Private and independent schools

Postponement of Private School Reviews

Postponement of Private School reviews for the foreseeable future

You will be aware that under the Covid-19 restrictions with the closure of schools, the Education Review Office has postponed all on-site review activities. As we move into Covid Level 1 it will take some time before ERO will resume on-site reviews.

If you have received formal notification of a review due to take place this year, please set that to one side until further notice. You will be contacted once we are in a position to resume on-site reviews.

Details of our recently updated approach to reporting private school reviews are available below. This may be of general interest especially given the introduction of the new criteria for registration relating to the physical and emotional safety of students.

An overview of private school reviews and reports

ERO reviews of private schools are significantly different in process and more limited in scope and reporting than those for state and state-integrated schools.  Section 35I of the Education Act 1989 requires the Education Review Office (ERO) to review private schools and to report to the Ministry of Education on whether each school meets the criteria for registration. The schools are privately owned and the legislative requirements are significantly different to those for state and state-integrated schools.

This specific focus is shown in the report which states that the school either meets or does not meet the criteria for registration.

If a school does not meet the registration criteria, the review report provides information about the areas in which improvement is required.

Please see the two documents below for more information on the background to private school reviews and the private school report format.

Background to Private and Independent School reviews and reports (Mar 2020) (.pdf 432 KB)

Information for Private Schools: ERO’s new private school report structure (April 2020) (.pdf 112 KB)

Legislation for private school reviews

The legislation covering reviews of private schools is set out in the Education Act 1989, Sections 35A to 35I.

The scope for the reviews is determined by the Criteria for Registration set out in Section 35C of the Act which reads:

The criteria for registration as a private school under section 35A are that the school

(a) has premises that are suitable, as described in section 35D; and

(b) usually provides tuition for 9 or more students who are of or over the age of 5 years but are under the age of 16 years; and

(c) has staffing that is suitable to the age range and level of its students, the curriculum taught at the school, and the size of the school; and

(d) has equipment that is suitable for the curriculum being delivered or to be delivered at the school; and

(e) has a curriculum for teaching, learning, and assessment and makes details of the curriculum and its programme for delivery available for parents; and

(f) has suitable tuition standards, as described in section 35F; and

(g) has managers who are fit and proper persons (as described in section 35G) to be managers of a private school; and

(h) is a physically and emotionally safe place for students.

Other sections of the Act provide more detail on what is required - section 35D (suitable premises), 35F (tuition standards), and 35G (managers to be fit and proper persons).

Section 35I requires ERO to review each private school and send a copy of the review report to the Ministry of Education, showing whether the school meets the criteria for registration.

Differences from state schools

Private schools can charge fees and they are not required to follow the Government’s National Education Guidelines. This means that they do not have to follow The New Zealand Curriculum.

Instead, private schools have the freedom to choose an appropriate curriculum and they have a contract between the persons paying for the tuition of the child at the school (generally the parents) and the school’s governing body.

Additional review areas

If the school has a hostel ERO will review the hostel, and also the school’s provision for the welfare and education of international students.

Review documentation

Private Schools Assurance Statement and Self-Audit Checklists

Private Schools Assurance Statement and Self-Audit Checklists (.pdf 570 KB)

Fit and proper person attestation

Before a review, managers of private schools (the principal and each member or director of the school’s managing body) must complete a:

Other documentation

ERO will also want to see other documentation before a review to determine how well a private school meets the criteria. This may include:

  • the school’s curriculum and delivery programme, and documentation showing how information about these is made available to parents
  • copies of the attached attestation form, completed, attesting that the school’s managers are “fit and proper persons” to be managers of a private school
  • the school management’s definition of “suitable” premises, staffing, equipment and tuition standards (this may be available in the registration application documentation, prospectus, management plans or other documents)
  • school policies and procedures that provide for a physically and emotionally safe place for students
  • teacher/class timetables
  • school map
  • a staff list with delegated responsibilities, teacher registration details including expiry dates and Police vetting for non-teaching staff
  • the school prospectus or handbook for parents
  • copies of any other school policies that you believe would be helpful in the review process.

When onsite, the reviewers will ask to see:

  • information about how the school believes it is meeting the requirement for “suitable” premises, staffing, and equipment
  • information about achievement expectations (such as curriculum plans, student assessment, reporting records)
  • information to show that risks to student safety are regularly assessed and evaluated with a view to eliminating, or at least reducing, harm
  • the most recent Ministry of Education roll audit
  • attendance registers and student enrolment records
  • records of student stand-downs, suspensions, expulsions and exclusions
  • any relevant property information
  • evacuation procedures.

If your school has international students the reviewers will want to know that the school is a signatory to the  Education (Pastoral Care of International Students) Code of Practice 2016 (including 2019 amendments), complies with the Code and has attested to the New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA) Code Office accordingly.

If you school has a school hostel, a hostel assurance statement must be completed before the review.

Find out more

For more information about private/independent schools visit the Ministry of Education’s website.