** New Zealand schools education

New Zealand Schools

Figure 1.--Many New Zealand schools continued to require short pants uniforms in the 1990s. Even the older boys at many schools wear them.

New Zealand as a former British colony, instituted a school system virtually identical to the British system. Slowly the country developed its own distinctive education system. One of the features of British education, at least for secondary schools, adopted from Britain was school uniforms. The first secondary schools opened in the country adopted the uniforms standard at British public (privte secondary) schools. One of the early New Zealand private schools (Wanganui College) played a major role in introducing short pants to the New Zealand secondary school uniform. The Headmaster at Wanganui College spent some time at a Scottish school, Loretto. He was so impressed with the uniform that he intrioduced it at Collegiate. At the time there were only a few secondary schools in New Zealand. Collegiate was such an influential school that most other secondary schools adopted a similar uniform.


New Zealand was colonized by Britain in the 19th century. The school system was basically the English system transported to New Zealand. Most early teachers were English. With a small, scattered population, the initial approach was to open large numbers of small schools. The same dynamic was at play imn America on a larger scale with the opening of many one- and two-room schools. New Zealand schools from the onset of the country's educational system in the mid-19th century adopted English clothing styles. When uniforms were adopted, they followed English styles. As a result, New Zealand uniform trends are quite similar to English styles. This continued until after World War II (1939-45). Since the War, New Zealand schools have retained some classic English styles even after they had disappeard in England. Most New Zealand secondary schools continued to require short pants long after older English boys no longer wore them. Many schools still required them even in the 1990s.

Popularity of School Uniform

School uniform became an integral part of New Zealand education. New Zealand schools generally continued to require a formal school uniform long after uniforms had disappeared in many European countries and had been deemphazized in England. Most New Zealand secondary schools continue to require uniforms, but a much more casual one tham was common as recently as the 1970s. Caps have disappeared. Blazers are generally worn only by the senior boys or for special occasions. Shorts are increasingly required only for the younger secondary boys. Several schools have dropped the uniform requirement alltogether. But most retain them. They are especially popular with parents, but not so popular with the students. The more casual approach was meant to make the uniforms more functional. Many students do not like the idea of uniforms regardless of the nature of the uniform.

Figure 2.--New Zealand boys in the standard summer uniform uniform of light-weight grey shirt and short pants.

Seasonal Uniforms

Many New Zealand schools have distinctive summer and winter uniforms. It is not always possible to destinguish the seasonal nature of the uniform without knowing the actual school regulations. At some schools the boys wear long pants in the winter, but at many the winter uniform is a heavier grade of short pants. There are many other seasonal differences in New Zealand school uniforms. Not all schools have seasonal uniforms, but most do. The winter uniform generally consists of a tie, sweater (jumper), grey shirt, heavy-weight grey or blue shorts, knee socks, and black lace-up shoes. The kneesocks were mostly grey with top bands in the school colors. Some schools had black and light-blue kneesocks. Some schools also have suits and blazers worn during the winter, but this is most common at private schools. The summer uniform at many schools consists of a light-weight grey shirt, grey cotton shorts, and Roman sandals worn without socks. Often the wearing of a tie is suspended. This is the most common uniform worn at numerous schools during the summer. We also notice blue shirts and shorts at a few schools instead of the more grey summer uniform. .

Uniform Regulations

Many New Zealand schools require school uniforms. There is considerable support among school administrators and parents concerning school unifirms. Until recently, unforms were not common in state primary schools, but they were widely worn at Catholic schools, private schools, and state secondary schools require school uniforms. There are no national regulations about this. It is up to each individual school to decide on a uniform and to enforce the wearing of the uniform. There are a wide range of regulations adopted by each school associated with the uniforms. Some schools are not strict about enforcing the uniform rules or have few rules which often are no enforced. Most schools are quite strict about the uniform. Several have quite strict rules. The single gender schools seem the most strict about enforcing the uniform rules. In recent years many scgools have adopted more casual uniforms than were one common, but a very large number of the schools with the exceotion of primary schools have uniform requirements. There are many similarities as to the uniforms adopted, but have garment or color differences that make their school destinctive.destinctive uniforms.

School Types

There are differences concerning uniform conventions at different types of New Zealand schools. One distinctive feature of New Zealand school uniforms is that only the secondary students wear the uniform, at least at most state schools. At parochial and private primary schools there are uniforms. Most state primary schools do not require a uniform. Private and Catholic elementary schools, however, do mostly require uniforms--generally the typical traditional British school uniform of sweater, tie, shorts, and knee socks. As a result, in the state system you have the rather incongrous system of little elementary school kids going to school in long pants and big secondary boys going to school in short pants and knee socks. Many New Zealand elementary children look forward to the day that they begin intermediate school and wear uniforms like the big boys. The novelty of the uniform, however, for many soon wears off. Almost all New Zealand secondary schools have required school uniforms. A few coed schools have dropped the requirement, but most schools still continue to require uniforms--at least until the 6th form.


