Boarding allowances guidelines and eligibility information

The Ministry provides boarding allowances to help school students facing barriers to attending school and achieving at least level 2 in the National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA) or equivalent. Boarding away from home can remove the barriers for these students.

The boarding allowance is one of a suite of access options to achieve this, along with:

  • school transport assistance
  • Te Aho o te Kura Pounamu - The Correspondence School
  • e-learning 
  • Youth Guarantee
  • home schooling.

Boarding Allowances help meet the Government’s commitment to improve educational outcomes for priority groups: Māori, Pasifika, students from low socio-economic backgrounds, and students with special education needs.


Students are eligible to apply for a Boarding Allowance if they can demonstrate they are facing barrier(s) to achieving educational success, and that boarding away from home will remove those barriers.

Students may be facing one or more of the following barriers.

Access barrier - geographical isolation

Students are eligible to apply for a boarding allowance if they live too far away from an appropriate school, and the Ministry’s School Transport Assistance programme does not provide a solution.

For the purposes of the boarding allowance, geographical isolation is defined as living at an unreasonable distance from a the nearest appropriate school (e.g.60km), and:

  • the closest school transport service to get to their nearest appropriate school is unreasonable (e.g.20km), or
  • having to travel longer than 60 minutes, one way, to their nearest appropriate school each day, or
  • having to drive an unreasonable distance (e.g.60km) to the nearest appropriate school.

Significant barriers

Achievement barrier

A student shows significantly low attainments (lower than same age peers) in literacy, numeracy, oral language and other subjects.

Participation barrier

A student has difficulty engaging in everyday classroom learning, completing schoolwork, keeping up adequate attendance and engaging in extra-curricular activities.

Behaviour barrier

A student is disruptive, harms others or themself, participates in criminal activities, or has a history of stand-downs, suspensions or expulsions.

Relationships barrier

A student is socially isolated or lacks respect for others.

Environment barrier

A student has multi-agency involvement, lacks family and community support, has poor or negative role models, or is exposed to physical/psychological harm.

Note: Students with Child, Youth and Family custody status under sections 78, 101,102, 110 or 141 of the Children, Young Persons and Their Families Act 1989 are not eligible for a Boarding Allowance (as their boarding fees would normally be met by Child, Youth and Family or the Ministry of Health).

Proposed school

Students can choose to enrol with and attend any school. This includes all state, state-integrated and private schools.

Students are still subject to their chosen school’s usual enrolment and acceptance criteria, and to hostel space availability.

Boarding type

Students and their families may choose between accommodation at a boarding hostel or a private board situation.

Boarding hostels are licensed premises that comply with health and safety regulations.

Parents/caregivers must arrange private board and are responsible for the safety and well-being of students in private boarding situations.

Funding for private board will not be granted to students living away from home with another legal guardian.

Funding available

Around $11.3 million has been set aside for boarding allowances.

The boarding allowance awarded to a student may not cover all of their boarding fees. In these cases, the difference will need to be met by the student’s family/whānau.

When a student is approved to receive a Boarding Allowance, funding will continue for the duration of their schooling or until their barriers to appropriate education no longer exist.

The approximate number of allowances, and their values, available in 2014 is shown in the following table.

Table 1: Funding allocation amounts and numbers
Allowance eligibility Boarding allowance Additional funding Approx number
Multiple barriers Boarding hostel $7,500 $500* 810
Private board $4,000 $500* 81
Access barrier only $3,200 Travel assistance** 1,300

*Additonal Funding

An additional $500 will be provided to schools to support pastoral care to help the students overcome their barriers. Additional funding will be paid to the school at the start of the school year to support the transition of the student.

** Travel Assistance

This is only available for those students that live in remote island locations (eg Chatham Islands, Pitt Island and Great Barrier Island).

Actual and reasonable costs of air and/or boat fares will be paid. This will be calculated based on the cheapest appropriate mode of public transport. Travel assistance will be paid direct to the family at the beginning of the school term.


Boarding fees covered by a boarding allowance will be paid directly to schools at the beginning of each school term.


When a student is approved to receive the boarding allowance, funding will continue for the duration of their schooling or until their barriers to appropriate education no longer exist (see ‘Responsibilities’ below).


To remain eligible to receive the allowance, the student must remain enrolled in a school, and attend.


Recipients must notify the Ministry of any change that may affect the student’s eligibility to receive the boarding allowance.

A change in the student’s eligibility for the boarding allowance may result when:

  • the student transfers to another school
  • the student changes the location of their home
  • the student’s medical conditions, which initially enabled the applicant to gain a boarding allowance, change
  • the student completes their schooling
  • a new appropriate school opens in their vicinity that would resolve the student’s geographical isolation barrier
  • a new transport facility (either Ministry funded or a public transport service) to the nearest appropriate school becomes available in the vicinity of their home.

Note: If any of these conditions do not alter the eligibility of the student, the Ministry may continue the boarding allowance. The Ministry may also decide that the disruption to the student’s achievement at school, caused by any of the above factors, may be too great to stop the boarding allowance.


All applicants must use the approved application form.

Parents/caregivers can complete the following sections:

  • Student information
  • Parent information
  • Proposed boarding type
  • School information
  • Student’s educational goals and strengths
  • Support available for the student
  • Barriers to achieving in education – access.

A referrer must complete the significant barrier sections (participation, relationships, behaviour, achievement and environment).

A referrer may be from any of the following agencies:

  • Special Education, Ministry of Education
  • Child, Youth and Family
  • Youth Aid, New Zealand Police
  • Social service provider
  • Health provider
  • Current school

Several referral agencies may have input into the application, providing various perspectives and coming from various professions that may enhance the integrity of the application. Referrers must be recognised as having the appropriate skills to assist applicants.

Late applications may be considered for selection at the sole discretion of the Ministry.

Selection process

All applications are assessed against a range of criteria for each Barrier (see eligibility section above). The assessment provides a rating score (see Appendix one for more information about how applications are rated) for each Barrier, which is totalled for a final score for each application.

A panel will moderate a sample of cases to ensure the assessments of applications are fair and consistent.

The panel will consist of representatives from:

  • Ministry of Education Special Education 
  • Child, Youth and Family
  • Police Youth Aid
  • Boarding School Association
  • Māori Women’s Welfare League
  • Federated Farmers / Rural Women New Zealand.

All applications are then ranked and successful applicants are determined based on the amount of funding available.

Note: The Ministry is under no obligation to award a boarding allowance to any applicant, if satisfactory demonstration of the need is not backed up with supporting evidence.

Where circumstances for a student change during the year, which may make them eligible; the Ministry may consider the application at its discretion. Their applications will follow the same evaluation process and be compared against the 2014 selection round.


All enquiries can be made to the Ministry of Education at the contact details below:

Phone: 04 439 5425

Content last updated: 21 May 2015