Story: Private education

Page 1 – Private schools in New Zealand

Private schools in the 2000s

New Zealand’s thriving private education sector included almost 100 private schools and just over 300 state-integrated schools in the 2000s. In 2010, 4% of school-age children attended private schools and 11% attended state-integrated schools.

State-integrated and private schools

State-integrated schools are schools that were previously private and have become part of the state education system. They are government funded and teach the national curriculum. They maintain their special character, own their own land and buildings and are able to charge an attendance fee to fund work on buildings and facilities and repayment of associated debt.

Private schools (sometimes called independent schools) also receive some government funding, but most of their support is provided by school fees and endowments. They do not have to follow the national curriculum.

Catholic schools

The majority of state-integrated schools are Catholic. In 2011 the 190 Catholic primary schools and 49 secondary schools were attended by 8.7% of New Zealand’s school children. In the 2000s 10 new state-integrated Catholic schools opened, 7 closed or were merged, and others expanded their rolls. The number of pupils increased by 22% between 1992 and 2011.

Non-Catholic schools

There were about 70 non-Catholic integrated schools. Many of these were Christian, but there were also Rudolf Steiner, Montessori and Jewish schools.

Like state-integrated schools, most private schools were Christian. The older, more prestigious schools were linked to the Anglican and Presbyterian denominations. There were also many smaller, more recently established private schools with a strong Bible-based perspective, and a very few secular private schools.

What do they teach?

Most private and state-integrated schools could be loosely categorised as ‘mainstream’ in what they offered. Academic success, personal strength and wellbeing, and a sense of responsibility were the standard attributes that the schools aimed to provide. Some also offered exclusivity – the fees charged guaranteed that most of those attending would be at least well-to-do.

A less mainstream education was provided by Steiner schools, some of the Christian schools, performing-arts schools and alternative schools (such as Seven Oaks in Christchurch).

Freedom and democracy

Tamariki School in Christchurch is a ‘free school’ – pupils control their own learning, play to learn, and help make the rules and sort out disputes at whole-school meetings. Set up in 1966, Tamariki is the oldest free school in New Zealand, and one of the oldest in the world.

Primary schools were the commonest form of private and state-integrated school. There were also secondary schools, while others took students from year 1 to year 13. In the 1990s and 2000s, some private schools also opened preschools. Children who attended did not necessarily continue on to the parent school once they reached the age of five.

School fees

School fees vary: in 2011 many integrated schools charged fees of $1,500–$5,000 per year. Private schools generally charged $12,000–$19,000 per year, with boarding fees in addition. (State schools ask parents for a donation, which at secondary level was generally less than $700, and at primary level less than $200.)

A cap on funding to private schools, in place from 2000, ended in 2009 when the government increased funding from $39.8 to $49.8 million. The increase included $2.6 million for scholarships for children from low-income families.

How to cite this page:

Megan Cook. 'Private education - Private schools in New Zealand', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, updated 7-May-13
URL: http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/private-education/page-1