More Tips on Choosing an Australian School

Elizabeth, my young daughter, breaks up from school at the end of the week for the winter break.

Elizabeth has had three full years at school now, although the first one was her “prep” year, which is voluntary. So she has completed year two and is now halfway through year three.

And what starts in year three? NAPLAN!

boy studyingIf you don’t know what NAPLAN is, then check out my post called Schools in Australia and NAPLAN.

Anyway, the NAPLAN tests are taken quite seriously here and they take place on the same days across all of Australia. If any student is not able to attend on those days, there is a “catch up” day where the children are given another opportunity to take the tests.

It can even be arranged for your child to take the test in a different school in a different state if, during the week of the tests, you are away from home for any reason.

Elizabeth’s track record for school attendance is almost exemplary, but as Murphy’s Law dictated, on the week of the NAPLAN tests, she had managed to pick up some kind of viral infection that left her with water on the hip.

Poor Elizabeth could hardly walk.

So she missed the first day of the tests, went in for day two and day three, but only specifically for the tests, and then caught up with the tests that she missed, on catch up day.

At the end of this week, we will be getting her first report since those tests; it’ll be interesting to see how they go. Elizabeth will be just as keen as we are to see good results; she is on a small financial incentive to get as many A’s as possible.

Anyway, enough about Elizabeth, what’s this post really about?

Researching the best schools in Australia.

There is a newish website, or rather a page on the Courier Mail site, that helps you research information about schools in Queensland.

What you will find there is staff information, student information and financial information about schools gathered from various public websites and put all into one simple system.

Update January 2016: Unfortunately, for some reason the Courier Mail have taken down that page which is why I no longer have a link to it, but I have found another page on The Australian that may help, it’s called Your School.

Prominently displayed next to the details of each school is the Index of Community Socio-Educational Advantage (ICSEA, pronounced ‘ikseeya’) score, as it is quite important. It’s what the Myschool website uses to compare like schools together. There is a four page PDF that explains ICSEA scores, but you may prefer a one sentence explanation:

The higher the ICSEA score, the better the school is likely to do in the NAPLAN tests.

ICSEA scores, NAPLAN tests! Quite complex isn’t it? I’m sure schools were not like this in my day.

Anyway, the average ICSEA score is 1000, the highest score in Queensland is about 1200.

If you are looking for a school anywhere in Australia you may well find my page about schools of interest.

State school or private school?

That’s a question many parents face, should I pay out for private education or are the state schools just as good?

This is by no means a thorough investigation, more of a cursory glance. Here’s what I did. Using my house as a central point in all of Australia, I took the two closest state run primary schools and compared them to the nearest private school that also caters for primary students.

Those three schools are:

  • Moggill State School
  • Pullenvale State School
  • Ipswich Girls Grammar School

You can get all sorts of information comparing these three schools from the Courier Mail website; you can compare between years 3, 5 and 7; see results for years 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011; and compare each different category in the NAPLAN tests, which are:

  • Grammar and Punctuation
  • Numeracy
  • Reading
  • Spelling
  • Writing

But I am going to show you just one screenshot from all the comparisons I looked at, and that is for “Overall Student Performance” 2011 for students in Years 3, 5 and 7. You can click the image to enlarge it…

schools compared

Please note: only the Ipswich school caters for year 9 (secondary school) students, hence no data for the other two schools.

As you can see for yourselves, there’s really not much between the three schools is there?

The two state schools are free, apart from a few small contributions towards books and sports equipment, for example, whereas the private school will cost you, at today’s rates:

  • Prep – Yr 5 = $7,420 Per Annum
  • Years 6 & 7 = $7,738 Per Annum

I’m not going to make any irrational conclusions from this tiny experiment. If anything can be taken from it though, it’s surely ‘do your research,’ rather than automatically assume that private schools must be much better than state schools.

But maybe I’m missing something. Am I?

