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Schooling in NSW

By law you need to enrol your child in a school or register them for home schooling by their sixth birthday.

Kindergarten enrolment generally begins around April the year before your child will start Kindergarten. 

Your child can start Kindergarten at the beginning of the school year if they turn five on or before 31 July in that year. By law, all children must be enrolled in school by their sixth birthday. 

All students must complete Year 10, or be 17 years old before they can leave school. The Education Act 1990 provides information about compulsory school attendance.

Find out more about:

School terms and holidays

The NSW school year usually begins late January each year and is broken up into four terms of approximately 10 weeks. 

Each term is separated by holidays of around two weeks.  The school year finishes in December (the exact date depends on the school and sector) and is followed by a break of five to six weeks before the next school year begins.

If you have moved to NSW from another state you may find that the term and public holiday dates differ. If your child/children attend a non-government school, check with your school on term dates as they can differ from public school term dates.

Check School term and holiday dates for NSW Public Schools.

Types of schools

Government schools

The NSW Department of Education is responsible for government primary and secondary schools which are often referred to as public schools. 

Students living within the 'in area' residential catchment zone for a government school may attend that school.

There are also academic, arts and sports selective high schools.

If you want your child to attend a government school that is not in 'your area', you can contact that school to inquire whether enrolment is possible. There are entrance exams for government selective schools.

Use the government School Locator to find the closest school near you. 

Non-government schools  

All non-government schools must be registered in order to operate. View the requirements for registration.

Non-government schools are located in all areas of NSW including metropolitan, regional, rural and remote areas. 

They may operate individually or as part of a system of schools.  

NESA maintains an up to date list of all registered non-government schools.

Individual non-government schools

Individual schools are sometimes called independent schools. Each individual non-government school is independently owned and operated.  

There are approximately 380 individual non-government schools in NSW.

Independent schools may vary in size, educational philosophy and organisation. 

Systemic non-government schools

Systemic non-government schools belong to a system of schools. 

Each Catholic diocese in NSW and the Seventh-day Adventist Church own and operate a system of schools. 

There are approximately 570 systemic non-government schools in NSW.

The systemic non-government schools generally have a purpose that is common to all schools in the system.  

Home schooling

Home schooling allows a parent or guardian to integrate the NSW curriculum with the learning processes that occur naturally in the home throughout a child's development.

Parents or guardians who are home schooling a child are responsible for developing and implementing their child's educational program and assessing their child's program. Registration with the NSW Education Standards Authority is a legal requirement for home schooling while a child is of compulsory school age and not enrolled in a school. It is open to parents to apply for home schooling registration for children over 17 up to the age of 18 years.

Download the Registration for Home Schooling in NSW – Information Package (PDF) (updated August 2013) for more information about home schooling.

Learning stages

Schooling in NSW is organised into seven stages of learning across primary and secondary school

Primary School from Kindergarten to Year 6 (K-6) encompasses four stages of learning.

  • Early Stage or Foundation = Kindergarten (starting from five years of age)
  • Stage 1 = Years 1 and 2
  • Stage 2 = Years 3 and 4
  • Stage 3 = Years 5 and 6

Secondary School from Year 7 to Year 12 (HSC) encompasses three stages of learning.

  • Stage 4 = Years 7 and 8 (starting around 12 years of age)
  • Stage 5 = Years 9 and 10 (eligible for the Record of School Achievement or RoSA from around 16 years of age)
  • Stage 6 = Years 11 and 12 or HSC (finishing around 18 years of age)

Syllabuses

Schooling in NSW is based on the mandatory NSW syllabuses for students from Kindergarten to Year 12. The syllabuses are developed and endorsed by NESA. The NSW Education Minister endorses any changes to the curriculum before they are implemented across NSW schools. 

Schools have discretion to offer courses beyond the NESA curriculum, and the teaching of any religious, ideological or philosophical beliefs that are not in conflict with these constraints and are not otherwise contrary to the requirements of the Education Act 1990 is a matter for the school and the school community.

Our shop stocks a comprehensive range of educational publications, parent guides, student study resources, examples of exceptional student work, and printed and bound copies of NSW syllabus documents. 

Kindergarten to Year 10 learning areas and syllabuses

Kindergarten to Year 10 learning areas and syllabuses are split into nine areas:

Year 11 to 12 learning areas and syllabuses

Year 11 to 12 learning areas and syllabuses are split into nine areas:

Moving to NSW from interstate or overseas

If you are moving to NSW from interstate or overseas you will need to select a school and enrol your child. Since school years can differ across states and overseas, you need to talk to the school’s principal about which year level your child should enter.

Documentation from your child’s previous school, such as reports and portfolios of work will assist the school in transitioning your child to their new school.

We can provide Statements of Equivalence (to NSW school level awards) for secondary education qualifications from other Australian states and territories or from overseas countries.

Visit Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Certification Authority for more information on changing secondary schools in Australia.

Complaints handling

Initially, when you have a complaint or issue it is best to speak to your child’s teacher and/or your school. School principals are best placed to address any issue that may arise at their school. 

General issues regarding Public Schools NSW can be raised with the Department of Education

All registered non-government schools have policies and procedures in relation to complaints and grievance handling. You should consult with your school to find out the procedure to follow for making a complaint.

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