Types of schools    Unit Standards    Achievement Standards    Scholarship    School Organisation   
Board of Trustees    Syllabus    Discipline    Teacher Pay    Teacher Qualifications    Teaching Conditions

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Education in New Zealand

Please remember, that these web pages are all written from the perspective of a secondary school immigrant teacher.  Any mistakes are my own, and for any incorrect details in other areas of education, I apologise in advance.

In general, all state provided primary and secondary education in New Zealand is free.
There is however a request for a voluntary donation of varying amounts to provide extras for the students.  
These extras are normally activities and other extra-curricular events, but most schools depend on this donation to provide at least part of the funds for running the school..

Although most students attend state-funded schools, parents, caregivers and students have other options.

Primary Education is provided for Years 1 - 6. (Approx. Age 5 - 10)
Intermediate Schools are for Years 7 & 8        (Approx, Age 11 - 12)
Secondary Schools are for Years 9 - 13         (Approx. Age  13 - 18)

In rural areas, the schools may follow the Primary/Intermediate/Secondary model, with small local Primaries, and the pupils being bussed to a more distant centralised Secondary.

Other rural areas use an Area School model, which is really a small combined Primary/Intermediate/Secondary.

Rural (and other) schools often use some Correspondence School courses to help them fill out to a fuller syllabus.

The secondary curriculum is undergoing a considerable revision at the moment, and until we have actually implemented it, I would refer you to TKI for further information.

Pupils at secondary school used to work towards a School Certificate (School Cert.) similar to the old Scottish qualification.
Now, they work towards a National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA) at Levels 1 to 3, sometimes Level 4

Achieving an NCEA depends not just on total credits (explained later) but a particular mix of credits which must include literacy and numeracy credits.
Credits are gained through passes achievements in either Internal or External assessments.

There are two main types of assessments.
Unit Standards (all internal)
Achievement Standards (a mix of Internal and External)

Unit Standards (US)
Coming from Scotland, and remembering my training in Teaching College in the 90s (1990s, I'm not really that old), I had a really strange feeling of déjà vu.
I had seen this type of approach before....NVQ Modules!

A National Standard descriptor is produced by the New Zealand Qualification Authority (NZQA), and it is the responsibility of each teacher (in reality the Head of Faculty (equivalent to the Scottish Principal Teacher)) to produce an assessment and a marking schedule compliant with the standard..
These can also be bought commercially.

These US can be achieved at Level 1 through 4 at secondary school level, and they are also available throughout all New Zealand's tertiary and vocational education system, up to Level 6.

Each US is given an NZQA Level and a number of credits.  For example, US 107 (Apply language and text processing skills to produce communications) is assessed at Level 2, and if successful, the candidate will be awarded 5 credits at Level 2.
The students either achieve or fail to achieve.  There is no differentiation in the achievement.

Achievement Standards (AS) These are more complex to assess and teach than US, as they have to be awarded in 4 grades; Not Achieved, Achieved, Merit and Excellence.
Descriptors are available from the NZQA, but there are more  teaching and assessment tools available.  See TKI
Each AS is also given a Level and Credit value, and as mentioned before, can be Internal or External.

University Entrance (UE) In addition to students gaining a NCEA at the various levels, if they wish to gain entry to a University, then they must attain a certain combination of credits at Level 3, totalling at least 42 Credits, and including both literacy and numeracy credits.

Scholarship Is an additional award which students may apply for via examination.  Various rewards are linked to this exam.

Some schools (mostly private) also offer the International Baccalaureate and/or International Cambridge A Levels.

Syllabus Most secondary schools in New Zealand have a similar syllabus, offering a range of courses in the following eight areas;
Arts, Technology, Mathematics, English, Social Studies, Physical Education, Languages, Maori and Sciences.
Each of the faculties offer a range of courses inside each learning area.  For example Technology can offer:
Hard Materials, Computer Aided Design, Graphics, Textile Technology, Home Economics.
ICT can be within Technology, or as is becoming the norm, a separate entity.

The Year 9s (youngest year group) normally cover all Faculty areas in their first year, with the only choice probably being in Languages (French, Japanese, Te Reo Maori). All the technology areas are visited via a rotation.

Year 10s begin to specialise, opting for an Arts/Technology choice. Some schools offer the first National Assessments at this stage.
The pupils cannot be awarded any NZQA achievements at this year level, but any achieved internally can be 'banked' for their next year.

Year 11s are now on a senior timetable, with between 4 and 6 subjects available to be chosen. (Depends on school and ability)
Most subjects are taught and assessed at Level 1, some at Level 1 & 2

Year 12s continue with their Year 11 choices (usually).  Most subjects are taught at Level 2, some at Level 3.

Year 13s continue with their Year 12 choices (usually).  Most subjects are taught at Level 2 or 3, some at Level 4.

Pupils can, under some circumstances, stay at school until 21, repeating Year 13.