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{ 27 comments… add one }
  • Jeanene Barclay June 28, 2019, 4:26 am |

    Hi there Bob, we are going to be moving from NZ to the Gold Coast. How can we enrol our children into school when we don’t have an Australian address? Will the schools let us enrol and then we provide proof of address once we have moved over, or as long as we are within the catchment we will be accepted? Thankyou Jeanene

    • BobinOz July 2, 2019, 7:54 pm |

      I think you are probably going to have to talk to the schools direct about this, because I’m pretty sure they do expect you to have an address within the catchment area before they are obliged to offer you a place in a state school.

      Some schools might be a bit relaxed about it though, but as I say, you’ll only find out by speaking to them.

      If it’s a private school, they won’t care where you live, as long as you pay the money 🙂

      I don’t think you need to try and sort this out before you get here though, I believe that once you have an address the state school within that catchment area has to offer your children an immediate place, so even if you have to do it that way, your kids won’t miss out on too much school.

      Sorry I can’t be more helpful, but hopefully a quick phone call to a few of the schools will help you sort this out.

  • Siti Suryanata November 16, 2017, 3:11 am |

    Hi Bob,
    This website is very helpful to us. I really appreciate for putting this together for all of us.
    We are US citizens and planning to move in 2019 from Vermont, US to Victoria Melbourne.
    My daughter will finish her high school and planning to continue her study in University of Melbourne. My son will finish the 6th grade in June 2019. Can he starts 7th grade in January 2020? I am still confuse what is the requirement to apply for 7th grade since US education is different than Australian. Do he needs to take exam before the school starts to qualify to be in 7th grade in 2020? Please advise me on this matter. Thank you so much.

    Since my age is over 45, I could not apply the working visa for Community Service worker therefore I will take TAFE 2 years diploma course in Community Service. I hope I can find a job after I graduate so I can stay with my kids in Victoria Melbourne. Back in 1988, I studied in Melbourne for one year diploma in Business Computing. I also have a Law degree from Indonesia in 1993. I just don’t know how to be able to move to Australia with the educations and work experiences I had.

    • BobinOz November 16, 2017, 6:51 pm |

      Thanks, glad you like my website.

      As for your son starting school here, he won’t need to take any exams for that, it’s simply based on his age. Specifically though, what grade he goes to depends on which month his birthday falls in, for more information about that and how to work it out, see..

      If you are looking for any kind of advice about how you can move to Australia and qualify for a visa, you really do need to speak to a MARA registered migration agent about that. I cannot help in these matters, see Would I Qualify?

      • Siti November 16, 2017, 7:18 pm |

        I really appreciate your help Bob. Thank you very much

  • Aashi February 12, 2016, 6:02 pm |

    Hi there:
    This information is truly valuable! Bob, I have twin daughters and they will be 2 years on June 1, 2016. Do u have any relevant information on sending kids to Montessori and their fee structures. Is it really elementary to send them to child care of Montessori at their age?

    • BobinOz February 12, 2016, 9:00 pm |

      Funnily enough, my daughter went to a Montessori school when she was two years old, but that was back in the UK. She really enjoyed it, but she only did a couple of mornings a week.

      We do have Montessori schools here as well in Australia, but I have no idea about the fee structure. I suspect you will need to contact them direct for that. Good luck, Bob

  • Katherine December 31, 2015, 3:07 am |

    Hi can you tell me where on the courier mails website to find for schools info please

    • BobinOz January 3, 2016, 6:36 pm |

      Hi Katherine

      I’m afraid the Career Mail remove the website for some reason, although they have strangely left the page up that talks about it…

      Queensland Schools Guide

      But if you try to click through to the information, the page is no longer there. I have added another useful link above though in the update, hope that helps. Many thanks, Bob

  • Andria May 12, 2015, 9:32 am |

    I am trying to find anyone who has had a child at Kelvin Grove State Community College.
    My daugther is 13 years old & will be going into yr 8. We have looked at Balmoral SHS and Kelvin Grove but need some serious help & advice!
    Please could anyone help? I would be endlessly grateful!
    Andria (studying at Griffiths Uni ftom the UK)

    • BobinOz May 12, 2015, 7:37 pm |

      If you don’t get any response here Andria, you might like to ask this same question on my page about Brisbane, good luck, Bob

  • Claire March 2, 2015, 10:49 pm |

    Hi Bob

    Can you tell me whats the next steps are regarding education when a child emigrates with GCSE’s. Where do they continue further education ?


