InsurancesafeNZ provides three different travel insurance policy categories: Studentsafe, Workersafe and Explorersafe. This means that if you’re travelling to New Zealand, travelling within New Zealand or temporarily leaving New Zealand, we have something to offer you. Use the Policy Finder to narrow your policy search and get a quote. Our website is also packed with great information on how to keep safe, how to make the most of your time abroad and how to understand your travel insurance policy better. If you need further assistance contact one of our friendly staff on our toll-free number 0800 486 004 (within NZ) or +64 9 488 1638 (outside of NZ).
Starting a new school is a big change for anyone. It’s an extra big change if your new school is also in a new country! It’s natural to feel nervous and unsure about what school in New Zealand might be like, but the good news is that most schools here are friendly, supportive environments where students of all ages are encouraged to do their best and find subjects that they are interested in.
The most common way that schools are arranged in New Zealand is primary, intermediate and secondary. Primary schools are for Year 1 to Year 6, for children aged five to ten or eleven. Intermediate school is just two years, Year 7 and Year 8, and students will be ten to thirteen. Finally, secondary school – also known as high school or college – is for Year 9 to Year 13, with students usually ranging in age from twelve to eighteen.
You may hear some adults refer to different years of schooling as ‘Form 1’ or ‘Third Form’ or other names like that. That’s just the way that the years in intermediate and secondary schools used to be known. Form 1 or First Form is the same as Year 7 – and Form 7 or Seventh Form is the same as Year 13. It’s good to know – just imagine that you’re fourteen and in Year 10 and suddenly a kind older person is asking if you’re in Fourth Form and wondering why they think you look so young!
New Zealand is generally quite a casual and informal country – and teaching is no exception. Teachers tend to be friendly and want to help their students learn and enjoy the subject, rather than forcing them to memorise facts they don’t want to learn.
At some schools, students even call teachers by their first names, which can be a big change for Kiwi kids, let alone international students! Most, though, will go by their title and family name. You can usually assume that a male teacher will be Mr Family name – with female students, they will usually tell you if they are Mrs Family name or Miss Family name – or if they prefer Ms Family name. It’s an easy mark of respect to remember which title they prefer.
There are schools of all kinds of sizes in New Zealand – so the number of students in your school will depend on which school you attend. The largest high schools have around 3000 students, with many of the more popular schools in Auckland having over 2000 students.
If you’re attending a high school in a city or large town, there could be anywhere between 150 and 500 students in your year level! You might not get to know everyone who’s at the same level as you, but you’ll start to meet and make friends with people in your classes.
As for classes, many will have around 30 students, especially for compulsory subjects. Again, the exact size will depend on the school that you are attending.
At intermediate school, most of the time everyone will study the same subjects. Subjects will usually include things like English (reading and writing), mathematics, science and technology. Often there will be drama, art and music included, and some schools may offer another language to study.
At high school, things are usually quite similar for the first two years – and then in Year 11, things change. English, mathematics and science will usually still be compulsory – but you’ll have different options for your other classes. There may be languages to choose from, social sciences like history and geography, technology, music, drama, art or design… there’s often a lot to choose from, so it can be hard to pick! Year 11 is also when formal assessment begins, with Level 1 NCEA (National Certificate of Educational Achievement – New Zealand’s secondary school qualifications).
Many schools will have compulsory English in Year 12, when you take Level 2 NCEA, with options for all other courses. By Year 13, and Level 3 NCEA, it’s typically all up to the student. Some of these rules are in place because of the requirements to get into university in New Zealand. The basic requirements for university entrance are 10 numeracy (mathematics) credits at Level 1 or above, 10 literacy (English) credits at Level 2 or above, and three Level 3 subjects.
Again, each school is different – and different subjects will also have different demands. It’s generally suggested that Year 9 students should expect up to an hour of homework each night, Year 10 students could be doing up to an hour and a half, an Year 11, 12 and 13 students should prepare for up to two hours. Some weeks you might have very little – other weeks you might have lots of projects and essays going on and be very busy indeed.
Physical education, also known as phys ed or P.E, is a compulsory part of the New Zealand curriculum up until Year 10, though many schools also make it compulsory for Year 11 students too. P.E. can include all sorts of things, from team sports to athletics to swimming to classroom-based health education classes.
School usually starts sometime between 8:20am and 9am. Many schools have form time/tutor group/home room (there different names at different schools!) right before your morning tea interval break. Your form teacher will be your contact for administrative information, and the students in your form class will often be the same people you have certain compulsory subjects with – like English or P.E.
Apart from form time your learning time is divided into periods. Some schools have four periods a day, some have seven – but the average these days seems to be five. So one day might look like:
8:40am – Period One – English
9:45am – Period Two – P.E.
10:40am – Form time
11:10am – Interval/Morning Tea
11:30am – Period Three – Social Studies
12:35pm – Period Four – Maths
1:35pm – Lunch
2:15pm – Period Five – Science
And school would finish at 3:10pm. Different days of the week have different subjects at different times.
It’s fairly likely, yes! Most secondary schools and many intermediate schools in New Zealand do have school uniforms. Often it will be a blouse or polo shirt with a skirt or kilt for girls, and a polo shirt or collar shirt with shorts or trousers for boys. Some schools are more flexible these days, allowing girls to wear trousers too. Some schools may have more formal uniforms for special occasions, with blazers and ties.
It may feel a bit boring to wear the same thing each day, but it saves you time in the morning! Many schools will have a ‘mufti day’ once a term, where you are allowed to wear your own clothes (and show off your own style) as long as you bring a gold coin donation ($1 or $2). The money raised will often go to school development projects or charities that the school supports.
Your options will be different depending on what school you go to. Sport is a big part of life in New Zealand, and most schools will have a range of different sports on offer. Rugby, cricket, netball and soccer are all really popular. Many schools will also have hockey teams, and basketball is on the rise too! There may be different racquet sports like tennis, squash and badminton on offer, and there are almost certainly athletics and cross country teams for keen runners.
Many schools also have different music options. There may be choirs, orchestras, concert bands, stage bands, string ensembles… basically, if you sing or play an instrument, there will be a place for you to do it alongside other people. There are even schools with programmes for students who want to learn to play and sing in rock and pop bands, with a huge competition each year called RockQuest where high school bands compete against each other!
Drama and dance might also be on offer. While drama is often a classroom subject too, there are often other activities like performances for Shakespeare festivals and the opportunity to perform in a school musical. For people who think they can be clever, funny and quick, some schools even offer improvisation or theatre sports.
And one really great option for you if you’re interested in getting to know New Zealand’s traditional culture better is kapa haka! Most schools will have a kapa haka, or Māori cultural performance, group – and many will compete at Polyfest each year. Polyfest is the largest Polynesian festival in the world, and as well as kapa haka groups, there are stages for groups from Tonga, Sāmoa, Niue, Fiji, the Cook Islands and Niue. And in more recent times, they’ve added a ‘diversity’ stage, where other cultural groups can bring their performances – everything from Indian to Korean to Thai and many other cultures too! So even if you’re not sure about kapa haka, perhaps you can help make a new group with your cultural background.