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  • There are three types of schools in Australia: Government, Catholic and Independent Schools. Scroll down for further information on the different types of school.
  • Children can start school in Australia if they turn 5 years of age by a date set by the state in which they live. Children must be enrolled, by law, when they turn 6 years of age. If in doubt, in the case of mid year birthdays, the trend is to hold children back till the following year.
  • The school year starts late January and finishes in December. There are 4 terms with 3 breaks of 2 to 3  weeks and a longer break over Summer/December of 4 -8 weeks. Private schools typically have shorter terms and longer holidays. The school day usually starts between 8.30-9am and finishes between 3-3.30pm Monday to Friday.
  • It is at the discretion of the head teacher whether a child can be accelerated to a higher class based on academic achievement, so it is worth checking.
  • Overseas residents in some states pay a higher premium of school fees in Australia. For public (non fee paying) schools, overseas residents in NSW are required to pay approx $4500 per year but $5,500in the final years of school, ACT an average of $9,320 per year for primary school and more for senior years  ( some holders of 457 visas may be exempt), Tasmania up to $5,500 per year (but 457 and 574 visa holders may be exempt), NT approx $8000 per year (but holders of many skilled migration visas are exempt). Overseas residents in Victoria, Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia do not pay a higher premium. Please note: Students who are initially on a short stay bridging visa may be required to pay higher school fees. For further information go to the individual state and territories education department (listed below).
  • Private school fees vary from around $2000 (some Catholic primary schools) up to $35,000 (some independent private schools). For students who do not hold and Australian passport and whose parents or carers are not resident in Australia there can also be additional fees on top of those Australian passport holders pay for private school fees. University fees, for international non residents, must be paid in full each term.
  • Additional schooling costs to consider are uniforms, books, school camps and excursions, contribution to the building fund (private schools) and general fundraising efforts (both public and private schools).
  • The majority of schools do not provide free lunches. Most students take their own lunch to school as well as a snack for morning recess. Many schools also have canteen facilities, which are often staffed by parents from the school and organised on a voluntary basis.
  • Most schools have a uniform. The independent schools usually have a very strict uniform code and the initial outlay for this can be high (around $800 +). Some schools have a second hand department which is a cost effective way of purchasing some of the least used items or as a 2nd/3rd set of uniform. The uniform costs for public schools are less and they also have second hand departments. In Australia to buy uniform from the school’s second hand shop is considered supportive of the school and the norm.
  • Sport plays a large role in school life in Australia with an emphasis on competitive sport. During primary school, students participate in sport at least one day a week. In high school, sport may also be played on Saturday mornings and after school during the week. In many of the private boys’ schools, sport is compulsory. Whilst not always compulsory for girls, it is encouraged. Many sports are catered for from rowing, to cricket to water polo to rugby and everything in between so there is usually something to suit everyone. In addition to school sports, many children join their local sporting club (soccer, rugby, AFL etc) which is an affordable way to become part of your sporting community.   Due to the beach culture in much of Australia, most parents enrol their children in swimming lessons from an early age and many schools run learn to swim programs.
  •  All states and territories have strong Anti Bullying policies in schools. Action plans and support systems are in place to assist parents and students who are being bullied.
  • A National Curriculum has been in the works for some time but currently education in Australia is administered by the individual state.
  • The school system consists of Primary School and High School. Children must, by law, attend school until Year 10 at which stage they receive a junior high school certificate – not a full high school certificate.  At this stage students either stay on to complete their full school certificate*, train as an apprentice in a trade or other vocational training or join the work force.
  • The National Education Authority is the Department of Education and Training – for more info go to education.gov.au
  • For Information about the comparability of Australian and overseas qualifications please go to : internationaleducation.gov.au
  • Home schooling is a legal option in Australia with the parent taking full responsibility for educating their children at home based on the curriculum. For further information go to www.hea.edu.au
  • LOTE refers to Languages Other than English. Children in primary and secondary schools are taught languages. This varies between schools with many choosing either Italian or French but with asian languages gaining popularity. In secondary school (high school) they can choose alternate or additional languages.
  • Multiculturalism is embraced in the Australian school system and specialist English as a second language (ESL) teachers are there to support children with language difficulties. In most states there are  Introductory English Centres (IEC) for children with little or no English language skills.