    • BobinOz March 3, 2015, 10:04 pm |

      Schools here have grades 11 and 12, for 17 and 18-year-olds, and it’s pretty unusual for Australian kids not to stay on. So the answer, from what I know, is that they continue their education in senior school whether that be state or private.

      There are other options, check out TAFE and colleges, but I don’t know enough about them to advise although some of them involve work experience, that kind of thing. Hope that helps, Bob

  • Kamma December 13, 2014, 4:54 am |

    Hi Bob and everyone,
    what about in rural areas? Do some kids end up having to get up at four to make it to school? Do the schools live up to a lower standard? Or are they just smaller and (somewhat) lower on resources but not on heart/quality?

    • BobinOz December 15, 2014, 3:52 pm |

      I suppose that very much depends on the rural area, I suspect they are all different. You can check a school’s performance, you can see how to do that if you watch the video on my page called Which school?.

  • nati April 5, 2014, 11:35 am |

    Hi Bob, thanks for the greats advices and info that you share with us! Could you please tell me where can I go to make that comparison that you did on the screenshot? I think im a little tired of my working day cuz i don’t see the link 😉

    • BobinOz April 7, 2014, 2:09 pm |

      Yes, the link is in the post, it’s to the Courier Mail School Guide.

  • Breta December 1, 2013, 11:38 pm |

    I am planning a move to the Central West NSW region with my children. My oldest will be finishing her 11 th grade year in the Unites States. I am having trouble finding how her credits will transfer. Our plan is to move in June. The end out our school year it midway through Australia’s school year. Will she need to start in the 11 th grade again there? Or will her acedwmic credits support her starting as a 12 th grader?

    • BobinOz December 2, 2013, 11:03 pm |

      I don’t know the answer to this one, it may even be something you will need to discuss with the school. You will be arriving here halfway through our year 11, probably makes sense if your daughter goes straight into year 11 here for the remaining six months.

      So she will have spent 18 months between the two countries in year 11, but it will give her a chance to settle in here before starting year 12.

      I’m only guessing though, as I say, this is something you will probably need to discuss with the school.

  • Opal June 20, 2012, 8:33 am |

    Hi Andy,
    My daughter is now 3 years old and everything is about finalized for us to move next March. I have been researching schools in the Eltham area as well as the Bayside neighborhood. You are right about the rent being expensive but there seems to be a lot of schools to choose from especially in the Bayside area.
    We will be coming over in October for three weeks and hope to check out some schools and maybe get her registered before we make our permanent move- do you have any suggestions?

  • claire June 20, 2012, 8:20 am |

    I would also say that its not just about the academic achievments of the school that should be considered, ….. the size of the school may be a factor for some children, as some kids do better in a smaller school etc, also If your child has a specific talent then some schools may cater better for their needs. also many of the private schools have a different take on bullying for example than a state school, or disapline etc
    I suppose what I am saying is that the important thing is too take many things into consideration and pick the school that best matches your childs total needs.

    • BobinOz June 20, 2012, 12:42 pm |

      All good points Claire, especially about matching the child to the school. If your child excels at say, sport or art or drama, the maybe the academic results of the school are less important. You would probably want to choose a school that can maximise their talents.

      As I’ve mentioned in my comment above, it’s always nice if your child comes out of school smiling everyday as well.

  • Andy Painter June 19, 2012, 5:40 pm |

    Advice from Victoria (Melbourne)

    When we started looking for primary school for my two girls, we used this site,, to compare the results of schools in the areas which we were interested in living in. I then went and did the leg work and walked passed each school to try and get a feel for the area.

