Australian Public Education System

Australian Public Education System and how it works, I will only discuss public/state school in this article and leave the private schools for another day.

School education

School education in Australia is divided into primary and secondary. The secondary levels also further divided into secondary and senior secondary school.

  • Primary school runs from kindergarten/preparatory to year 6 or 7 depending on which state you are in.
  • Secondary school which is generally referred to as high school or junior high school goes from year 7 to 10 or 8 to 10 depending on which state you are in.
  • Senior secondary school which can be referred to as senior high school goes from year 11 to 12, luckily this is consistent across the states.

What is compulsory school education in Australia? Each state is slightly different but very similar.

Compulsory education in Australia goes from kindergarten or preparatory level to year 10. It is also by law required for everyone to be in one of the following until they turn 17. Each state can be slightly different, they are generally as follows.

  • In school or registered for homeschooling
  • In approved education or training (e.g. TAFE, traineeship, apprenticeship)
  • In full-time, paid employment (average 25 hours/week)
  • In a combination of work, education and/or training.

ACT, for example, will require all children to be in school until they are 17 or complete year 12.

When you finish year 10 students get the school certificate and when finishing year 12 one gets the high school certificate which is commonly known as the HSC. Please also note different states can call this differently as well but the concept and function of the certificate is pretty much the same.

This above is fairly consistent across all states and territories in Australia. What can be different across states and territories are the age you can start school and the cut-off dates.

For example with NSW, the cut off date is July 31st. The first year of school in NSW is called Kindergarten – or more colloquially, ‘Kindy’. NSW kids are allowed to start school on the first day of the first term as long as they turn 5 by July 31 that year. All NSW children must be enrolled in a primary school in the year they turn 6.

A lot of parents particularly in well off areas will decide to hold their children back and only enrol their children to the kindergarten until they are close to six. What this means is that there could be a very significant age gap between kindergarten students up to eighteen months. The main reason why parents do that is that they feel their children will be more mature and also better at competing in junior sports. If you have not known before, Australian are crazy about sports, it is a big deal in schools and day to day life as well.

With Victoria, the equivalent to kindergarten is called preparatory school children are allowed to start school on the first day of the first term as long as they turn 5 by April 30 that year. If you live in Victoria, your child must be enrolled in a school in the year they turn 6, which is the compulsory school starting age.

South Australia and ACT cut off date is also 30th of April.

Queensland, Western Australia and NT cut off date are 30th of June.

South Australia turns five before the 1st of May.

Tasmania must be five by 1st of January.

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