week at home to study before their first exam so classes for these students finish at the end of this month. It is a stressful time, especially for those students who have never sat an external examination before.


• primary school – elementary school (US), Years 1 to 8
• secondary school – high school, Years 9 to 13 (compare: tertiary level – 3rd level e.g. university, polytechnic, training after school graduation)
• NCEA – National Certificate in Educational Achievement
• external exam – not their own school exam; NCEA exams are the same throughout all New Zealand


1. Do you think external exams are a good way to measure students’ knowledge?
2. In New Zealand, children start school on their 5th birthday. What age do children start school in your country?
3. In New Zealand, schools have 3 holidays of 2 weeks each and one 6-week summer holiday. How does this compare with your country?
4. A usual school day is 9am to 3pm for primary schools and maybe 8.30am to 3.30 for secondary. How does this compare with your country?
5. If you have personal experience of schools in New Zealand, what things do you like and what do you dislike?

Grammar note: a break of two weeks but a two-week break (no ‘s’ when an adjective)

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