There are three types of schools in Australia: Government, Catholic and Independent Schools

 

Government Schools (referred to as Public/State Schools)

Local Primary Schools

There are many good quality primary schools in Australia and in most cases you are eligible for a place if you live within the school’s catchment area. Good areas tend to have good local schools, so often housing is chosen based on the schools zoning. Class sizes can be high (up to 35 students to one teacher) but most parents are happy with the quality of schooling for these formative years. The annual costs for Australian residents are very low, about $500 per year but there is usually a significant amount of in house school fundraising. Some overseas residents do pay tuition fees. (see below – Costs)Temporary residents (on a subclass 457 visa and some other visas) may pay an additional cost, although not all states and territories enforce it. Permanent residents have same rights as citizens and only pay a small contribution (a few hundred dollars a year in average).

Local State High Schools

 When it comes time to go to high school (Year 7 in most states – age 12+), the number of state schools decreases but the relevant catchment areas become much larger. The reputation of state high schools can vary considerably.  Some schools achieve much better results and have far better on site facilities. The number of children attending a school increases the funding allowance. There are a number of state selective high schools that have a strong academic slant and a good reputation. To gain admission to these schools, students must sit the Selective High Schools Test the year before entry. For some entry is in Year Seven, others have entry in Year Nine. There is a high demand for these places and exams are taken the year prior to entry, so it is often not an option for expats moving to Australia mid way through the school year. Students can finish their schooling in Year 10 or continue through to Year 12 at which stage they will receive a high school graduation certificate.

*This certificate is known as a High School Certificate (HSC) in NSW, a Victorian Certificate of Education (VCE) in Victoria, a High School Certificate in ACT, an NT Certificate of Education in the Northern Territory, a Queensland Certificate of education (QCE) in Queensland, a South Australia Certificate of Education in SA. the Tasmanian Certificate of Education, or TCE in Tasmania and the Western Australian Certificate of Education (WACE) in Western Australia.

 

Public/State School in Australia– What will it cost me?

Overseas residents in some states pay a higher premium of school fees in Australia.

For NSW are expect to pay approx $4500 per year for primary school and $5,500 for the last years of school

Tasmania up to $5,500 per year (but 457 and 574 visa holders are exempt)

NT - approx $8000 per year (but holders of many skilled migration visas are exempt).

ACT- $9320 for primary school and up to $13,900 for high school. 

Victoria, Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia do not charge overseas visitors on 457 visas a higher premium.

Please note: Students who are initially on a short stay bridging visa may be required to pay higher school fees.

For further information go to the individual state and territories education department

Department of Education by State and Territory:

ACTwww.det.act.gov.au

NSW- www.schools.nsw.edu.au

NT- www.det.nt.gov.au

Queensland- www.education.qld.gov.au

SA- www.decd.sa.gov.au

Tasmania- www.education.tas.gov.au

Victoria- www.education.vic.gov.au

WA- www.det.wa.edu.au

 

Independent Schools

Roughly 15% of children attend private or independent schools. Many of them are single sex schools and some have boarding facilities. Many of these schools have a link with the church or an alternative teaching philosophy such as Montessori or Rudolph Steiner. The French School and German school in Sydney are popular options with expatriates. A few independent schools now offer the IB (International Baccalaureate) which is also popular option with expats due to its portability. There is some prestige associated with attending private school but for many the high fee structure prevents this being an option. Despite the high fees, demand for places is high, especially with those considered the ‘best’ schools and many parents enrol their children at birth. The earlier you can apply/enrol your children the better, spaces tend to be sparser for boys and also in the earlier years of school.

 

Catholic Schools

Catholic schools account two thirds of non-government schools and the school fees are usually considerably lower than in the rest of the private sector. Although the majority of students accepted are Catholic, the schools are not exclusive but students should expect a strong religious ethos. The costs at these schools can often be less than the levy paid by overseas residents at public schools, making it a popular option with expats. Most Catholic schools will take Catholic students as a priority and will expect you to show a baptism certificate and to live within the parish zone.

For information of Universities and TAFE (further education) see relevant sections.

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NAPLAN

NAPLAN (National Assessment Program – Literacy and Numeracy) has received its fair share of criticism since its inception in 2008. No sooner had it been introduced than parents and teachers were using it as a tool to measure a school’s overall performance.

However this was never the intention of NAPLAN.

There is certainly merit in testing a student’s literacy and numeracy skills every second year from Year 3 to Year 9 and this is where the strength of NAPLAN lies. Whatever your child’s score is in their first NAPLAN test, you would be hoping for a steady rise in their score over the years which represents an improvement in their literacy and numeracy.

