At What Age Do Children Start School in Australia?

Today, Elizabeth went back to school after the two-week winter holiday break. Elizabeth is 11 years old, she is in Grade 6 which is her final year of primary school and next year, in January, she will go to high school for her secondary education.

High school will give her another six years of education, taking her from Grade 7 to Grade 12.

Going right back to the beginning, Elizabeth started school in January 2009. Here is a quick flashback to see what that looked like…

First Day at SchoolJanuary is the beginning of the school year here and Elizabeth was 4 3/4 years of age at that time. The reason she started in 2009 was because she would had turned five before 30th of June in that year, her birthday is in March.

Had her birthday been after 30 June 2009, then she wouldn’t have started school until January 2010. Her first year in school here in Queensland was called the ‘Prep Year’ and it is followed by a further six years of primary school education taking her from Grade 1 to Grade 6.

So, as you can see, she will have had seven years of primary school education followed by six years in high school.

Pretty simple, huh?

So, now the question.

At what age do children start school in Australia?

It’s a question you’d have thought I would have covered on this website already, I clearly understand the rules, I’ve just explained them quite simply for Elizabeth. Of course though, it isn’t a simple question at all, because when a child starts school and where they go to is decided by states and territories, it’s not nationally universal.

The states and territories can also change the rules as some have done recently, so keeping up to date with it is also a huge challenge. I used to get a headache just thinking about how it works here in Queensland, imagine the migraine I could achieve if I were thinking about it for all eight states and territories?

I hope you can see why I have avoided this question, until now.

Different terminology

School Bus

It gets further complicated by the different names used in the different states. What was generally called ‘Playschool’ or ‘Nursery School’ in the UK, is called either ‘Preschool’ or ‘Kindy’ here in Australia, depending on the state.

This ‘Preschool’ year is not part of the curriculum, attendance is voluntary. The preschool might be run by state and territory governments or privately run and fees will often apply. We sent Elizabeth to preschool for just a couple of days a week, but it’s very flexible, you can choose longer or shorter.

And then the first year in primary school, the one before Grade 1, can be variously called ‘Kindy’, ‘Transition’, ‘Reception’, ‘Prep’ or ‘Pre-primary’.

Confusing isn’t it?


Before I give a rundown of what happens across the various states and territories, I should tell you that just last year the Australian Primary Principals’ Association called for the age a child starts school in Australia to be standardised across the whole country.

It would make sense; people do move from one state to another, it would certainly be helpful to them for their children to continue their education in the same grade wherever they moved to.

It would have also helped me write this article, but as we speak, there is little sign of any kind of unification.

State-by-state analysis

If you think this article has been tough to follow so far, well, we’ve only just got the really tricky bit, the state-by-state analysis.

Let’s talk about that first year at primary school, the ‘Prep Year’, the year of schooling that comes before Grade 1. Remember the school year here starts towards the end of January.

Starting ages:

  • In Tasmania your child must be 5 years old by 1 January in the year in which they start school.
  • In Victoria and the ACT, your child must be 5 years old by 30 April in the year in which they start school.
  • In South Australia your child must be 5 years old by 1 May in the year in which they start school.
  • In Queensland, Northern Territory and Western Australia, your child must be 5 years old by 30 June in the year in which they start school.
  • In New South Wales your child must be 5 years old by 31 July in the year in which they start school.

Your child can go to preschool or kindy as long as they are 4 years old by the same dates mentioned above apart from in Queensland where they need to be 4 years old before 31 July in the year they wish to start kindy.

There, that wasn’t too bad was it?

I do have to admit though that my task was made much easier after discovering a page on an Australian parenting website which answered many of my questions. They have a great deal of information about schooling in Australia.

As I’ve already mentioned, these rules can change at any moment, either by the state, the territory, or maybe even by federal government.

So it’s essential you doublecheck the information you have read here to make sure it is still up-to-date. The best place to do that is with the education department for the various states/territories. Which brings me back to that Australian parenting website; they have a ‘Useful Links’ section on their page which includes links to all Australian state and territory education departments.

I highly recommend you visit their website for more information:

Of course, it doesn’t end there. When secondary education is over there is tertiary education. That’s Universities, TAFE colleges and Vocation Education and Training/VET providers.

When I’ve recovered from this article, maybe I’ll take a look at that.

School Zone

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{ 36 comments… add one }
  • Raj April 19, 2017, 3:55 am | Link

    Hi Bob,

    Very informative website. Thanks.
    My daughter turns 7 on 15th May this year. She has completed class 1 in India (In India the academic year is June to March). We are migrating to Victoria in May. Would she be able to get admission in class 2?


