How To Enrol Your Children In School In Australia

discover how to enrol your children in school in Australia

If you’re a parent moving to Australia, you’re probably thinking about how to enrol your children in school in Australia.

You’ve frantically googled when you can enrol, what you need to enrol and whether you need to pay additional fees if you are on a permanent or temporary visa.

It can be a minefield to navigate, as each state has slightly different schooling systems, starting ages, fee structures and requirements to enrol.

When we moved to Australia, my son was almost 3, so we’ve been through kindy and primary school, and are currently almost half way through high school, eek! I’m still finding it a difficult system to comprehend, even more so now that he’s selecting subjects and pathways that will determine the options available to him when he finishes Year 12 (that’s matric to us South Africans).

But for this blog I’ll stick with the basics for when you first arrive, how to enrol your children in school in Australia and what you’ll need in order to enrol them. Most information in this post will be based on my own experience in WA, but note that if you are in or heading to another state, costs and rules may differ and I’ll add some links at the end of the post where you can find more information.

How To Enrol Your Children In School In Australia

What Are the Schooling Options in Australia?

Australia has the same options as most countries – public schools run by the Education Department, private schools run by their own boards, plus home schooling for those who are brave enough to take on that challenge!

How Much Does Schooling Cost in Australia?

Public schools usually have a fairly low fee, which is often called a voluntary contribution fee. When my son was at primary school, this was $60 per child per year and optional. We would then pay additional fees in the year for incursions and excursions. In primary school this came to around $100-$200 per year.

Private schooling can vary from $2,000 per child per year, all the way to $30,000+ per child per year for some of the top private schools in WA.

Uniforms and booklists are additional costs to factor in too. If attending a public school, you can usually buy generic unbranded uniform items from any of the major stores like Target, K-mart, Big W and Best & Less. Private schools can have their own specific uniform and limited places where you can purchase these, and are often a lot more expensive than buying generic uniforms.

Book lists can cost anything from $100 in primary school to over $500 for high school depending on subjects and if any tech devices are needed. Some primary schools ask parents to purchase a device, but this is more common in high schools where a laptop is usually a requirement.

When Can I Enrol My Child in School in Australia?

Each state has different starting ages and school year systems.

In Western Australia you need to apply to enrol your child in school if they are:

  • starting Kindergarten at a school or community kindergarten – 4 years old by 30 June
  • starting Pre-primary and enrolling in their first year of compulsory schooling – 5 years old by 30 June
  • starting Year 7 – the first year of secondary schooling
  • changing schools
  • new to Western Australia.

Different states can have different starting ages and year structures – make sure to check the rules on years and birthdates in the state you are heading to.

You usually cannot enrol your children in school until you are physically onshore in Australia. If you’ve been emailing schools and getting no replies, its because they usually only deal with families that are already here.

With the way people move around the world each day, its difficult for schools to plan too far ahead when it comes to student numbers and enrolments.

Some private schools may be happy to communicate with you and perhaps even allow you to start the enrolment process by paying an application fee, but most schools will say to contact them when you have landed.

What Documents Do You Need for School Enrolment in Australia?

The key information you will need to enrol in a public school is a proof of address.

This is because most public schools have a catchment area and will only take students that can prove they live within the area.

Once you have a proof of address, you’ll also need to provide evidence of your current visa status so the schools know what fees you need to pay. I’ll go into this a bit more later in the article.

You may also be asked to provide your child’s birth certificate, your child’s immunisation schedule and your child’s health information.

Once accepted, you will also be asked for your contact information, emergency contact details, any court orders related to care for the child and your Medicare number.

Do Children Need to Be Immunised to Enrol in School in Australia?

Generally, yes, your child will need to provide evidence that they are up to date with the Australian vaccination schedule. This can include extra vaccinations that might not be on offer in your home country.

When we moved to Australia in 2013, our son had to catch up on chicken pox vaccinations as these were not part of the UK immunisation schedule at the time (although I did read recently they were looking at adding this in future). They were free to get and easy to arrange with a community health clinic or at the local doctors.

In 2019, changes to the Public Health Act 2016 (WA) and the School Education Act 1999 (WA) came into effect. This is usually referred to as No Jab No Play. It aims to increase vaccination rates of children in Western Australia and better protect the community from vaccine preventable notifiable infectious diseases.

Parents/guardians are required to provide their child’s AIR immunisation history statement when enrolling a child into any child care service, kindergarten or school. This statement has to be less than two months old.

Under the No jab No Play legislation a child’s immunisation status must be up-to-date according to their AIR immunisation history statement to be permitted to enrol into long day care, family day care, pre-kindergarten or kindergarten.

Exceptions apply to children who have an approved medical exemption to a vaccine, have natural immunity to a specific disease, are on an approved catch-up schedule, or are identified as an exempt child because of a particular family circumstance.

Can I Homeschool My Child in Australia?

Yes – homeschooling is quite popular in Australia and only growing in numbers.

Personally, I could just about cope with one week of home schooling when we were locked down in April 2020 so it would not be something that would work long term for my family!

Registering for home schooling is free, but all children who home school need to be registered with the Education Department. Legally children in Australia between the ages of 6 to 15 need to be at school or homeschooled.

From age 15 to 17 children can leave school as long as they meet state educational or vocational requirements (this can vary slightly between states so make sure to check the rules in the state you will be living).

To be registered for homeschooling in Australia you must apply to the state or territory in which you are a resident. You cannot register to homeschool in Australia if you are living overseas, or have no fixed address. The parent who will be the home educator is the person who must register each individual child.

How Does School Enrolment in Australia Work for Non-Citizens?

Permanent residents have the same schooling entitlements as citizens. This means you only need to provide standard enrolment documents including your visa to enrol at school. You also pay the same fees at a citizen would.

Temporary visa holders can enrol their children in school but may be required to may be charged additional fees and these vary from state to state. You will need to provide evidence of the visa subclass number and status. You will also need to tell the school about changes to your or your child’s visa subclass number or conditions as they occur in case this affects your fee structure.

Currently in WA, 457 and 482 visa holders have a local enrolment entitlement.  They pay a family tuition fee of $4 000 per year regardless of the number of Pre-primary to Year 12 children enrolled at a public school.  No tuition fee is payable if the oldest child is in kindergarten.

Where Can I Find More Information About Enrolling in School in Australia?

Here are some helpful links on how to enrol your children in school in Australia:

For more schooling information read my posts on how to choose a school before you move to Australia, and the differences and similarities between the South African and Australian school systems.

About Author

Helping you move to, settle in, and explore your new home in Australia. Avid reader, beach lover, and horse addict. As someone who has emigrated, not once, not twice, but three times, I know exactly what you’re going through. The ups and downs of emigration are faster than a rollercoaster and I’ve been there – three times!

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