Furthermore, NAPLAN does give an indication of where students sit in relation to the National Minimum Standards. If they sit below these standards then it indicates they have not met the expected learning outcomes for their year level and are in need of additional help. This information provides schools and teachers a guide as to where they need to focus more of their attention in the classroom.

NAPLAN also provides students with hands-on practise in exam conditions – a crucial skill to take into their final exams in Year 12 and any additional tertiary study.

However, like most things in life, NAPLAN does raise some questions that need to be addressed.

Firstly, the nationwide test was meant to stimulate schools to improve their performances as the results are made public. In turn, this would draw students to better performing schools creating a fierce competition between schools for student enrolment. The Grattan Institute recently completed a study which found that this government-held mantra was a myth. Parents are choosing schools for a variety of reasons, not based solely on NAPLAN results.

Secondly, schools are ranked alongside each other which can be extremely unfair. Some schools spend weeks cramming for the NAPLAN test and forego crucial subject content. Other schools do very little preparation work for the test and keep their students on task teaching them what the students are there to learn – the curriculum. Other schools, much to their shame, recommend the lower ability students take a day off when the testing occurs so that their average score increases.

So how much emphasis should we place on NAPLAN results?

They should be used as a guide only and not be the determining factor when selecting a school for your child. A school is made up of so much more than a result on a test paper and your child’s education will be developed as much in the classroom as it is on the sporting field, in the orchestra or on the history tour.

Plato summed it up well when he wrote “Do not train children to learning by force and harshness, but direct them to it by what amuses their minds, so that you may be better able to discover with accuracy the peculiar bent of the genius of each.”
 

Greg Friend

CEO School Mentor

Greg has worked in education for 20 years and is the CEO of School Mentor, a Sydney based firm that assists families to choose the right school for their child. To speak to Greg please write to greg.friend@schoolmentor.com.au or phone 0477 777 864.

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Moving back to the Unknown


Living and working overseas is one of the great adventures a family can have. As a child I lived in Geneva and London thanks to my father’s job. As a parent I worked in Vietnam and gave my young children the incredible adventure of living in an exciting and vibrant culture far removed from what they were used to in Sydney. These two experiences helped shape the man I am today.
Most overseas postings eventually come to an end and while those abroad look forward to reconnecting with family and old acquaintances, a move back to Australia brings with it a number of headaches.
One of the major issues parents with children face is, how do I enrol my child into a school that will give them the best chance at receiving a quality education conducive to their learning ability?
The enrolment process for high school really kicks in when students are in Year 5. That’s when most schools with waiting lists start holding first round interviews or ask students to sit mandatory tests to gauge their academic ability. That’s not to say that schools don’t have places open right up until the start of Term 1. The ironic bliss for some parents returning to Australia is that they can find a place vacated by a student whose parents have moved to an alternate school, interstate or overseas.
It can be a daunting task for families who are moving back to a major Australian city and looking to enrol their child into an Independent, Catholic or Selective High School education. The educational market is constantly changing with schools becoming super competitive trying to entice students to their schools with a plethora of new and exciting initiatives. From International Baccalaureate or Cambridge courses to International study tours, there is no shortage of options for parents.
The question is, how do you know which school will suit your child’s needs while complimenting where the family wants to live and other financial, cultural and pedagogical considerations?
The common method most families adopt is to visit schools on Open Days, arrange for a private school tour or speak to parents in the local community who have children currently at the schools they are considering. All well and good for those living where there children will go to school. But how do Australian living abroad manage?
Some of the wealthy schools now travel to major South East Asian cities and hold information sessions. However, these sessions are mainly geared at the international market – non-Australian students seeking an Aussie education. Similarly, schools are now starting to live-stream information evenings that parents can tap in to. This will become a lot more common down the track but it is not the same as being on the ground.
For parents who are living overseas, the move back home already comes with so many factors to consider. Relocation agencies take a lot of the stress out of these moves and can really assist in making the experience as smooth as possible. And now there are businesses in place that will assist with placing their children not just in any school, but a school that will suit the expectations and ability of the child and the parents, making the move home one step easier again.
Greg Friend
Greg has worked in education for 20 years and is the CEO of School Mentor, a Sydney based firm that assists families to choose the right school for their child. To speak to Greg please write to greg.friend@schoolmentor.com.au or phone 0477 777 864.

 






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