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Our little boy will be 5 in January and we are hoping to be in Australia for him to start school at that time. as we are unsure where we will live i dont want to start him in school only to have to take him out and start him somewhere else. we have an idea of the area we want to go to but asking everyone ..... do they have catchment areas over there? like we do ie people moving house so their children can go to particular schools? or is it more open?

also what is the process to enrol him into schools there and is there a cut off time?

any help appreciated

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Comment by clare kneebone on February 17, 2011 at 18:40
I worked as a prep teacher in queensland before returning to the UK. So I can tell you about queensland. You should be able to enrol him anytime, and of course like anywhere, there are desirable residential areas to live and some less so. There is quite a cheap private school system if you are not happy with the state (public) school. In the state system schools can get quite large in the city areas and I found that the smaller schools were nicer to be in...more of a family atmosphere. Whatever you choose though, there will be large ovals, and loads of equipment, no school dinners - pack lunches, and a pretty damn good experience for your son compared to my brief experience over here (mouth shut now). Prep is a wonderful time for your 5 year old...be very happy for him as he will have the opportunity to make friends and play. We value a play based program for that age....and loads of it is outside...the children are happy healthy and love it! The year runs from spring (Feb) to summer (mid Dec) where aussie kids have xmas and holidays all rolled into one...fabulous. In Jan the children are in the middle of their long summer break in qld. but its a good time for you to become aclimatised and a little settled.
Comment by Sarah Husselmann on February 14, 2011 at 6:09

Hi Claire, Schools do have catchment areas in Australia. In my experience (in Sydney) the schools refer to catchment areas as “zones” – so you have to be ‘in the zone’ to guarantee a spot for your child. Schools should have zone information on their websites.

Schools do accept enrolments from outside the zone but it works the same as the UK – the school takes 1) children in the zone 2) siblings of children already at the school 3) other children ONLY if they have space. Some schools also have preschools that feed into them so that can be another way of guaranteeing a spot.

In Sydney, competition for places can be high. We were outside the zone for our preferred school, got our son into the linked preschool but still didn’t get a spot. Our second choice has worked out perfectly though so no regrets.

In NSW schools accept enrolment forms throughout the year leading up to your child’s start date. In Victoria, enrolments usually start in May. Each state might be slightly different; the best place to confirm these details are the state \ territory education department websites.

In terms of a cut off date, as long as you're 'in the zone' the local public school has to take you, whenever you arrive.

I write a blog helping mums moving to Australia and have published several articles about education in Australia – here’s a link to our recent Education Wrap-up including more details on the enrolment process, term dates, starting school tips, and much more.

Hope this has helped. Good luck with your planning!

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