We have a maximum role of 670 students ranging from Year 1 to Year 13. We operate at or close to this maximum each year.

In short, no. We do provide offsite learning opportunities for our students. You can arrange these with your child’s homebase learning advisor. We are still a school, and while we are extremely open to working with you and your unique needs, we do need you to attend and meet the requirements of any other school.

The answer is, it depends.  We don’t see students as a condition or need.  We see them for who they are and what they want to learn.  We have many students who have struggled at other schools and are flying here.  Equally we have made things worse for some students who have struggled elsewhere.  It’s not about what you have, it’s about your willingness to work inside the requirements of our special character.

We believe that the city has resources that are better than anything we could build onsite.  We get our students out into the city regularly and do not feel that our students are disadvantaged by this.  Fortunately, most (if not all) other Christchurch schools have playgrounds, so if it’s a deal breaker for you, you could enrol at another school in Christchurch.

You must agree to the special character before you can attend the school.  As a special character school we can choose not to accept your enrolment if you do not understand and agree to our special character.  We are not a school for everyone.  We are a school for students who want to follow their own learning pathway.  If you are worried that your student will not fit our special character but you like it, have a conversation with our Senior Leadership Team.  You can do this by emailing office@aotawhiti.school.nz.


For further information on enrolment, visit our Enrolment page or read our document outlining the pre-enrolment process and ballots here.

Transportation to and from school

Our school building is open from 8am to 3:15pm each day with supervision provided from 8:30am to 3:15pm.

  • Y1-6 classes run from 9am-3pm
  • Y7-13 classes run from 9am-3pm except for Wednesday when students finish at 2pm.

With no supervision before 8:30am and the building locked until 8:00am, it is extremely important to ensure that your child does not arrive at school before 8am or come to school before 8:30am without supervision. 

With around 670 students expected to arrive at school each day, we want to stagger the arrival of our students as much as possible.  We therefore encourage,

  • Y7-13 families to have their child arrive anywhere from 8:30am-8:40am each day.  
  • Y1-6 families are encouraged to arrive at school between 8:30am and before 9:00am each day.  Please note that we expect the busiest drop off time to be 8:50am. If you can arrive earlier than this, we would appreciate it.

The school day finishes at 3pm for all students each day except Wednesdays when Y7-13 students finish at 2pm. Students are encouraged to leave quickly and not return to the building. While some 600+ students leaving all at once sounds busy (it is…) everyone manages themselves very well as long as they use their awareness!

Y1-6 students will not be allowed to leave the building without being collected by a parent/ caregiver.

If you know you are going to be late, please call the office (not your child’s HBLA who will be teaching & unable to answer calls).

We strongly encourage our families to use the cities extensive bus network to get to school.  The school is located within a 3 minute walk of the bus exchange. The advantages of taking the bus to Ao Tawhiti includes:

  • not having to worry about car parking (finding a park in the CBD can be tricky and potentially costly),
  • not having to find a suitable and safe drop off point,
  • the relatively short distance between the bus exchange and the school,
  • the safety of traffic lights for crossing,
  • the many environmental benefits we all get from reducing the number of private vehicles on the road.

You can find more information about fares and routes at metroinfo.co.nz.

The school has no car parking. If you intend to drive to school you need to be aware that it is your responsibility to find a place to park.

There are currently no drop off areas directly outside the school.  There are no suitable drop off zones nearby the school either. Anyone who has tried to drop off or pick up someone from the bus exchange will be acutely aware of how unfriendly the CBD is to cars.
 St Asaph Street is currently, in our view, not a suitable drop off zone due to

  • the volume of traffic that uses the road
  • having bike lanes where passenger doors open
  • it being a multilane, one way street.

If you to plan to drop your child off via car, we strongly advise you to use one of the nearby parking buildings, Wilson’s Parks or the on street parking around South City.

Like the drop off zone situation, there is really no suitable nearby pick up zone. We anticipate that pick up times will be more congested than drop off times as families tend to arrive early and wait rather than just pull over and drop off their child.

