We are one, but we are many… slightly differing education systems! Here in Australia, it can be very confusing with the different states and territories and the various aspects of their education system. Some differences include names for the first year of compulsory school, and starting ages can range from four to six. So, let’s break down each state and territory together so you have all the relevant information to make an informed choice for your little one starting school.
The first year of school in Victoria is called Foundation or Prep.
School is compulsory from six years of age in Victoria. However, to enrol a child in school, they must turn five before 30 April of the year they start. This means that on day one, there are children who are four, five or six years of age in the one classroom! There is a range of factors that influence children starting in the year they turn five or delaying until they turn six. Commonly little ones start school in the year they turn five.
New South Wales
The first year of school in New South Wales is called Kindergarten or Kindy.
It is slightly different in New South Wales, where children by law need to be enrolled in school by their sixth birthday. However, children can start school if they turn five on or before 31 July.
The first year of school in Queensland is called Prep and is compulsory.
Again, Queensland has a unique cut-off date and expectations for when a child starts school. According to the Queensland Government website, children can start school in the year they turn five, as long as they have their fifth birthday by 30 June. However, they also state that you can delay your child’s start date if you feel that they are not ready as long as they are enrolled in school by six years and six months.
The first year of school in the Northern Territory is called Transition. However, it is not compulsory.
Again, children must be enrolled in school by their sixth birthday. However, depending on their birthday, they may start school at five or six. If a child’s sixth birthday is before 30 June, they must enrol in the year they turn six. If their birthday is after the 30 June, they will enrol the following year and therefore turn seven in their first year of school.
The first year of school in Tasmania is called Prep.
In Tasmania, all students who start school must be five years old. This is simple: if your child is five before or on 1 January, that is the year they will start school.
The first year of school in Western Australia is called Pre-Primary.
The first compulsory school year in Western Australia is called Pre-Primary. A child enrolling in school in Western Australia must be five by 30 June of the year they enrol. Children can also attend Kindergarten the year before they start Pre-Primary. This is not a compulsory year of schooling.
Australian Capital Territory
The first year of school in the Australian Capital Territory is called Kindergarten.
In the Australian Capital Territory, a child five before 30 June can be enrolled in Kindergarten, the first year of compulsory school. If they turn five after 30 June, they will be enrolled in school for the following year.
The first year of school in South Australia is called Reception.
South Australia has a similar law as New South Wales and Northern Territory, where all children must be enrolled in school on their sixth birthday. However, the cut-off date for South Australia is 1 May. So if a child turns five before the 1 May, they can enrol in that school year. And if their birthday is after the 1 May, they enrol in the year after.
If you are confused by all this, then you are not alone! Hopefully, this snapshot helps you understand the requirements for when your child starts school. If you are unsure when your child should start school, especially if their birthday falls close to the cut-off dates. Then my advice would be to talk to your child’s childcare, preschool or Kindergarten Educators. And as I shared above, I believe we should hold off on sending our little ones to formal school until they are developmentally ready to be in a formal school environment.