Adults can be admitted to classes as students.  It is unusual, but not unheard of.

The Course Levels are variable, dependant on pupil ability.

In general it is useful to compare the Levels as:
NZQA Level SQA Level (Scotland) QCA (England, N.Ireland and Wales)
1 Access II/Intermediate I GCSE
2 Intermediate I/Intermediate II GCSE/AS Level
3 Higher AS/A Level
4 Advanced Higher A Level

There are however variations between these comparisons, indeed, there are variations between Levels in the NZQA qualifications.
Level 1 in computing, (US101 Develop and use keyboarding skills to enter text) is considerably easier to attain then almost any of the English Level 1 qualifications.
Level 4 in computing (US18742 Create and operate a relational database to provide a solution for an organisation) is considerably more complex than a Level 4 in Chemistry.  (It's also slightly more difficult(in practice, not the theory component) than the equivalent Advanced Higher on the SQA)

School Structure
Very similar to a Scottish (and I believe, English) structure, with variations.
This is a simplified diagram, with many ancillary and support staff not shown.

One layer of the structure is not shown, as it does not normally impact on the day to day running of the school.  

The Board of Trustees (BOT) is an elected body entrusted with the overall governance of the school.
This is no rubber stamping group, as under the New Zealand system, each school is awarded a sum of money, based primarily on pupil numbers, which is used to run the school.

This operations grant pays for practically everything used in everyday activities, with the notable exclusion of teacher's salaries and some of the building maintenance.

The BOT, which includes the Principal and a staff representative, establish the school's priorities and allocate monies through an annual budget.
They also (or at least a representative) sit on employment interview panels for HOF and above, and on disciplinary panels in cases of severe professional misconduct.

They form the main committees running Finance, Building and Student Discipline (more on this last one later)
The BOT represent the local community's interest in their school, and a well-running board will, with the Principal, ensure that the school meets the communities needs and expectations.

The BOT is supposed to focus on the long term governance of the school, not the day to day management, which is left to the Principal and his management team.  Occasionally,  BOT and Principal will disagree to such an extent that the school can no longer operate efficiently.  This is a rare occurrence, but it does happen. The Minister of Education can intervene, and appoint a statutory manager or Principal, or can even dismiss an interfering or non-functional Board.

This overall structure has advantages and disadvantages over the Scottish and UK systems.



Every school has some problem pupils, and even normally good students can go off the rails, so every school needs a discipline policy.
Internal school procedures will vary, but there are overall guidelines from the MOE and laws from Parliament.

Corporal punishment is illegal in NZ schools.

Caning was abolished in 1989, and although almost all NZ schools complied with the legislation and introduced non-violent consequences, some schools of a special character managed to circumvent this by bringing in the parents/caregivers of the student to administer some form of corporal punishment.
The passing of the controversial anti-smacking bill in 2007 closed this loophole.

Schools vary in day to day usage of punishment and rewards, but at elevated levels of misbehaviour, the following disciplinary methods can be employed by the Principal and his Senior Management Team (SMT)
A fourth type of action has also become an option.  The first 3 mentioned above are all obvious disciplinary actions, e.g. A pupil breaks a school rule and receives an appropriate punishment, awarded by the school management.  The fourth type is not primarily a punishment, but is rather a form of restorative justice, using Section 27 of the Education Act.  The student is removed from school for up to 5 days, and during this time, a conference is arranged with all interested parties.  The objective of the conference is to investigate the facts which led to the removal, discussion with the pupil, family and staff, agreement of all parties to the next steps, and finally returning the pupil to normal school attendance.  It really differs from the traditional system, in that it is not a "punishment" system, but a means of restoring the mutual respect of student and teaching staff.  It does work in many cases, but the older system of Stand Down etc. is still needed for those pupils who do not accept that they have done anything remotely wrong.

As with many schools in the UK, high levels of truancy can be a problem.
Many schools employ support staff to chase up the absent pupil's parents/caregivers, either through phone calls, letters or e-mails.
Schools are now being encouraged to use sections 31(7) and (8) of the Education Act 1989 to prosecute parents/caregivers through the courts.

Teachers in NZ have about the same status as teachers in England.  Overworked, underpaid and  overlooked.  
We have great holidays, but after teaching 600 kids a week for four10 week terms, we need as much rest as we can get.
Salaries in NZ are generally lower than the UK equivalent, and teaching is no exception.

