School governance and management
Boarders and school hostels
How are school hostels managed? What laws apply to them?
Boarding hostels are generally run by independent governing boards, even if the hostel is part of a state or integrated school. Hostels must be licensed under the Education (Hostels) Regulations 2005.
These regulations set out:
- minimum requirements for hostel premises and facilities, and for hostels’ management practices, and
- options for the Ministry of Education to intervene if a hostel doesn’t meet the minimum requirements.
A boarder, or their parent or guardian can complain to the owner of a hostel about a breach of these regulations (see below).
What’s the legal relationship between the hostel, and the students and parents?
Your relationship with the hostel is separate from your relationship with the school because the hostel and the school are different institutions. So, if the hostel cancels your boarding contract, this doesn’t mean you are suspended or expelled from the school itself.
The relationship between parents, students and the hostel owners is a contractual one. This means that each party agrees to carry out their part of the contractual agreement, which is usually that:
- your parents or guardians agree to pay fees to the hostel
- the hostel agrees to provide food, support and a safe environment for you
- you agree to follow the hostel rules.
Policy on hostel relationships and treatment of boarders
All hostels must have a policy that deals with relationships at the hostel, including relationships between the boarders and relationships between boarders and staff. This policy must help to make sure that boarders are:
- treated with respect and dignity
- given positive guidance promoting appropriate behaviour, and in a way that takes into account each boarder’s age and level of maturity
- given positive guidance by the use of praise and encouragement, and that blame, harsh language, belittling and degrading responses are avoided
- physically restrained in accordance with the restrictions in the policy only.
And when boarders are being given direction and guidance they’re not discriminated against in any way (including by favouritism or hostility), they’re not physically ill-treated or put in solitary confinement, and they’re not refused food, drink, warmth, shelter, privacy or protection.
Do hostels have to have written policies and rules?
Yes. Hostel owners have to follow written policies and operating procedures when they are running a hostel. Hostels can be owned by the school, or privately.
The hostel owners write their own policies, but they must make sure that you:
- are supported in a positive learning environment
- are given the opportunity to develop positively within reasonable boundaries
- feel secure and valued
- have ready access to people you can trust and confide in, and are supported in raising issues that concern you
- have easy access to, and some choice about health and other personal services you may need.
Copies of the policies must be given to you and your parents or guardians if you ask for them. The hostel must review policies at least every three years, and must consult with you and your whānau when they do these reviews.
When can I have contact with my parents or guardians?
Usually, your parents or guardians must be able to see or contact you whenever you’re at the hostel.
The hostel can say no to parents and guardians visiting or contacting you for certain reasons. For example if:
- their behaviour is likely to be disruptive to the hostel’s ability to operate effectively
- there is a court order in place.
What happens if I break a hostel rule?
The law doesn’t set out specific disciplinary processes so each hostel has its own disciplinary rules, policies and processes. The hostel should have given you a list of hostel rules that also says what happens if rules are broken.
Both you and the hostel must follow these rules because of the contract between the hostel, and you and your parents or guardians. You are also legally entitled to be treated fairly and reasonably by the hostel. This is based on a “implied term” of the contract you have with the hostel.
The hostel’s disciplinary policy may include an appeal procedure that you can use if you’re not happy with a disciplinary decision.
What does it mean to be treated fairly when you’ve broken a hostel rule?
“Fairness” when you are being disciplined means applying the principals of “natural justice”. For more information, see “Your rights in the disciplinary process: Natural justice”
For example, if you and others drink alcohol at the hostel, and this is specifically against the rules, the hostel should:
- interview everyone involved and ask each of you for a response
- consider each response without assuming that you did drink alcohol and break the rules
- make a decision about what to do next based on facts and evidence.
The board could expel you if the hostel rules clearly say that you can be expelled for drinking alcohol, and you have been given a fair chance to explain your side of the story.
Can I be punished by teachers for breaking hostel rules?
The hostel (boarding staff) and the school (principal and teachers) are separate. Both have to follow a proper process for dealing with misbehaviour according to their own rules.
You can’t be automatically expelled from school just because you’ve been expelled from the hostel. Unfortunately, being expelled from the hostel could mean you don’t have a suitable place to live, and so won’t be able to keep going to the school.
If a boarder has broken the hostel rules, the school principal will need to consider whether any school rule has also been broken.
For example, if you drink alcohol in the hostel (and the school rules ban alcohol from the school premises) the principal will need to think about whether the hostel is part of the school premises.
If the principal decides a school rule has been broken, they’ll need to decide what action to take. If they formally suspend you, you’ll then have a disciplinary hearing with the school board.
For the formal suspension process, see “Stand-downs, suspensions, exclusions and expulsions”
What if the hostel breaks the hostel regulations?
You, your parents or guardians can complain to the owner of the hostel, either verbally (a meeting or phone call) or in writing (letter or email).
Some examples of complaints are:
- the hostel building and rooms aren’t up to the minimum standards
- the hostel doesn’t have the required written policies in place
- the hostel staff haven’t followed their own policies.
All hostels must have a complaints process in place that is fair, simple, and efficient. Your complaint should be dealt with according to this process.
The Ministry of Education is in charge of licencing and inspecting hostels. If a hostel isn’t complying with the rules and minimum standards in the Hostel Regulations, the Ministry can take action. The hostel owner can be prosecuted and fined up to $10,000. See “How school hostels are regulated and managed” above
How will the hostel deal with my complaint?
When a hostel owner receives a complaint from you, they have to:
- put the complaint in writing (if you made it verbally)
- give you a written acknowledgement of your complaint within five working days
- tell you about their internal processes for dealing with complaints, and give you a copy of this information if you ask for it
- give you a copy of all information they have that may be relevant
- put their response to your complaint in writing.
The hostel owner then has 10 working days to make a decision about the complaint, or let you know that they need more time. If they do take more time, they still need to make a decision as soon as possible.