    • BobinOz April 19, 2017, 6:39 pm | Link

      By my calculations, if I’ve done it right, your daughter has missed out by 16 days as the cut-off is the end of April. So in April 2016 your daughter would have still been five, just, and therefore would have gone into prep year in January.

      So in January 2017 she would have started Grade 1, and in May when you get here, she will still be in Grade 1. If you want her to go into Grade 2, you can speak to the school about that, but it might not be such a bad idea to go into Grade 1 given how very different it’s going to be when she gets here.

      That’s what I think anyway, but I have made mistakes before 🙂

      Good luck, Bob

      • Raj April 24, 2017, 3:38 am | Link

        Thanks Bob for your reply. Since different states in Victoria have different age cut off dates, what would happen if I get my daughter admitted in NSW in class 2 (cut off date is 30th June) and then move to Victoria next year or maybe earlier?

        • BobinOz April 24, 2017, 8:15 pm | Link

          That, I don’t know, but I do know you can talk to the school direct if you want your child to go into either a higher or lower year than the one they should go in and can give good reasons why. Hope that helps, Bob

  • Lakshi March 6, 2017, 10:20 am | Link

    Hi! I am 17 this march and my parents are trying to move to Australia in either August or July. We currently live in the UK. But if we were to move to either Queensland or victoria, which grade would I be in? Is this the age I should be leaving school and applying for uni?
    And thankyou! I actually got an idea about the Australian year group system:)

    • BobinOz March 7, 2017, 7:35 pm | Link

      By my calculations, if you arrive here in June or July this year, you will go into year 12, the final year of senior school. Remember the school year ends here in December, in fact the final year ends a little earlier in November I think.

      So you will just have three or four months of school left before going on to university. That’s what I think anyway, but it’s always check directly with the school the soon as you know when you’re coming. Good luck, Bob

      • Lakshi March 8, 2017, 5:23 am | Link

        Thank you so much!!:)

  • Martin February 25, 2017, 11:29 pm | Link

    Thanks for this – an absolute saviour. I have literally had the same experience of bewildered school staff when asking about starting ages!

    This has just about saved my head from exploding.

    All in all Bob you are now my best buddy!
    Excellent site and advice!
    Many thanks

    • BobinOz February 28, 2017, 12:08 am | Link

      Well, I’ll be expecting a Christmas card then Martin 🙂 Glad to have prevented a head explosion, cheers, Bob

  • Catherine February 21, 2017, 12:25 am | Link

    Hi Bob, great website with a lot of info. I am Australian but lived in UK most of my life. Hoping to move to Queensland in next few years but want the right time for my 14 yr old. He wants to finish High school and do A levels here but I’m wondering if that’s a waste of time as I think you start uni at 17 there? Any advice? I’m a primary school teacher and the thought of no Ofsted is very appealing!!

    • Mark February 21, 2017, 5:08 pm | Link

      At the time of enrolment in a course at Monash University, you must be 17 years of age, unless one of these two criteria applies:
      It seems ti be 18 but then Monash says the following 1. You will be 16 years of age at the time of enrolling at university and you have either: a VCE ATAR of 95 or higher or equivalent rank in another qualification recognised by Monash or
      approval of the Dean of the faculty
      So id say contact the University of choice In the UK you would do college for 2 years so check the A level are right for the Uni you are looking at email them direct hope this helps for now Yes my wife is a Primary teacher and very disillusioned with the UK’s system, its gone to pieces….

      • BobinOz February 26, 2017, 10:12 pm | Link

        I’m afraid the right time for your 14-year-old was probably when he was 10, or even younger. Now that he’s 14, I’d say the right time is right now. The older they are the harder it is to convince them about the big move, and then of course when they get to 18, they become adults and if they are not fully dependent upon you, would need to apply separately for their visa.

        I’m no expert on the education side, I’m probably no expert on anything :-), but my answer would be the sooner the better.

  • Susanna Neave February 11, 2017, 5:42 am | Link

    Hi there. Thinking of sending my 12 year old (born May 2004) to AU for April -June term as an exchange student this year She is in 7th grade here in the states. What grade/ year would she be in AU?

    • BobinOz February 12, 2017, 8:13 pm | Link

      It would be different, depending on which state you are thinking of. The table above in the article will help you work out. It may well be different as an exchange student, so if I were you I would talk it through with the school you intend to send her to.

  • Claire January 19, 2017, 11:50 pm | Link

    Hi Bob

    Thank you for a very informative blog.