The traditional New Zealand school uniform is quite similar to that associated with England. A school uniform consisting of a blazer, school tie, and dress pants was worn by boys in many countries, especially English-speaking countries. This uniform evolved in the England during the late 19th century. Blazers were at first sports wear, but in the 1920s began to replace Eton suits and stiff Eton collars and by the 1930shad become the standard uniform at many private schools. They were widely worn in New Zealand as late as the 1970s. Traditional school uniforms are more widely worn in New Zealand than any country, even Britain. There has, however, been a shift to more casual styles.

Figure 3.--Most New Zealand school uniforms had grey short pants and knee socks, but some schools had blue shorts and knee socks.


New Zealand school uniform garments were once almost ideantical to the garments worn by British children. This of course dervises from the fact that New Zealnd was a former British colony and the educational system was once heavily influenced by the British system. Given the very different climate, garments over time have changed. There is, however, a very significant British influence. In fact traditional patterns appear to have persisted in New Zealand longer than in Britain itself. Virtually all New Zealand schoolboys, like their British counterparts, wore peaked caps as recently as the 1950s. Caps began to become less common in the 1960s. Both state and private secondary schools required them. A great variety of colors were used. Modern New Zealand school uniform garments reflect both traditional British school uniforms and the developing more casual styles. Caps are now rarely seen. Blazers are still common, but not worn at many schools. The use of ties very greatly from school to school. A great variety of colors and stripped blazers were worn by British boys from the 1920s through the 1970s. The cost of the blazers and a trend of simplyfying the uniform as well as New Zealand's warmer climate caused many schools, especially the boys' schools to discard them for every day school wear. At some schools the older boys may still wear them. Many of the private preparatory schools continue to require blazers. Casual shirts and short pants are common. Most secondary school boys have traditionally worn grey or blue short trousers, a light-weight cotton style in the summer and a more formal hewvy-weight pair in the winter. Some schools now allow long trousers for the older boys or during the winter. Boys at a few schools now wear mostly long trousers. Most New Zealand secondary school, however, still require at least the younger boys to wear shorts. Kneesock are worn seasonally at many schools as are sandals.


New Zealand boys participate in all the same activities school boys do around the world. There are of course academic classes, art, computers, dramatics, music, science, sport, and a wide range of extra-curricular activities. Sport is especially important at New Zealand schools. It is not just the top atheletes that enjoy sport, but most schools have active intra-mural sports programs. Camping is also important and many schools have active camping programs that support various asoects of the school program.


New Zealand like other former British colonies has had an active cadet program, preparing secondary-age boys for military service. The uniforms involved have generally followed the uniforms of the New Zealand military.

Individual Schools

nformation on the individual schools over time offer some useful information on educational trends in New Zealand. We have acquired information on a number of individual New Zeland schools. We have information on many different types of schools, inclusing state and private schools, single gender and coed schools, and day and boarding schools. We see schools that do and do not require uniforms. While many New Zealand schools require traditional uniforms, there have been many significant changes over time. There are also differences between different types of schools.Until recent years, uniforms were worn mostly by state secondary and private schools. State primary schools generally did not require uniforms. Catholic schools were an exception. In recent years, some state primaries have adopted uniforms.

Distinctive Features of New Zealand Schools

We have been asked by several readers about the destinctive features of New Zealand education. One reader writes, "I am a content writer for the U.S. Mint working on a new feature called 'Coins of the World', which will feature New Zealand. Because this is for children, we are including some information that interests them--such as what schools are like in other countries. Could you possibly give me any information about schools in New Zealand that would be different or interesting to American kids? Do all New Zealand kids wear striped blazers to school? -- have a different school year schedule? -- have daily tea breaks? -- whatever? Thanks very much -- Faye Elkins. As we are limited in what we can provide in individual queries, we decided to create a page to address this topic. Our New Zealand readers are incouraged to contribute their comments here.

Gym Uniforms

New Zealand boys wore the same gym and games (sports) uniforms as British boys. After World War II some differences have appeared showing the American influence and the introduction of American sports like basketball and baseball. These are minor sports and the uniforms for major sports continue to be similar to England as they are the same games played in England. Rugby dominates the New Zealand sports scene in New Zealand while in England it is an important, but not dominate sport. In recent years the sports uniforms have become very stlish.

Personal accounts

Some personal accounts are available describing the uniforms worn as schoolboys:

Historical accounts

Discussion of uniforms

Sixth formers

Additional Information

Related Links: Careful this will exit you from the Boys' Historical Clothing web site, but both sites are highly recommended

Apertures Press New Zealand e-Books: A series of eBooks on New Zealand schools available
Boys' Preparatory Schools: Lovely photographic book on British Preparatory Schools during the 1980s with over 200 color and black and white images.
Apertures Press New Zealand e-Books: A series of eBooks on British schools available


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Created: June 5, 1999
Last updated: 7:36 AM 9/19/2010