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Auckland Council The Auckland Plan

​Ngā whiwhinga mātauranga o ngā tamariki me ngā rangatahi o Tāmaki Makaurau

Educational achievement of Auckland's children and young people

Auckland's child and youth population will continue to increase

Children and young people (aged 0 to 24 years old) represent over a third of Auckland's population (36 per cent in 2013).

Statistics New Zealand population projections (medium series) suggest that over the next 20 years, the number of children and young people in Auckland will continue to increase, possibly by another 26 per cent.

Population ageing will mean however that the proportion of Aucklanders who are children and young people will decrease.

Auckland will require more formal and informal learning environments, as well as services and infrastructure required for children and young people.

This includes:

  • schools
  • early childhood centres
  • playgrounds and recreational opportunities
  • health services. 

Relatively high rates of participation in early childhood education

There is consistent evidence linking good quality education, especially early childhood education (ECE), with improved skills development and employment prospects (Centre on the Developing Child, 2007).

Participation in high quality ECE builds the foundation for children's lifelong learning. 

The Ministry of Education reports that there have been steady rises in ECE participation rates in Auckland and across New Zealand since 2000.

In addition, the time that children spend in ECE per week has been increasing (Ministry of Education, 2017).

In 2015, 95 per cent of children in Auckland took part in ECE. Although the rates for Pacific (90 per cent) and Māori (92 per cent) children are lower than for other groups, this is a significant improvement from 2012 participation rates.

In part, this may reflect the impact of programmes introduced to target specific local areas where ECE participation is low (Reid & Rootham, 2016).

The national ECE Participation Programme was set up in 2010. It is made up of various initiatives that aim to support Māori, Pasifika, and low-income families to enrol their children in ECE.

Gradual increase in levels of formal educational achievement

A formal school qualification gives young adults the basic prerequisite to go on to higher education, training and many entry-level jobs.

The main qualification available to secondary school students is the National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA), which encompasses a wide range of learning. Future educational and job prospects will be limited for those who leave school without Level 2 NCEA.

In 2014, of the total young people who left school in Auckland, 81.6 per cent had achieved NCEA Level 2 (or equivalent) or above – up 2.1 per cent from the previous year.  Almost half (46.2 per cent) had attained University Entrance standard. 

There has also been a gradual increase overall in the numbers and proportions of young people leaving school in Auckland with Level 3 or higher qualifications, including University Entrance.

Source: Ministry of Education, School leaver data

Note: Students could belong to more than one ethnic group so percentages may total more than 100.

Education has an intergenerational impact

In New Zealand, educational achievement persists between generations.

In 2012, the OECD noted that the chance that a young person whose parents have not attained an upper secondary education will attend higher education is limited, and they reported that tertiary students in New Zealand were more likely to have highly educated parents than in any other OECD country (OECD, 2012).

Evidence shows very strong links between education and the transfer of income and other inequality across generations. For children in New Zealand, education is the main way to break the transmission of low incomes across generations (New Zealand Treasury, 2013).

Socio-economic deprivation has a negative effect on educational achievement

Educational achievement is associated with socio-economic background.

The link between a parent's socio-economic status and a child's educational outcome is very high in New Zealand when compared internationally (New Zealand Treasury, 2013). 

Children whose parents do not have school qualifications and who live in a socio-economically deprived area have a higher probability of poor educational outcomes than other children in Auckland.

Auckland has a larger number of low decile schools

Auckland has a disproportionate number of low decile schools, for example those rated 1, 2 or 3.

A third (32 per cent) of all decile 1 schools in New Zealand are found in Auckland, while only 21 per cent of New Zealand's schools are in Auckland.

The southern part of Auckland has a substantial concentration of decile 1, 2 or 3 secondary schools.

Māori and Pacific children are more likely than others to attend low-decile schools.  As at 1 July 2015, approximately 71 per cent of Auckland's Pacific students and 50 per cent of Māori students attended decile 1, 2 or 3 primary and secondary schools, compared to only six per cent of European/Pākehā students (Auckland Council, 2017).