    I have a question regarding schooling in NSW – Sydney. My husband and I are considering immigration but we are trying to get our head around the cost of education and what we could afford. This is my question:

    As far as I understand, the system works as follows:
    Day Care: Age 0 – 4 (Expensive at between $60 and $160 a week)
    Kindy: Age 4 (turning 5 by July) – 5 (Is this Public?)
    Preprimary: Age 5 turning 6 (Roughly $1000 a year)
    Year 1: Age 6 turning 7 (Roughly $1000 a year)

    Is the above correct? Because I came across an article today that stated: “Children benefit best from preschool programs when they are ready for it. Many children are ready at around the age of three, but many aren’t.” THREE??? Is preschool another name for Kindy? And is it as expensive as Day Care?

    I am confused. Can you perhaps assist me?

    Thanks Bob!

    • Mark January 20, 2017, 9:25 pm | Link

      Hi Claire If you can do a Rubiks cube inside of five minutes whilst blindfolded and one hand tied behind your back then working this out will be easy..I only joke of course buy i have seen headteachers look bewildered when asked what year will my child be in followed by some looking skyward for perhaps divine intervention before then asking the secretary for their opinion.. several things I think your thousand may eb a little high nowadays as so many schools have had so much flack I think the thousand was based on Victoria not NSW but as an indication, it can and will be different by school and state but friends will pay $624 for 2 children next week here in Victoria. Your child can start Kindergarten at the beginning of the school year if they turn five on or before 31 July in that year. Children must be enrolled in school by their sixth birthday. Kindergarten or yes Kindy enrolment begins around April the year before your child will start Kindy (they shorten everything in Aus… T shirt being the worst T) Earlier funded kindergartens eg you pay its still called Kindy but pre school Kindy will be coming down in price after some Government funding has been thrown in the pot recently knocking around 30 percent off

      • BobinOz January 22, 2017, 7:38 pm | Link

        Yes, it is quite a complicated subject and I’ve written many pages with lots of information about schools and the fees, the best place to start is my page called Which school?

        At the bottom of that page, there are some additional useful links which all lead to pages with more information. In particular there is a link about daycare in Australia, if you click that one your find another link on the page which goes to an external website which specialises in this subject. So you can get even more help from them.

        When it comes to how much education costs in Australia though, that very much depends on the type of visa you have and sometimes which state you live in. For certain visa types and in some states, state education can be free if you have the right kind of visa.

        Again, all of this is covered in those additional links your find on the page I’ve recommended to you. Hope that helps and good luck, Bob

        And Mark, I’ve never ever completed a Rubik’s cube, and that’s using both hands and my eyes wide open. I hate the things!

  • Scarlet January 17, 2017, 3:06 pm | Link

    Hi Bob et al,
    Just wondering what your readers’ thoughts are on the school work content compared to the UK or any country for that matter? I can see how the age works and when Year 3 starts for my son, however, having picked up his school text books (maths he did last year) and one on how to do cursive handwriting (!!! – been doing that since Reception!), I am scouring the internet trying to find an answer to if Year 3 content in Oz actually compares to Year 4 in the UK. I note above that you mention a school where the children are placed according to ability and am thinking this could be an issue, or, a solution, especially if
    a) coming from a country where education standards are high / there’s a curriculum
    b) upon returning to said country and discovering your child is now a year behind!!?!
    Any thoughts welcome, and it may help others when placing in a certain grade to discuss it with the school if this is the done thing??

    • Mark January 17, 2017, 7:11 pm | Link

      Hi Scarlet… hope I have got to the of some of your points There is a curriculum in AU it can be found at Im not sure why you would compare yr four with three unless its your child’s age they woudl be in four than three. that maybe explains your want to move the child up and yes thats done fairly frequently. Perhaps you can expand on why you want to compare yr 3 AU with yr 4 UK My wife a teacher AU and UK will say the AU curriculum is pretty what based on the UK one but its a far more rounded curriculum so where the focus in UK could be argued to be Maths and English in AU they have actually realised some children will become musicians, some builders, some scientists, some a vet.. If your suggestion is AU standards are not high Id say you are very mistaken. Im not sure why you say returning and a year behind. Have you returned ti UK or ?
      Finally yes always have a discussion about a child’s ability with any school if you dont think the school will react appropriately its perhaps not the right place If they listen and either act or give reason for not then they may be the right one. My little girl arrived here should have been yr 2 but went int yr 3

  • Jem January 17, 2017, 6:06 am | Link

    Myself and my husband are looking to start the process to move to Sydney. Amongst our endless list of questions, our main one would be how do we find the right school. Here in the UK we have ‘Ofsted’ which rates the schools on inspection (poor, good or outstanding), this helps parents decide on schools and choose the correct ones for their children. Before we choose an area to live ( and would like one within and hours train travel of CBD for my husbands work) I am keen to find out if Sydney has these types of inspections and where we could find them out, along with the best family areas. All I can seem to find is an endless list of schools which isn’t much help…Any advice would be much appreciated!

