State Integrated Schools are a kind of school recognised by New Zealand’s education system, but their structure can be confusing to understand.


What are State Integrated Schools?

New Zealand’s education system allows for a range of different types of schools. The four main categories are State Schools, State Integrated Schools, Charter Schools and Private Schools.

State Integrated Schools are a kind of special character school that allows for collaboration between the government and a private proprietor in a way that preserves the special character of the proprietor and the school.

Every state integrated school has an integration agreement between its Proprietor and the government which sets out various details about the intended operation of the school, and includes a description of the particular or general religious or philosophical beliefs that provide the framework for the education at the school.

Types of Special Character Schools that have been established in New Zealand include Catholic, Anglican, Methodist, Presbyterian, Adventist, Jewish, Muslim, Steiner, Montessori and non-denominational Christian schools.

Often the parents of children at a state integrated school struggle to understand who is responsible for leading and operating a state integrated school. It can be confusing when information and invoices relating to the school come from a variety of different sources.

Who governs State Integrated Schools?

The governance structure for Integrated schools can be confusing because they have more than one person or body with decision making power. The main decision makers are:

The Board of Trustees

Each state school (including state integrated schools) has a Board of Trustees, which is a body corporate incorporated under the Education Act 1989, and is a Crown entity under the Crown Entities Act 2004.

The Board of Trustees is the governing body of its school, and is responsible for the governance of the school, including setting the policies by which the school is to be controlled and managed. Its primary objective in governing the school is to ensure that every student at the school is able to attain his or her highest possible standard in educational achievement.

The Board of Trustees is required under the Education Act 1989 to ensure that the school is a physically and emotionally safe place for all students and staff; and is inclusive of and caters for students with differing needs. It must have particular regard to any statement of National Education and Learning Priorities, and must comply with specified obligations in the Education Act 1989 relating to curriculum statements and national performance measures, teaching and learning programmes, and monitoring of student performance. if the school is a member of a community of learning that has a community of learning agreement, it must comply with its obligations under that agreement.

The Board of Trustees is made up of the principal, several parent elected representatives, a staff representative, a student representative. In the case of state integrated schools, the Proprietor of the school has the right to appoint a number of trustees to sit on the Board of Trustees along with the other trustees.

The Board of Trustees of a state integrated school operates in mostly the same manner as the Board of Trustees of any other state school, but must operate in a manner that reflects the special character of the school, and must consult with the Proprietor on various matters.

The Principal

The school’s principal is the chief executive of the Board of Trustees in relation to the school’s control and management.

The Principal must comply with the law of New Zealand and the Board of Trustees’ general policy directions, but otherwise has  complete discretion to manage as the principal thinks fit the school’s day-to-day administration.

The Principal of a state integrated school operates in mostly the same manner as the Principal of any other state school, but must manage the school in a manner that reflects the special character of the school and, if the school has a religious special character, may be required to have willingness and an ability to take part in religious instruction appropriate to that school .

The Proprietor

The school’s Proprietor owns or leases the land and buildings used by the school and is responsible for any loans or funding in relation to the land and buildings. The Proprietor must plan for and ensure that the buildings and facilities are brought up to at least the minimum standard specified by the Secretary of Education for state schools.

The Proprietor has the right and the responsibility to supervise the maintenance and preservation of the education with a special character provided by the school and to determine what is necessary to preserve and safeguard that special character.

If the Proprietor believes that the special character of school has been or is likely to be jeopardised it can exercise various powers under the Education Act, including a power to cancel the integration agreement with the government (but it must consult with the government before doing so).

The Board of Trustees and Principal must give the Proprietor access to the school at all reasonable times to ensure that the special character of the school is being maintained.

Who Owns State Integrated Schools?

The land and buildings of a state integrated school are owned and maintained by the Proprietor, which is often a charitable trust or Church or other religious organisation. The day to day operations of the school are funded by the government through the Ministry of Education. The government pays staff salaries and an operations grant for the running of the school, and gives some funding directly to the proprietor for maintenance and improvement of the buildings.


This article is not a substitute for legal advice and you should talk to a lawyer about your specific situation. Reproduction is permitted with prior approval and credit being given back to the source. Contact Kris Morrison at to request this or for any other questions. Copyright © Parry Field Lawyers 2017.