We would encourage families to identify a nearby pick up space for their child. This is particular so for families of younger students. We do not want students leaving the building without being first collected by a parent or caregiver. This means you will need to think about nearby car parking, walking to school, collecting your child and then returning to your car.

The school has two mobility car parks. These are only to be use by people with appropriate permits. These cannot be used by families as drop off zones.

The school encourages students and families to come to school on their bike. There is monitored and free bike storage at the bus interchange and outside of school. Bikes cannot be brought into the school for storage.

We do not encourage students to use scooters to get to school. There are no facilities for scooter storage at the school and scooters (including e-scooters) are not to brought into the building.

For those of you living nearby you can walk to the school.

Info for new students & families

Existing students choose who they would like to be placed with. We place new students initially, but they are then able to choose their own HBLA moving forward. Not everyone gets their first choice, but we try hard to place students with people they connect with.

These happen four times a year around the beginning and end of each term with HBLAs. You must attend these meetings with your child/ren. They are the opportunity to create a learning programme that suits your student, to reflect on previous learning and to make plans for the upcoming term. A link to schedule an IEM with your HBLA will be placed on the website. School is closed for instruction on these days and students only attend for the half hour of their IEM. Supervision can be provided for Y1-6 only, a link to a form will be placed on the website for this.

We have no prescribed requirements for devices; consider the type of work your student will be doing and make a choice based around this. We would recommend talking to your local retailer and working this out with them. Your HBLA may also be of some assistance when making this decision.  We do have a large number of classes that rely heavily on the use of a device. While there is a pool of school owned bookable devices, access to these is limited and not guaranteed.

We do not have specific stationery requirements. These will be dictated by the types of courses/ classes your student has enrolled in and the way they like to work. Many students now record everything digitally, some still prefer books. We are comfortable for your student to make the decision about what works best for them.

We do not have a uniform. However, we would like students to be conscious of the fact that they are part of a community and that the items of clothing that they choose to wear should not be offensive to other members of our community, and should sit with our values.

Students will be walked through this process with their HBLAs during IEMs. The schedule of available classes and the timetable are available on the Arotahi website. 

As a rule of thumb any course that starts with a ‘4’ should be suitable for Year 7 & 8 Students, ‘5’ for Year 9 & 10 students, ‘6’ for Year 11 students, ‘7’ for Year 12 students and ‘8’ for Year 13s. These numbers relate to the Levels in the NZ curriculum. These are a guide only and if your ākonga is Year 9 and operating at Level 4 then that’s the class they should choose. Again, your HBLA will support this process.

SENCO – These need to be managed through your HBLA.

COUNSELLOR – These are usually self-managed by students, however they can be referred by staff or requested by parents.

Our new entrant teacher will contact you directly closer to the time your student starts school to arrange visits prior to starting.  These are usually about two to four weeks before the student’s  start date.

We encourage whānau involvement. Parents, grandparents, friends and family are a network of people that we can tap into to broaden the experiences we can offer our rangatahi and address the passions and interests of all of our ākonga. If you’d like to contribute, please talk to your child’s LA.

We do not have lockers.

All notices are available on the school website here, and our twice termly Newsletter is posted here.

We also use SchoolApps to communicate last minute reminders. Simply download the SchoolApps app and choose “Ao Tawhiti” from the list of schools. The password is mollett19. You can use SchoolApps to inform the office of absentees, see the school calendar and access the school newsletter.

9:00am to 3:00pm (Year 7 to 13 students finish at 2:00pm on Wednesdays.)

Doors open at 8:00am and lock at 3:15pm. We encourage students to come to school after 8:30am and leave as soon as classes end at 3pm.

We are a state funded school so don’t have fees. 

This will need to be worked through during a conversation with our SENCO. Please contact the school to get this arranged.

You will need to follow the normal enrolment process here.

At this stage the school does not have an out-of-school care programme in place, however we do have a partnership with Powerzone who collect students at 3pm. This is a private arrangement that whānau organise with the providers.