    • Mark January 17, 2017, 6:36 pm | Link

      Im not a teacher but my wife is one. UK to AU…Immediate answer there is no OFSTED in AU you can argue thats good and bad…Bad as no testing. no scoreboard. Good because schools dont teach to meet the inspections. They can get on with teaching the children… google ksou its a Chinese site dont worry its in English and you can look at suburbs and schools, However the data can be out of date.. it will give you some guidance. Like England though the better areas tend to have the better schools because of better pupils but it only takes one character to upset the equilibrium. Go and look at the schools when you get here woudl be my advice Google what you can before hand. Bring the children’s bools from UL compare whats in them to the school you visit …Dont be put off asking for a higher class eg should be in year 3 ask the to go into yr 4 if the are high achievers but be realistic about it. Take the children to look around as well let them have as much input, give them time with both of you before they start their new decided on school. even if they miss a month or two They will be all excited about coming but it can change inside two minutes and they want to return home so give them as much reins as you can. You dont say what age.and what month you are thinking of moving (appreciate early process ) it does play a very key part…I feel

      • BobinOz January 18, 2017, 12:39 am | Link

        I remember OFSTED, but I can’t remember exactly what they do or who they are. But we do have a website here where you can compare school performances, you can read about it and watch a video that explains it all on my page called Which school?

        Not sure if it is the same sort of thing, but hopefully you will find it helpful.

        • Jem January 18, 2017, 8:49 am | Link

          Hi Mark,

          Thank you! that info was very helpful!

          We have a 3 year old (4 in feb) and a 6 year old who is the youngest in her year and does find that tough at times. I guess I just wanted them to fit in as quick as possible but what you said makes total sense, letting them settle in and view schools together would be a much better way to do it. I was not sure if that was possible and how soon they would need to start. I also did not want them missing out on too much.

          We have just decided to start the process and find an agent. We have been told that it can take anywhere from 9 months – 2 years to reach the point of departure so we have no idea what will be happening and when. We just want to gather as much info as possible.

          Do schools have waiting lists? this as my other concern.. would they be able to get a place easy enough starting mid year or even a few years in?

          Thanks Bob – This site has helped us heaps and still is and we look through everything!
          Ofsted is good here as it gives an idea on how a school performs grade wise and how the teachers teach but i can also see what Mark means! We just do not want to put our girls into school and then be disappointed with it.

          • Mark January 18, 2017, 10:09 am | Link

            Well good luck with the process..its worth it I am sure. There are no waiting lists here so to speak of. Schools can be zoned eg you live in the area or not zoned depends on the intake primary schools in general are a lot bigger 5 or 6 hundred children You are a way of yet Your daughter age 6 maybe 8 by the time birthday August or about will be happier here as she will arguably be in a better year adaptive no longer the young one So she may do 6 months in the same class 2 say…Wont do any harm and allows you the freedom for them to miss a month or two settling in. No one is going to get you off the plane and say why arent your children in school… Let them enjoy the place allow a 1000 dollars for day trips for them …We did loads of this and still one day I found my little girl in her suitcase with bear saying she wanted to go home…all because 5 weeks after being here I went to a business meeting one day… Your a parent you’ll know how I felt next day sea life and ice skating… there are a number of schools that teach international baccalaureate style so its 1,2 …3,4 …5,6 mixed classes then set for ability for most tasks .

  • Matthew Gaze January 12, 2017, 11:49 am | Link

    Hi There,

    I am in the midst of moving my family from New Zealand. My son and daughter will be starting school in a couple of weeks. Being school holidays I’ve been unable to gather an insight as to what grade they will start in.

    My son is 6 years old and his birthday is in July. He has completed a year in a half of primary school in New Zealand.

    My daughter is 9 years old and her birthday is in October.

    Any indication would be greatly appreciated.


    • Matthew Gaze January 12, 2017, 11:51 am | Link

      We’re moving to Victoria.

      • BobinOz January 12, 2017, 8:41 pm | Link

        Well, by my maths, your son would have started prep year in 2016, so for the school year starting January 2017, this year, he would go into Grade 1.

