Back to school

This week schools start again, but they do not all start on the same day. Schools can choose their own start day for term 1, between dates set by the Ministry of Education. This year term 1 can begin any day between 29th January at the earliest and 7th February at the latest. However, term 1 ends for all schools on Friday 12th April. The dates for terms 2 and 3 are also fixed – term 2 is from Monday 29th April to Friday 5th July, and term 3 is from 22nd July to 27th September. Term 4 starts on 14th October and ends no later than 20th December. That means that schools can also choose their end date for the year, depending on the number of half-days (mornings and afternoons) that they are open. The Ministry of Education requires schools to be open a certain number of half-days: for primary and intermediate schools that is a minimum of 384 half-days in 2024, and for secondary schools the minimum is 380 half-days.

The beginning of the school year can be a difficult time for parents because they have to buy new uniforms and equipment for their children. Schools give lists of stationery – exercise books, pens and pencils – which students need for the year, and many students at high schools need a laptop as well. These costs add up, particularly if a family has more than one child. The charity KidsCan supports over 1000 schools by providing breakfasts and lunches, and some clothes such as jackets and shoes. KidsCan report that demand is higher this year than in the last five years, so more schools are on their waitlist for support. They say that some families are having to choose between paying rent, buying food, and paying for the things needed for school. They also say that some young people who are still at school are working part-time to help their families with living costs.

This year there are some changes for the education sector. The new government is planning to review the curriculum, with the aim of improving literacy and numeracy achievement. It has already announced that from term 1, primary and intermediate schools are expected to teach reading, writing and maths for one hour each, every day. Then from term 2, students will not be allowed cell phones in classrooms during the school day. However, each school will have to work out how to implement this ban on cell phones.

For more information about schools in New Zealand, listen to Back to School and School starts this week.


minimum – the smallest number needed or allowed

uniform – clothes that all children at one school wear, or all the workers at one organisation

charity – an organisation that gives money, things or help to people who need it

curriculum – the subjects that are taught in schools

literacy – the ability to read and write numeracy – the ability to count and do simple maths