FAQ: Independent schools

In New Zealand, more than 30,000 children attend independent schools. Deborah James, Executive Director of Independent Schools of New Zealand, explains what independent schools are, why we have them, and why parents might choose an independent education for their children.

What are independent schools?

Independent (private) schools exist to protect parents’
right to choose the school that best meets the needs of their children. An independent school is a non-government school that is governed and managed independently but required to comply with all relevant pieces of legislation.

Independent schools are independent in:
• Philosophy: Each is driven by a unique mission.
• How they are managed and financed: Each is governed by an independent board of trustees and primarily supported through tuition payments.

The independent schools sector relieves the burden on taxpayers to meet the full cost of educating all children in the state system. The government makes a net profit from the presence of independent schools. Independent schools are highly individual, so parents can choose the school which ts their child’s personal needs or their educational philosophy.


The United Nations Declaration of Human Rights enshrines the right of parents to choose the education given to their children. In New Zealand, we’re lucky to have a diverse range of educational options, so families can meet their children’s individual needs.

Independent schools also allow for learning in different cultural, religious and pedagogical settings. Children in independent schools today come from all walks of life, and the schools are diverse and inclusive – they are not just for the privileged. All independent schools offer scholarships and bursaries where possible to provide educational opportunities to children who might not otherwise be able to attend.


Every family is different, and the reasons for choosing
a school are personal, but some reasons frequently given by independent school parents include:

• Academic results: Independent schools have proven educational achievement outcomes in the NCEA, International Baccalaureate, and Cambridge pathway qualifications.

• Smaller classes: Independent schools offer small class sizes, meaning teachers are better able to focus
on the needs of individual students.

• Teaching quality: When parents are surveyed about what in influences their choice of school, quality of teachers often tops the list. Independent schools attract talented, passionate teachers, and have clear professional growth expectations of them.

• Co-curricular activities: Independent schools offer
a huge range of activities in the sport, performing arts, outdoor education, and service areas, and employ specialist teachers in co-curricular subjects.

• Values-based education: Parents sometimes choose an independent school for its religious affiliation. Some independent schools belong to a church, while others are non-denominational.

• Community involvement: Independent schools run local, national and international community programmes. These imbue students with strong social responsibility
and commitment to serving the wider community.


Because they’re not fully funded by the state, independent schools must charge tuition fees to provide the learning environments parents expect for the children in their care. Increasingly, independent schools see extended family members contributing to school fees so parents can exercise their right to choose the best school for their child. Parents make huge sacrifices to send their children to independent schools, and in setting school fees, independent schools are mindful of the financial commitment families are making to educate their children.

To learn more about Independent schools, visit the Independent Schools of New Zealand website.

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