Step 1: find out about enrolment dates and other key deadlines
If you’re looking for a primary or secondary school for your child, start by checking enrolment dates. This gives you a timeline for finding and deciding on a school.
Most government primary schools accept applications and enrolments from the second term of the year before your child will start school – around May each year.
If your child is going to your local government secondary school, you usually need to enrol your child around April or May in the final year of primary school.
Non-government and independent primary and secondary schools often have long waiting lists, so you might need to apply and enrol much earlier, sometimes from birth.
You can contact schools directly to find out about their requirements. You can also ask schools when they’ll be holding their information sessions, open days or school tours so that you and your child can visit.
Step 2: consider your child’s and family’s school preferences
For some families, decisions about where children go to school are simple. Their children go to the local public school – the school in the same government zone as their house.
For other families, it might be more complicated. They might want to look at other government schools outside their local areas or at private schools. Or they might be thinking about home-schooling.
If you’re looking beyond your local school, it helps to think about what’s important to you and your child. For example, you might prefer schools that have good academic results, music facilities or sports programs.
These articles can help you with this process:
- Primary schools: things to consider when choosing a school
- Secondary schools: things to consider when choosing a school
Most government (or public) schools have enrolment zones. This means that for your child to be able to enrol, your family must live within a certain area around the school. Out-of-zone enrolments are sometimes possible. If you’re interested in government schools outside your zone, contact them to find out whether they’re enrolling children from outside their zones.
Step 3: gather information about schools
You can check out school options by gathering information. For example, you can:
- talk to family and friends
- call the school and make a time to meet with the principal
- look at school websites
- collect written materials like brochures and handbooks from schools
- go to information sessions, open days or tours
- look in the local paper for any feature articles on local schools.
You can also learn a lot about schools by reading their policies, mission statements, annual reports and strategic plans. You can find these on school websites or you can contact schools for copies.
You can contact your state or territory education department to get a list of schools in your area, or use My School to find government, Catholic and independent schools across Australia.
Step 4: visit schools
You can get a good feel for schools by visiting them. Here are some suggestions for making the most of school visits:
- Contact the schools you’re interested in and make an appointment to visit.
- If possible, tour the school during regular school hours and visit a few classes.
- Schedule an appointment with the school principal.
- Attend open days and other school functions to gather information about the attitudes of staff, students and parents. Listen closely to what they say about the school.
- If you’ve visited a school and feel positive about it, you could take your child for a tour of the school and see how they feel about it.
It’s a good idea to prepare for school visits by listing your priorities, gathering information and writing down your questions beforehand.
Step 5: apply to or enrol in the school(s) you choose
To apply to or enrol in a school, you’ll need to fill out an application or enrolment form with:
- your child’s name, age and birth date (you’ll also need to supply a copy of your child’s birth certificate)
- your family’s contact details and some emergency contact details
- health and welfare information that will help the school meet your child’s individual needs
- diagnostic reports if your child has additional needs
- an immunisation history statement based on the Australian Childhood Immunisation Register (ACIR)
- copies of any family court orders
- a passport or travel documents and relevant visa if your child isn’t a permanent Australian resident.
If you’re not applying to your closest government school, consider applying to more than one school, in case your child doesn’t get into your first choice.
Some schools will ask you to pay some or all of a levy or contribution fee when you enrol your child.
Choosing a school for your child is only the beginning. By being involved in your child’s education and building a strong relationship with your child’s school, you can help your child get the most out of their education.