Parents and Caregivers

Worried about your 15-year-old teen leaving school
before they turn 16, before they have NCEA?

A very common question that is asked by parents and caregivers is, “I feel that my 15 year old son/daughter is not benefiting from School. What can we do?”

As a parent or caregiver, it is stressful to see your 15 year old struggling with being at school, or not attending school.

Perhaps you are wondering if your 15-year-old teen would be better off leaving school and getting a job, or studying elsewhere.

Did you know that there is a way for your 15-year-old teen to still gain their NCEA levels 1 and 2, but in a different environment, in small group sizes, which may suit their needs much better?.

EmployNZ can help. We provide several options for 15 year olds looking to leave school early but still gain their NCEA levels 1 and 2.

Leaving school a year early does not define who our young people can become.

How to get an Early Leaving Exemption (ELX) for your 15 year old

An Early Leaving Exemption (ELX) is an approval from the Ministry of Education for your 15 year old child to be exempt from enrolment at a school. The process is designed for those young people who need to leave school before the age of 16, which is the age they are required to be engaged with compulsory education.

Your local Ministry of Education (MoE) office have staff that are dedicated to working with parents/caregivers and the school your 15 year old is attending to explore and support other options with local Tertiary Education Providers (Adult education Schools) who offer courses suitable for 15 year olds, who can commit to working with the young person until they are at least 16. 

The MOE staff may also consider whether it is suitable for your young person to get a job or utilise the range of alternative services and initiatives that secondary schools and government have set up for those who may not be suited to the mainstream subjects. For example, arranging work experience leading to employment. Enrolling on a Future Academy course (1 day a week).

NZ government research has established that young people have more options available to them and do better in life, if they have the NCEA level 2 qualification (or equivalent qualification). They generally move into higher levels of education and progress within employment to earn more as they build on what they know and can do after achieving NCEA level 2 or higher.

The same research shows that those who leave school without qualifications are more likely to have difficulties when they get into employment, they earn less money and find it harder to studying at higher levels later in life and have higher unemployment rates.

The last year at secondary school is designed to help youth to study at higher levels or gain valuable transferable skills that will support them into employment. 

Your young person does not have to leave school and miss out on getting that valuable knowledge, life skills or the practical skills that lead to being employed. 

EmployNZ offers a training and future pathway for every 15 year old we enrol

EmployNZ specialises in working with 15 year olds to achieve their NCEA level 1 and 2 by offering a plan that will take them further than their 16th birthday and work with them to decide on a future pathway into higher education or training or entry level employment.

The youth courses we offer cater for 15 – 19 year olds are free for the youth as they are fully funded by the government through the Tertiary Education Commission. EmployNZ is contracted to offer these NZQA approved courses in Tauranga, Whakatane and Rotorua and we work alongside the Ministry of Education staff, local schools and parents/caregivers to design solutions for your 15 year old. 

We encourage parents and caregivers to discuss the various options available with their young person after understanding that school is not the best solution for them. 

It is always better if you can all make the decision together as they are under 16 so as the parent/caregiver you are still legally responsible for them. Youth will appreciate being involved in the decision making process and are able to take on the seriousness of the decision to leave school and make a commitment to other study or work and you will all be able to support each other to make the transition.

At EmployNZ we will support your young person and encourage them to honour the commitment you have all made as they learn to move towards making independent life choices about their future plans.

EmployNZ will arrange an interview with a focus on showing you all around our training centre and introducing you to our tutors, our spaces and give you a chance to see how we operate our NCEA Youth Courses.

Students can start every Monday and we follow the secondary school terms, with four, 10 week teaching weeks and use the term breaks as non contact or catch up weeks for staff and students.

Q: “Is my 15 year old eligible for an Early Leaving Exemption?”

The rules for getting an early leaving exemption are managed by the MoE with any approvals made by the local MoE Staff.

Students under the age of 16 may be eligible if they meet MoE criteria.

MoE considers the following when determining if your young person meets the criteria:

  • their educational problems
  • their conduct
  • the unlikelihood of them benefiting from staying at school

You will need to show that you, and your 15 year old, have a plan for what they will do, to successfully get into further training or a career.

EmployNZ can support this plan before, or after, you make contact with the MoE staff.

Q: “How do I apply for my 15 year old to get an Early Leaving Exemption (ELX)?”

The best option is to get in touch with your local Ministry of Education office to discuss your young person’s circumstances and the best ways they can support you.  An early leaving exemption may be looked at as an option. 

Address for couriers and receptionPostal addressContact numbers

Ministry of Education
Tauranga Office
132 First Avenue
Tauranga 3110

PO Box 15564
Tauranga 3144
DX Number: HX11045

Phone: +64 7 571 7800


Ministry of Education
Rotorua Office
Level 3
1144 Pukaki Street
Rotorua 3010

PO Box 1749
Rotorua 3040
DX Number: JX10522

Phone: +64 7 349 7399


Ministry of Education
Whakatane Office
Shelby House
22 Louvain Street
Whakatane 3120

Shelby House
22 Louvain Street
Whakatane 3120
DX Number: JX10505

Phone: +64 7 306 2500



You may discuss the available options with your school as there may well be ongoing discussions happening already.

If you feel that you would like to discuss your options with us please contact our EmployNZ Recruitment Coordinator on to organise an interview or tour or call 0800 002 159.

All 3 organisations, your School, the Ministry of Education and the Education Provider you are enrolling your young person with need to work together for the benefit of the young person so please feel free to speak freely with us all to get the information you need to make your decision about where your young person will best be served in the coming months as they make plans for their future.

EmployNZ would appreciate the opportunity to support your young person through this time, it is what we specialise in. Since 2000, we have made it our mission to support youth to gain their NCEA Levels 1 and 2 and work with them to make future pathway plans into higher education and/or employment.

Our reward is hearing the stories about what they have dome when they drop back in a few years down the track or when we meet up with them out and about in our community.

Further information can be found at the MoE website:

Leaving school before the age of 16 – – Practical information about education for parents and carers