        Your daughter is three years older so she would go into Grade 4 this year. That’s what I reckon, but I’ve been wrong before, see the discussion below with Mark and Alana.

        Good luck, Bob

  • Alana December 27, 2016, 11:11 pm | Link

    Hi, great info thank you…
    we are looking to move to western Australia before my oldest daughter starts high school… I’m confused as to when she would start high school there… she is 9 now and will be 10 in may 2017. She is in primary 5 here in the UK. Do you know when she would start out there?
    Thank you

    • BobinOz December 29, 2016, 9:35 pm | Link

      Well, by my calculations your daughter would have gone into Grade 1 in 2012 here, and Grade 7 is the first year for high school. So I reckon she will start high school here in January 2018.

      • Alana December 31, 2016, 12:51 am | Link

        Thank you bob .. that’s great we weren’t sure so thank you for helping with this.
        Hopefully we will be out there for her starting high school.

    • Mark December 31, 2016, 1:12 pm | Link

      Hi Alana Think Bob might be a year out here. To much sherry trifle 🙂 either that or I’ve had too much of something If your Daughter is year 5 now that runs UK till July 2017 in that year then year 6 till July 2018 so High School September 2018 The cut off date here is 30th April unlike UK 30th August So technically a May birthday would be grade 4 here starting grade 5 in about 4 weeks time 2017 and grade 6 January 2018 High School the following year 2019 Bob will you check my maths…well its my wife’s actually…All that said if your Daughter is doing well then she can move up, or not doing so well down…She is arguably going to gain another 4 months of the same grade here but that said time to settle in sort her self out. It may be the same language but many things said differently in school particularly… As an aside if you can still make it out a year earlier at least she goes to High with friends she will have met… The schools are a lot bigger here generally and I think it far wiser given the choose she was here, made friends before the high school comes…

      • BobinOz January 2, 2017, 5:41 pm | Link

        Well, yes, I may well have had too much sherry trifle, but I still believe my answer is the correct one Mark. According to my information, and it is detailed above, the cut-off in Western Australia, the destination of Alana, is actually 30 June not 30 April as it is where you are in Victoria.

        So my calculations are based on Alana’s daughter being aged five by the cut-off in 2012, = Year 1. So Year 7 = 2012+6 = 2018.

        Having done it again though, I have realised that I have also made a mistake. I forgot about the ‘prep year’ that I do also mention above. So in 2012 Alana’s daughter would have actually started prep year and then in 2013, Year 1.

        So she will start senior school in Year 7 = 2013+6 = 2019.

        So you, or rather your wife, was right, but unfortunately having looked at your workings out I’m afraid under the strict rules of marking which your wife will fully understand, I have to give it a ‘X’.

        Who knew it could all be this hard, but hopefully we can all now (I think) agree it’s January 2019.

        • Mark January 2, 2017, 11:24 pm | Link

          Hi Alana and Bob I bet when you posted this question Alana you didnt realise two grown men would spend longer working it out for you than even making a sherry trifle could take…. Bob Ive just read the reply to my wife and yes she didnt realise different cut of dates in another state, (we are still new) To be fair to her I hadn’t read her the WA part just age and question. I didnt think for one minute different cut off. All good fun…Alana it is a possibly a moveable feast and this applies to WA, they will move children up or down a year if needed its arguably not a very common occurrence but its also not unheard off At a school we know well some 10 percent of children are not in their supposed correct grade by age but are by ability. I have to say it does seem phenomenally difficult here at times to calculate this equation and for the life of me I dont understand why its so hard.

          • BobinOz January 3, 2017, 9:15 pm | Link

            All part of the fun of having seven states and two territories Mark, we got there in the end though 🙂

  • Mandy August 13, 2016, 11:50 pm | Link

    Hi Bob

    Thank you for this website! It has provided us with so much useful info and reassurance. We are in the process of obtaining our visa and are at the “nervous waiting” stage, so hopefully we will be getting some good news soon. I was very worried about moving my children as I have heard that the ages for starting school differ from state to state and that in general start at a younger age than we do in South Africa where kids turn 6 years in kindy no matter which month they are born in. This page has helped immensely. As my kids are both born in the latter part of the year we wont have any problems moving them.

    Thanks again


    • BobinOz August 14, 2016, 6:57 pm | Link

      Very glad to hear my website has been helpful to you Mandy, including this page about when children start school. Hopefully your nervous waiting stage won’t last too long and you get the good news you are hoping for.

      Good luck, I hope it all works out well for you and your family. Many thanks, Bob

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