New Zealand Pay Rates English Pay Rates Scottish Pay Rates
Salary Step Current rate in NZ Dollars Current rates in Sterling (0.406) Current rates in Sterling (0.406) Current rate in NZ Dollars Current rates in Sterling (0.406) Current rate in NZ Dollars
1 $27,737 £11,261 £20,133 $49,588 £20,427 $50,312
2 $28,943 £11,751 £21,726 $53,512 £24,501 $60,347
3 $31,356 £12,731 £23,472 $57,812 £25,956 $63,931
4 $33,767 £13,709 £25,278 $62,261 £27,432 $67,566
5 $37,384 £15,178 £27,270 $67,167 £29,025 $71,490
6 $41,002 £16,647 £29,427 $72,480 £30,864 $76,019
7 $42,209 £17,137 £31,878 $78,517 £32,583 $80,253
8 $44,018 £17,871 £33,060 $81,428
9 $46,429 £18,850 £34,281 $84,435
10 $50,048 £20,319
11 $53,665 £21,788
12 $58,610 £23,796
13 $60,660 £24,628
14 $63,776 £25,893

Entry into the NZ pay rate is dependant on qualifications and experience. See the PPTA for more details.

In addition to the base salary, extra pay can be awarded for extra duties, as a Dean (Guidance teacher), Specialist Classroom Teacher, or as a Head or Assistant Head of a Faculty (HOF).  The extra payments are of two main types, Management Units(MU) and Middle Management Allowance (MMA).
As of  now (March 2008), a MU is worth $3650 per annum, and an MMA is worth $1000.
The MU can be permanent (assigned to a teacher, normally a HOF or assistant HOF) or fixed term (assigned to a position, Dean etc.)
The MU can be assigned in multiples, with Deans and Assistant HOFs generally getting 1 MU, HOFs getting between 2 and 5 MU, depending on size of Faculty and any extra responsibilities.

MMAs are generally distributed amongst all staff with any extra duties/responsibilities below the management team level.

To give you some idea of the pay differentials between NZ and UK for those in the leadership groups, here's an example.
(The equivalent salaries are only approximate, due to the different criteria/duties in each country
An experienced HOF with 4 staff (2 MU + 1 MMA)
NZ England Scotland
$72,076 £29,262 $112,880 £45,830 $106,352 £43,179

Nobody ever said teachers do it to get rich, especially in New Zealand

I have not compared Principals and Deputy Principals salaries, as this site is primarily designed for immigrants and possible immigrants, and it is highly unlikely that a new immigrant teacher would be considered for a senior management role "just off the plane".

Teacher's Qualifications
In the past, teachers were able to have been appointed by the Principal or BOT without having any formal qualifications.
These days, NZ, like most of W. Europe and the "First World" has regulations in place which preclude non-qualified or non-registered teachers from taking up appointments in the school system.

There are some hangovers from the previous ad-hoc system however, as many schools still use non-qualified individuals as relief teachers (cover for short term teacher illness), and some teachers in technology areas. having taught for many, many years, can take some examinations/assessments, moving their experience gained skills into the rarefied heights of academe.

The initial qualifications held by a new teacher will decide where on the pay scale (above) their pay rate will commence, and also how far up the scale they will be allowed to progress.  There is normally plenty of encouragement and support for all staff to progress through more qualifications, either via a part time release system, or through a longer term sabbatical leave.  Many teachers gain a Masters in Education while still employed as a teacher.

One unfortunate effect of the Kiwi predilection to "the bodge job" (see number 8 wire) is appointing a teacher with a speciality/qualification in one subject, but timetabling them to teach another, in an often completely unrelated  faculty area.
In Scotland, by Law, a teacher must possess a relevant degree, a post graduate teaching qualification in the speciality, which will allow them to teach only in that area.

The Kiwi system does allow for schools to function with a lower teacher/pupil ratio, as it is rare for a teacher to have any extra "free periods" during a normal week, but as an example, one of my colleagues teaches ICT, French, English and Social Studies...all in 1 week.

Nowadays, a teacher needs to possess a Teaching Council (TC) registration as well as a degree and post grad. teaching qualification to get a job as a teacher in a NZ school.
Registration is of three main types.  Provional, Subject to Confirmation and Full.
A Limited Authority to Teach is also available, mostly of a short duration.
Registration has to be renewed every three years at a cost (2008) of  $120

(More details on the acquisition of TC registration in the section on Immigration)

Teaching Conditions
These are very similar to those in the UK.

There are normally 4 terms in each school year (comparable with the calander year), each of approximately 10 weeks.  School term dates are available from the Ministry of Education (MOE)

There are two week holidays between each of the terms, with a longer 6-7 week break in summer, between the school years.
Schools run a five day week, Monday to Friday.  Times vary slightly, but a common example would be 8:45 to 15:00.
The number of periods taught each day will vary from school to school, from 4 to 8, with breaks for tea and lunch.

Unlike Scotland, each teacher is expected to perform some extra-classroom pupil supervision (duties) before school starts, during tea, lunch and after school.
(We stop the little angels from committing mayhem on each other and on school, or other property)

Scottish teachers managed (during the last big industrial action ) to remove their obligations of non-classroom supervision, and I hope we Kiwis do it soon.
It's no fun, missing tea or half of your lunch time.

Animated GIFs courtesy of http://www.freefever.com/