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Alternative education

Alternative education provides educational and pastoral support for students who have disengaged from mainstream schooling. As a short term intervention, alternative education re-engages students in a meaningful learning programme targeted to their individual needs and supports them to transition back to mainstream school, further education, training or employment.

Alternative education supports students to progress in the areas of:

  • attendance and engagement
  • academic achievement
  • personal and social skills based on the key competencies within the New Zealand Curriculum 
  • re-engagement back into secondary school, further education or training, or where appropriate, employment, through a planned approach.

He tini ngā whetū e ngaro i te kapua iti.
      Many stars cannot be concealed by a small cloud.


Target student group

Alternative education caters for students between 13 and 15 years of age who have disengaged from mainstream schooling.

To be eligible for alternative education, the student needs to meet one of the following criteria:

  • out of a registered school for two terms or more.
  • excluded and enrolment is refused by local schools (including a history of stand-downs or suspension in the past two years).
  • has dropped out of Te Kura after enrolment in either category 1 or 2.
  • absent for at least half of the last 20 school weeks for reasons other than illness and the absence has meant they are unable to maintain a mainstream programme.
  • has multiple suspensions and risks further suspension.
  • at any one time 20% of students do not have to fit one of the first five categories above but in the professional opinion of the school alternative education is the best option for the student.

Students can remain enrolled in alternative education until the end of the year in which they turned 16. In exceptional circumstances students may stay in alternative education past the age of 16 at the discretion of the Director of Education.


Funding and operation

Managing schools are contracted by the Ministry of Education to provide alternative education. The managing school holds the contracted funds and manages any subcontracted third parties to deliver alternative education. The managing school is responsible for the final decision to approve or decline a referral into alternative education.

Enrolling schools refer students to alternative education. The enrolling school maintains educational and pastoral responsibility for students while they are enrolled in their school and are attending alternative education, as per the National Education Guidelines (NEGs) and National Administration Guidelines (NAGs). The enrolling school is responsible for the student’s educational success, including their achievement results.

A provider may be subcontracted by the managing school to deliver alternative education on their behalf and is responsible for supporting students to achieve their Individual Learning Plan goals.


Recording alternative education students on ENROL

The enrolling school must keep the student on their school roll if a student is attending alternative education. This enrolling school records this in ENROL by ticking the ‘attending off-site’ flag and choosing ‘alternative education’ as the unit type. It is important to note that schools can only count an alternative education student on one school’s roll. 

Schools cannot count alternative education students as regular students as the Ministry funds alternative education student places through a separate contract agreement.



Each student in alternative education will be supported by an Individual Learning Plan (ILP). The ILP is developed by the enrolling school in partnership with the student, their whanau and the alternative education tutors. The ILP outlines learning goals relevant to the student’s individual needs. At a minimum, the ILP must include attendance goals, wellbeing goals, goals related to the key competencies outlined in the New Zealand Curriculum, numeracy and literacy goals and transition goals. The ILP must be reviewed and updated regularly, a minimum of once every term.

Download the suggested Individual Learning Plan template:

Word 2007 icon. Alternative Education template Individual Learning Plan (Word 2007 707 KB)


Students enrolled in alternative education are able to be dual enrolled at Te Aho o Te Kura Pounamu – The Correspondence School (Te Kura) and may access up to four subjects. This is funded by the Ministry of Education.


Alternative Education Guidance

The Alternative Education Guidance (updated 2019) provides practical information on the Ministry’s policies related to providing an alternative education programme. The guidance includes information on referral and entry, recording enrolment and attendance, transitioning out of alternative education, contract management, good practice (including pedagogical leadership), legal obligations and links to cross government tools and support.

Download the most recent version of Alternative Education Guidance:

PDF icon. Alternative Education Guidance (PDF 771 KB)

The 2019 version is an update of the Alternative Education Guidelines 2017–2018.


Forms and templates

The following templates and forms support the provision of alternative education.

Entry Assessment and case conference information sheet

The assessment form checks the eligibility of students to attend AE. To be completed by enrolling school at point of referral. The case conference information sheet records case conference minutes which are required for all referrals. To be completed by enrolling and managing schools.

Word 2007 icon. Entry Assessment and case conference information sheet (Word 2007 73 KB)


Application to remain in alternative education past 16 years of age

For students who would benefit from remaining in alternative education past 16 years. To be completed by enrolling and managing schools and approved by the Ministry of Education.

Word 2007 icon. Application to remain in alternative education past 16 years of age (Word 2007 50 KB)


Pedagogical Leadership Plan

Records how a managing school will provide pedagogical leadership to alternative education tutors. 

Word 2007 icon. Pedagogical Leadership Plan (Word 2007 47 KB)


Developed by managing school, pedagogical leader and AE provider.


Contract monitoring and reporting 

Monthly Status Report

Monitors entry and exit of alternative education students. To be completed every month by provider or managing school.

Word 2007 icon. Monthly Status Report (Word 2007 15 KB)


Alternative Education Annual Report template

Word 2007 icon. Alternative Education Annual Report template (Word 2007 23 KB)


Alternative Education Midyear Report template

There is a contractual requirement for managing schools to report on outcomes and student achievement and to ensure accountability for public funds.

Excel 2007 icon. Alternative Education Midyear Report template (Excel 2007 28 KB)

To be completed by managing school.


More information


Managing schools providing alternative education:

Tai Tokerau Taranaki, Whanganui, Manawatu
Dargaville High School   Hawera High School  
Kaitaia College   Opunake High School  
Kamo High School   Palmerston North Boys’ High School  
Okaikau College   Patea Area School  
Otamatea College   Rangitikei College  
Taipa Area School   Ruapehu College  
  Spotswood College  
Auckland Stratford High School  
Aorere College   Whanganui High School  
Green Bay High School    
James Cook High School   Wellington
Kaipara College   Chanel College  
Mt Albert Grammar School   Dannevirke High School  
Onehunga High School   Heretaunga College  
Orewa College   Kapiti College  
  Kuranui College  
Waikato Makoura College  
Coromandel Area School   Manawatu College  
Forest View High School   Naenae College  
Hillcrest High School   Otaki College  
Huntly College   Porirua College  
Kawhia School   Tararua College  
Matamata College   Wainuiomata High School  
Melville High School   Wairarapa College  
Mercury Bay Area School   Wellington High School  
Paeroa College    
Raglan Area School   Nelson, Marlborough, West Coast
Taumarunui High School   Buller High School  
Te Awamutu College   Golden Bay High School  
Te Kuiti High School   Greymouth High School  
Te Wharekura o Rakaumangamanga   Marlborough Boys’ College   
Waihi College   Motueka High School  
  Nayland College  
Bay of Plenty, Waiariki Waimea College  
Mt Maunganui College    
Murupara Area School   Canterbury, Chatham Islands
Opotiki College   Amuri Area School  
Otumoetai College   Ashburton College  
Rotorua Lakes High School Cashmere High School  
Tarawera High School Darfield High School  
Taupo-nui-a-Tia College   Mountainview High School
Te Kura Kaupapa Motuhake o Tawhiuau   Rangiora High School   
Te Puke High School    
Tongariro School   Otago, Southland
Whakatane High School   Bayfield High School  
  Central Southland College  
Hawke's Bay, Tairāwhiti  Cromwell College  
Central Hawkes Bay College   Southland Boys’ High School  
Flaxmere College   St Peter’s College (Gore)
Lytton High School    
Ngata Memorial College    
Te Waha O Rerekohu Area School    
Tolaga Bay Area School    
Wairoa College