School fees and donation payments

Advice to PPTA Te Wehengarua members on the legal framework for fees and donations in state and integrated schools

PPTA supports a free public education system, with adequate state funding of all schools to deliver a modern curriculum.

Until this becomes a reality we acknowledge the financial pressure schools are under and recognise the imperatives schools feel to seek additional funding from parents to deliver the curriculum expected by their communities.

Ministry of Education advice can be found at

Defining ‘donations’ and ‘debts’

Most boards ask parents to give a sum of money to enable the board to provide additional services which directly benefit students. Schools variously described this as the "school donation", the "school fee", or "activity fee". Some use “activity fee” for payments for activities like school camps, concerts by visiting artists, class trips etc, and others use it for payments associated with the cost of materials in particular subjects.

The use of similar terms to describe different types of payment or different terms to describe the same type of payments contributes to confusion in interpreting which are legally enforceable and which are not.

In this advice any sum of money which parents may be asked to voluntarily contribute but of which cannot be legally enforced is referred to as a ‘donation’.

In this advice any legally enforceable charge, levy or fee is referred to as a ‘debt’ or ‘fee’.

Defining ‘curriculum’, ‘co-curriculum’ and extracurricular activities

Boards decide what constitutes their individual school curriculum, their co-curricular activities and their extracurricular activities.

Each board determines its own school’s curriculum, and the individual components of that curriculum, (including options between and within learning programmes) in which students are required to participate.

An activity which is a prerequisite to participating in the curriculum at a later date, or which is part of the school (or student’s programme for generating credits on the qualifications framework) is part of the curriculum.

Boards determine what co-curricular activities they expect or require students to participate in to enhance or extend their general curriculum.

Each board also determines what, if any, additional opportunities it may offer to students which are not part of its curriculum or co-curriculum. Parents decide whether their children participate in these ‘extracurricular’ activities. The voluntary nature of any activity which is considered to be extra-curricular should be clearly identified as such.

The right to free education

Every person who is not a foreign student is entitled to free enrolment and free education at a State school from the person's 5th birthday until 1 January following the person's 19th birthday. (Section 3, Education Act 1989).

Last modified on Wednesday, 17 May 2023 09:11