Thinking about leaving school?

There are many things to consider when you leave school before Year 12 or Year 13.

What should I do if I'm not sure about leaving school?

If you're 16 or over, you can leave school – but is it a good idea? Before you make a decision, ask yourself a few questions.

  • Are you just going through a difficult time?
  • Is it just one thing at school that is making you unhappy? Can that be changed?
  • Have you already sorted out a plan for work, training or study?

It's a good idea to stay in school until you've made a plan.

What help can I get at school?

Try talking to your year dean, careers adviser or guidance counsellor. They may suggest ways to make school life easier - or help you move into work or other training.

You could also try asking these questions.

  • Can I change subjects or classes?
  • Can you help me plan my career?
  • Can you help me get into a youth guarantee course or training?
  • Can I get work experience?

Work experience will help you get skills and contacts for looking for work when you leave school.

What if I'm under 16 and want to leave school?

You can apply for an early leaving exemption, so that you can leave school before you turn 16.  To do this you need to:

  • have a plan to enter a job or training once you leave
  • talk to your parents, schools career advisor or dean
  • have your parents or caregiver apply to the Ministry of Education.

Why it can be good to stay at school

Staying at school for Year 12 can be good as you can:

  • earn NCEA Level 2 and better your chances of finding a job
  • enter the course you want with NCEA Level 2 credits 
  • gain NCEA Level 2 credits needed to get into some Defence Force roles or pass the police entry test
  • get pre-trade training and NCEA Level 2 through the Youth Guarantee programme
  • get work experience through Gateway. 

Staying at school for Year 13 to complete your NCEA Level 3 is a good idea if you want to go to university.

If you study for a degree, you are more likely to:

  • be employed
  • earn a higher salary than people without a university degree.


What are my options if I leave school early?

If you leave school with NCEA Level 1 when you're 16, you can study NCEA at home through Te Kura/Correspondence School. You can also enter training or find a job.

Training and work options

  • Youth guarantee fees free courses – you can study pre-trade courses and NCEA 
  • New Zealand Apprenticeships – you may be able to learn a trade while working 
  • Workplace training – study towards a qualification as you work
  • Find work through family, family friends, door-knocking and the internet. 

Updated 23 May 2019