- 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 July 31st in the year they enrol. 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, ACT an average of $11,000 per year (holders of 457 visa are exempt), 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). Overseas residents in Victoria, Queensland, South Australia do not pay a higher premium.
Western Australia in January 2015 introduced a tuition fee for families on 457 Visas (temporary skilled workers) whose children attend public schools in this State. The fee is $4,000 per family each year, regardless of the number of children a family have enrolled in public schools.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-Kindergarten –Year 6 and High School- Year 7-Year12. 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, Science and Training (DEST) – for more info go to www.dest.gov.au
- For Information about the comparability of Australian and overseas qualifications please go to : www.aei.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 most choosing either Italian or French. 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) pay the 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 – 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 a year prior to entry, so it is often not an option for ex pats 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
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).
Victoria, Queensland, South Australia do not charge overseas visitors a higher premium.
Western Australia $4,000 per family each year, regardless of the number of children a family have enrolled in public schools.
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:
ACT – www.det.act.gov.au
Roughly 15% of children attend Private or Independent schools. Many of them are single sex schools and most 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 ex pats 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 in the earlier years of school.
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.