It might seem like a long time before you have to enrol your little one in school, but it pays to be prepared.
How old do they have to be before starting BIG school? What is their first prep year called? What are the cut-off dates?
Leaving it to the last minute can cause unnecessary stress, so find the information you need to know early, and make sure everything is ready when it needs to be.
Here is our quick guide to education in Australia.
When is school compulsory?
School is compulsory between the age of 6 and 16 or 17 (Year 1 to 10).
Formal schooling includes:
- a preparatory year before Year 1
- primary schooling: 6 or 7 years – Years 1-6 or 1-7 (depending on state)
- secondary schooling: 5 or 6 years – Years 7-12 or 8-12.
Australian children often do a year of preschool or pre-prep before formal schooling starts.
What are the differences in schooling between Australian states?
The education system in each Australian state is run by that state’s government. Some of the main differences are what each level is called (for example Prep in Queensland is the same as Kindy in NSW).
Another difference is that primary school is from Grades 1-6 in some states and from 1-7 in others, which means a Grade 7 student will be in high school in some states but in primary school in other states.
Australian Education System: State by State
|Pre-Prep||Prep Year||Primary School||High School|
|ACT||Preschool||Kindy||Grade 1-6||Grade 7-12|
|NSW||Preschool||Kindy||Grade 1-6||Grade 7-12|
|NT||Preschool||Transition||Grade 1-6||Grade 7-12|
|QLD||Kindy||Prep||Grade 1-6||Grade 7-12|
|SA||Preschool/Kindy||Reception||Grade 1-7||Grade 8-12|
|TAS||Kindy||Prep||Grade 1-6||Grade 7-12|
|VIC||Kindy||Prep||Grade 1-6||Grade 7-12|
|WA||Kindy||Pre-primary||Grade 1-6||Grade 7-12|
How old does my child have to be when they start school?
The age your child needs to be to start school varies from state to state. Although the prep year is considered to be the start of formal full-time schooling.
Many parents chose to send their children to preschool or pre-prep when they are 3-4 years old – in preparation for formal schooling. Some private preschools/kindy may have different rules for enrolment, and if places are available may let you enrol a younger child (one that turns four later in the year, for example). However, those children won’t be able to attend formal schooling until they meet the enrolment requirements for the Preparatory Year.
|ACT||Must be 4 by April 30 in the year they enrol in Preschool||Must be 5 by April 30 in the year they enrol in Kindy|
|NSW||Must be 4 by July 31 in the year they enrol in Preschool||Must be 5 by July 31 in the year they enrol in Kindy|
|NT||Must be 4 by June 30 in the year they enrol in Preschool||Must be 5 by June 30 in the year they enrol in Transition|
|QLD||Must be 4 by July 31 in the year they enrol in Kindy||Must be 5 by June 30 in the year they enrol in Prep|
|SA||Must be 4 by May 1 in the year they enrol in Preschool/Kindy||Must be 5 by May 1 in the year they enrol in Reception|
|TAS||Must be 4 by January 1 in the year they enrol in Kindy||Must be 5 by January 1 in the year they enrol in Prep|
|VIC||Must be 4 by April 30 in the year they enrol in Kindy||Must be 5 by April 30 in the year they enrol in Prep|
|WA||Must be 4 by June 30 in the year they enrol in Kindy||Must be 5 by June 30 in the year they enrol in Pre-primary|
What else do I need to know?
The most important thing is to get in early – especially if you want to enrol your child in private school.
Even if you don’t know where you’ll be living when your child is due to start school, you should investigate your options and put their names down where necessary. Some waiting lists at private schools are so long you’d be well advised to have your child’s name down at birth!
Education in state schools is free. Non-state schools and pre-preps are generally fee paying.
Find more great info, hints, and tips about schooling in our Back to School Hub.
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