Read more about school deciles on the website.

Some improvement in educational outcomes in The Southern Initiative area

Significant proportions of Auckland's Māori and Pacific school leavers are from schools in The Southern Initiative

In 2014, over a third (38 per cent) of all Māori school leavers and almost half (47 per cent) of all Pacific school leavers (overall, 21 per cent of school leavers) were from schools in this area.

Relatively large proportions of Māori and Pacific young people in the Southern Initiative area are leaving school with low, or no, qualifications, when compared with other ethnic groups, and compared to school leavers from other areas. For example, in 2014, a third (33 per cent) of Māori school leavers left school without NCEA Level 1, as did 19 per cent of Pacific students.

These figures are however an improvement on previous years, particularly among Māori school leavers.

School leaver attainment among school leavers from schools in the Southern Initiative area, by ethnicity (2014)

​Below NCEA Level 1 (%)​Level 1 and working towards Level 2 (%)​NCEA Level 2 or above (%)
​Other ethnicities​11​10​79
Total ​19 ​12 ​69


School leaver attainment among school leavers from schools in the rest of Auckland, by ethnicity (2014)

​Below NCEA Level 1 (%)​Level 1 and working towards Level 2 (%)​NCEA Level 2 or above (%)
​Other ethnicities​6​6​88
Total ​8 ​7 ​85

Source: Wilson, Reid & Bishop (2016) using Ministry of Education data.

Note: Students could belong to more than one ethnic group.

Māori and Pacific young people have poorer educational outcomes

Māori and Pacific young people make up more than a third of Auckland's young people and continue to experience higher levels of disparity in education outcomes than others.

The 2013 OECD economic survey of New Zealand reports that:

"Among the population lacking school qualifications, Māori have nearly double the incidence of people lacking school qualifications as Pākehā/Europeans and quadruple those of Asians, and conversely Māori show much lower rates of tertiary attainment"(OECD, 2013).

Although trends are improving across Auckland, there are significant educational disparities for Māori and Pacific children and young people.

Māori and Pacific young people's tertiary attainment rates, NCEA attainment and early childhood education participation rates have been rising, but they are not catching up to those of other ethnicities (Reid & Rootham, 2016).

There needs to be increased focus in these areas on creating positive outcomes for Māori and Pacific young people.

Focusing on equitable education outcomes

Auckland can create equitable outcomes for all its children and young people.  To bring all Auckland's children and young people along on the journey of educational achievement, these indicators of inequitable education outcomes need to improve swiftly.

There needs to be focus in geographic areas with low levels of educational achievement, lower socio-economic areas and higher levels of Māori and Pacific young people.

A strong education system that focuses on creating positive outcomes for all, not just some of its learners, will benefit everyone.


Auckland Council. (2017). I Am Auckland: Status report 2017. Available at

Centre on the Developing Child. (2007) The science of early childhood development: Closing the gap between what we know and what we do. National Scientific Council on the Developing Child. Cambridge, MA. Harvard University. Available at [accessed 31/10/2017]

Ministry of Education. (2017). ECE Participation Programme Evaluation. Education Counts. [accessed 14/12/2017].

Ministry of Education (2017). Prior participation in early childhood education. Education Counts. [accessed 14/12/2017]

New Zealand Treasury. (2013). Living standards background note: ‘Increasing equity’ Available at (PDF 1.8MB) [accessed 31/10/2017 -]

OECD. (2012) Education at a Glance 2012, OECD indicators. OECD Publishing.

OECD. (2013). OECD Economic surveys: New Zealand 2013.

Reid, A and Rootham, E. (2016). A profile of children and young people in Auckland. Auckland Council technical report, TR2016/022. Available at (PDF 2.9MB)

Wilson, R., Reid, A and Bishop, C. (2016). Auckland Plan targets: monitoring report 2015 with data for the Southern Initiative area. Auckland Council technical report, TR2016/007. Available at (PDF 6.5MB)