    I would agree that like everywhere else the better an area the likelihood that a school will be better. We live in Sandringham, the primary school is excellent and ranks high when compared with other schools ….. but it comes at a price, rents are high. I’m lucky in that my job provides a good income, and my other-half also works.

    One thing to be aware of is that some schools operate catchment areas, like Sandringham and others don’t. You need to check with the school. If it is a catchment zone for the school you are considering it makes it very easy to get into the school if you live in the ‘Zone’. They are required to take the kids in that catchment zone, unlike the UK which is now a complete lottery in some areas.

    Results aren’t everything, so you will need to put in the ‘hard yards’, (as they say here), to identify the areas you can afford, and what the schools are like, by comparing and talking to others. If you are doing this remotely from the UK, it will make it tricky, however they appear to be more relaxed about when children need to start school and taking time out.

    What i can say is that so far we are impressed by the schools in Melbourne and they do offer a better standard of education, in our opinion.

    We have seen that some of the private schools offer scholarships, but you would still need to pay some costs i believe. Some of the Catholic schools here are excellent and don’t charge as much, they appear to be a halfway between a state and private school.

    Good luck and if anybody would like advice help for Melbourne area reply here.


    • BobinOz June 20, 2012, 12:38 pm |

      Good point about the catchment areas Andy, that’s something well worth looking into. And I’m glad you reminded me about the Myschool service, I did mention it in the above article but forgot to include a link to my page about schools. I’ve amended that now and anyone visiting that page will see my demonstration video about the Myschool service.

      Glad you are impressed with the quality of the schools down in Melbourne, we are also very happy with our schools here. And it’s not just academically either, my daughter really enjoys school and always comes out smiling. That counts for a lot as well. Cheers!

    • Nu June 23, 2014, 5:37 am |

      Hi Andy,

      I found your post very helpful and hope you can give me some advice on schools in melbourne. My husband and I and our two daughters 3 and 6 years respectively, plan to move to Melbourne in the summer of 2015 from London. I only know melbourne through my research on the net. My husband is an Aussie and have only visited melbourne when he was 20, 20 years ago. However, we want to settle in melbourne. The trouble is not knowing which suburb to settle in to. I am in favour of going to one of melbourne’s best suburb : Canterbury as I imagine the government school there would be good as reflected by the area. However, this area would be a massive financial strain on us, therefore, my husband perfers St. Kilda. Our research shows us that st. Kilda is an up and coming area and somewhere we can afford to rent or buy. Any comments about suburbs in regards to good schools would be highly appreciated.


  • rose June 19, 2012, 2:28 am |

    But is this the same for schools across Queensland or Australia? I’m guessing as you’re a writer, you live in a fairly middle-class area, but how do the schools in poorer areas compare? When we move over only my husband will be working so we cannot afford to move to an expensive area (in Melbourne). In Bristol, where we live now, there isn’t much difference results-wise between state schools in the richer areas and fee-paying schools but the schools in poorer areas are not as good.
    Another thing, my daughter is artistically gifted and it was always my hope to get her an art scholarship in a school here when she is 11, do you know if private schools as a whole over there offer art scholarships or similar – or are the state schools geared to pick up talent in their pupils?

    • BobinOz June 20, 2012, 12:34 pm |

      Nobody ever called me a writer before, thanks! Anyway, I do like the area I live in but I wouldn’t describe it as middle-class, I’m not sure Australia has such a thing.

      Anyway, that’s the beauty of these tools Rose, you can search in any area you choose and make comparisons. I only did my area because it’s the area I know. As for whether state schools are geared to pick up on gifted children, our school is. About twice a year they pick out some gifted children and they spend a day with specialist teachers who assess just how gifted (or not) they are.

      I don’t think it’s a national scheme, but maybe there is something else going on in Melbourne that is similar.

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