Types of School

Find out about the types of school available for children in Australia...

Pre-school Education

Pre-schools are often run by local councils or private organisations and are available for children aged three to five. In many areas pre-schools are situated on the same grounds as primary schools. Schooling at this age is optional, but it is recommended so that children learn through play and acquire social interaction skills.

In some areas there may be waiting lists to enrol in a pre-school, both public and private.


Primary School Education

Primary school education is compulsory and generally starts the year the child turns five or six, depending on the state or territory. The first year of primary school is referred to as preparatory, or kindergarten in some areas of Australia (for example, New South Wales and Australian Capital Territory).

The main subjects studied during primary school are maths, English, science, technology, the arts, society and environment, and physical education. Foreign languages are usually offered from Year 3 onwards and Asian languages are more common than European ones.

Primary schools frequently provide after school care to cater for the needs of working parents. This is generally fee paying. Check with the individual school.

Outside school hours care: Also known as out-of-school hours care, this form of child care is available for children in primary school, and can take place during holidays and before or after school. In most cases, this form of care takes place at the school itself.

The Australian Government's Department of Education and Training have more on Early Learning


Secondary Education

Secondary school starts after six or seven years of primary school (depending on the state/territory) and is compulsory up to the age of 15. As in primary school, children study a variety of subjects as well as others such as needlework, drama and woodwork. As the child progresses through secondary school, they can choose subjects to specialise in. In the final two years of high school, they choose a smaller number of subjects to specialise in depending on their preferences and decisions regarding future careers.

Public high schools are free of charge but fees may be required for extra-curricular activities such as music or drama.

Children may leave school after age 15, but they must complete Year 10 to get their School Certificate. In the final year of high school, Year 12, pupils study for a Senior Secondary Certificate of Education which is recognised by all Australian universities and post-secondary institutions, as well as many universities abroad.

Special programmes are provided to gifted children and those with specific talents. There are also programmes available for children in specific fields such as sport, theatre or music, although places are limited.


International Schools

There are a number of schools in Australia catering to foreign students, many offering the International Baccalaureate. These schools can be found in major cities such as Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth. All private and international schools must meet the requirements of the Australian national system.


Special Needs Education

Children with special needs and learning disabilities are accepted in most mainstream schools and private schools. Special tuition and specialist staff are provided within public schools where necessary and students with learning difficulties or specific conditions can usually access support. Larger schools may have a special needs officer and a specific programme in place, check with individual schools and local government education departments for further information.