Everything You Need to Know Before Enrolling Your Child in Sydney


If you are moving to Australia with your children, one of the things you need to prepare is finding the right school for them.


There are many things to consider before you can apply your child in a school, and mind, there may be a long waiting list in some places.


There are some of the general things you need to know so you can choose your child’s school well.


This is mostly relevant for PR residents moving to New South Wales as other states and regions have different policies and governing bodies. Although, reading this could could still enlighten you on how the education system works in Australia in general – regardless of where you are settling.


Schooling Levels


In New South Wales, children are legislated to receive 13 years of schooling.


Preschool is not required but young children usually attend child care services. Children then attend preschool the year before going to Kindergarten.


The legislated schooling levels in NSW starts with a year in Kindergarten, 6 years in Primary school and another 6 years in secondary school.


Age cut offs


Now, what school level does your child belong in?


Similar to the Philippines, your child’s age is the basic and/or primary guide to find out what level you should enroll your child in.

Primary School
5-6 years old Kindergarten 5 years old before July 31
6-7 years old Year 1 6 years old before July 31
7-8 years old Year 2 7 years old before July 31
8-9 years old Year 3 8 years old before July 31
9-10 years old Year 4 9 years old before July 31
10-11 years old Year 5 10 years old before July 31
11-12 years old Year 6 11 years old before July 31
Junior Secondary School
12-13 years old Year 7 12 years old before July 31
13-14 years old Year 8 13 years old before July 31
14-15 years old Year 9 14 years old before July 31
15-16 years old Year 10 Students receive an NSW School Certificate 15 years old before July 31
Senior Secondary School
16-17 years old Year 11 Working towards High School Certificate (HSC) 16 years old before July 31
17-18 years old Year 12   Finish for HSC and sit for exams.Trial exams are on July or August.HSC exams on October or NovemberExam results available by December, student can then apply for tertiary education 17 years old before July 31

Start of the School Year


Australia’s school year starts last week of January and ends a week before Christmas.


There are also 4 terms throughout the school year. Each term has two weeks off.


Term 1 – last week of January to 1st week of April.

Term 2 – last week of April to 1st week of July

Term 3 – mid of July to last week of September

Term 4 – 1st week of October to mid December


Types of Schools


If your child is already in primary age or older, you can enroll your children in one of the many different schools in New South Wales.


You can choose from government schools (or public schools), Catholic schools and private schools.


NSW has the largest educational system in Australia with over 200 schools. Government schools cover 67% of the number of schools while Catholic schools cover 18% and 15% are the other private institutions.


Australian government schools are excellent. In fact, they rank 9th in world education rankings as assessed by Programme for International Student Assessment or Pisa. For perspective, the US ranks 17th while UK sits on 25th.

School Zone in Canberra

Image Credit: Wikipedia


Australian citizens and permanent visa holders can enroll in government schools for free. However, you can usually enroll only in schools where your residence is within their enrollment or catchment zones. Also, other fees like books and other materials are usually paid for by the parents.


By law, every government school is required to take in all Australian citizens and permanent visa holders but if your suburb is highly populated, there is a chance that your government school is full.


You can enroll your child in schools outside of your zone, but your child will be allowed to enroll last after enrollment of all students in their zone is finalized.


As Catholics, you may want to consider giving your child a Catholic education. However, Catholic schools are much more expensive.  But it could still be a choice if you are near one and all other government schools are full. Catholic schools do not follow enrollment zones but parish zones.


If you have several children to enroll, a private school may still be a good option. Most private schools offer discounts when you enroll siblings together.


Now, for children below the school age years, you might want to consider looking for child care and preschools online before moving here.  There is a long waiting list as competition to get in a school is high.


Browse with Care for Kids and My Child websites to find out about different centers for your child. Get their contact details and email them as soon as possible.


Image Credit: alan jones

Parents in NSW are the ones who pay for the fees in childcare and preschools. However, if you are already a permanent visa holder or a citizen with a low bracket income you are eligible to apply for financial assistance


Make sure your child is enrolled in registered care preschools so you can be entitled for a minimum Child Care benefit rate.


There are also public preschools in NSW but you can only enroll your child in one if he/she is already on the year before Kindergarten.




NSW follows the Australian National curriculum.

preschool students

Image Credit: DailyTelegraph

The primary school has 7 key learning areas namely:

  • English

  • Mathematics

  • Science and Technology

  • Human Society and Environment,

  • Languages

  • Creative Arts

  • Personal Development, Health and Physical Education

By Year 3 and Year 5, children sit for the NAPLAN test. NAPLAN test is an assessment for the school performance and not for the students.


Junior Secondary schools have 8 core subjects namely:

  • English

  • Mathematics

  • Human Society and it’s Environment

  • Personal Development, Health and Physical Education

  • Creative Arts

  • Technology and Applied Studies

  • Language Other Than English or LOTE

By Year 8, students need to choose their subjects for Year 9 and 10.


Year 9 students sits in for another NAPLAN test.


Senior Secondary Schools is a turning point. Your child may choose to work towards a High School Certificate or HSC to be eligible to study in University. If your child chose an HSC track, his/her results are based on a state wide exam grade and school-based performance.


Another track is the vocational one. Your student may opt to go through a vocational training through TAFE schools. VET training are more practical and hands on. The training also gives them industry qualifications and may help them gain a place in a university.


English Proficiency


If your child is enrolling for Year 5 and up, then an English language proficiency exam is required. You probably had your child sit an exam before applying for the visa anyway.


However, if your child’s English language exam is below the English language requirement, then there are several English language programs and training schools available.


Class size


Class sizes are relatively small with 25 to 30 students for primary and junior secondary schools while senior secondary schools only have 15 to 25 students.


Obligatory School uniforms


All schools, regardless of type, have their own set of uniforms that includes a hat, backpack, shirt, pants or skirts, dresses, shorts and sports jackets (if required).


preschool students playing


Black laces up shoes are usually required paired with the uniform. You may want to buy this while you are still in the Philippines.


Sports uniforms are separately available if needed.


Hats are required as there is a No Hat, No Play policy. This is strictly implemented.


Looking at tuition fees while sitting in front of your computer at home in the Philippines may give you a head ache. But remember, Australia’s government is one of the most generous in giving assistance through different means and agencies.


Keep abreast by searching forums and talking to other parents like you who are already living in Australia.


Bookmark government agencies like family assistance office webpage (bookmark us as well).


Also, Australia offers one of the best quality education around the world. So no matter where you enroll your child here, you are sure your child is getting the best possible future.

  Special thanks to is-dialogue for the main image.
Candice C

Candice is a school teacher and a mother, She loves writing about practical guides and of course, parenting advice.

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