The NZ school year runs early February to December and is made up of 4 terms. There are no half-terms and apart from the long break over Christmas/New Year (about 6/7 weeks) the break between terms is 2 weeks.
There is a three school system in the majority of places:
• Primary School - from ages 5 to 11
• Intermediate School - from ages 11 to 13
• High School - ages 13 to 18
Most of the bigger towns/cities appear to have some kind of zoning but it appears to us that it really only applies in the major cities of Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch, Hamilton and Tauranga. Here in New Plymouth, for example, whilst zoning exists is doesn't seem to be enforced....we live on one side of the city and the kids' schools are on the other.
Generally the New Zealand school atmosphere is a little more relaxed than in the UK, however, there is still an emphasis on success and working hard ....but...there are not quite so many tests being done to provide evidence as to how successful the school is....or supposedly is!!!
One father we know asked his son what he most liked about school in NZ after he'd been at school for about 3 weeks - the child replied that he liked not having fences all around the school which begged the question as to what he felt about school in the UK!
Here in NZ they have not yet got to the point of creating compounds and teachers are still readily accessible at the end of the day for a chat....which is a nice change from the UK. In addition, you will NOT get fined for taking your kids out of school. We have regularly taken the kids on trips to the UK which cut into school terms and ALL schools have been very supportive and simply asked for a daily diary to be maintained.