Education options in NSW

Each Australian state runs and manages its own education system and New South Wales' is one of the finest in the country. Here you can study a wide variety of disciplines and choose from a diverse range of outstanding schools, universities and colleges.

Institution type by age

The following table illustrates the different types of educational facilities available to children and students of different ages. Schools will usually ask to see your child's birth certificate for proof of age.

Education institution Student's age General hours
Day care 0–5 Elective hours from 7am–6pm
Pre-school 2–5 Elective hours from 7am–6pm
Kindergarten (first year of school) 5–6 9am–3pm
Primary school (years 1–6) 5–11 9am–3pm
Secondary school (years 7–12) 11–18 9am–3pm
Universities and colleges 17 onwards Varies

Terms and holidays

The Australian school year runs from January to December and is divided into four terms. The longest holiday is over Christmas (during Australia's summer) when most educational institutions shut for at least six weeks. Schools close for three other two-week holidays throughout the year in April (Easter), July and October.

Universities and colleges usually offer two annual terms – often known as sessions or semesters – each with a short mid-term break. Long university holidays generally fall at the middle and end of the year. Dates and terms for each university and college differ, so check with the institution you are interested in.

Public schools

Students enjoy free tuition at public schools, which are run by the NSW Government. Parents are still asked to pay some fees to cover for textbooks, uniforms and the school library, and there may be extra costs throughout the year for excursions and special performances.

The NSW Government charges education fees for temporary visa holders, visit Temporary Residents Program

Private schools

Private or independent schools in NSW are competitively priced compared to schools in Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore, Taiwan, the UK and the US. Almost one-third of NSW's schools are private, including some 900 primary and high schools.

You can choose from a diverse range of private schools in NSW. Some are aligned with religious teachings or affiliated with church organisations. Many are single sex and some schools offer boarding facilities, which can be particularly helpful for international students.

Private school fees range from around A$2,000 to over A$30,000 a year. For information on fees and facilities you should contact individual schools.

To find independent schools in the area you're interested in, visit the Association of Independent Schools of NSW.


Most day care centres, pre-schools and primary schools insist that your child has been vaccinated against illnesses such as polio, smallpox, measles, diphtheria and other contagions. You will need to show a vaccination certificate, usually from Medicare.

Day care and pre-school

Babies and children can attend day care from birth until they reach school age. Day care centres normally operate from 7am to 6pm, and you can usually choose the days and hours your child attends.

Children aged from two to five can go to kindergarten or pre-school. Most of these are privately run and have shorter hours than day care centres.

Fees vary but if you work you may be able to claim some money back from the Government, depending on your income and visa status. To find out more visit Centrelink.

Primary school

In NSW, children must turn five before 31 July in the year they start school and must begin school by their sixth birthday.

The first year of primary school is called kindergarten. Children complete another six years of primary school – years one to six – before going on to secondary or high school.

To find a primary school in your area visit School Finder

Secondary school

In NSW, students enter secondary or high school in Year Seven aged 11 or 12, and can legally leave school at the age of 17. Students may leave earlier if they meet certain criteria. For more information on the leaving age of NSW high school students, visit NSW Department of Education

The NSW Government runs four different kinds of secondary schools:

  1. Local comprehensive high schools
  2. Central schools that service rural and isolated communities
  3. Specialist high schools that focus on languages, performing arts, sports or technology and which usually have entry requirements including extra tests or auditions
  4. Selective high schools that accept students who achieve the highest results in the Selective High School Test, held in June each year.
  5. In addition to individual school-run assessments, high school students in NSW sit two major statewide exams – the School Certificate in Year 10 and the Higher School Certificate (HSC) in Year 12. A student's HSC mark determines which courses they can apply for admission to at universities and colleges.

To find a secondary school in your area visit School Finder

International schools

In Sydney, the French School of Sydney or Lycee Condorcet offers the International Baccalaureate, as does the German International School.

To find other private secondary schools that offer the exam visit the International Baccalaureate Organisation.

NSW is also home to primary and high schools that offer alternate education systems, such as Rudolf Steiner and Montessori schools.

Universities and colleges

Almost one in six people in NSW aged between 15 and 64 have a bachelors degree or higher, and almost half have post-school qualifications.

For information on university and college entry requirements visit the Universities Admissions Centre. Overseas students can also use this website to search for courses or degrees and learn about admission requirements.

For a full list of Australia's universities and colleges visit Hobsons Course Finder. This website lists courses and campuses and rates their facilities. It also has sections on courses for international students and corporate executives.

NSW is also home to Colleges of Technical and Further Education (TAFE), which are located throughout the state and offer a wide range of diploma courses. Diplomas usually have more of a commercial or practical focus – such as car mechanics, hairdressing and plumbing – and are generally shorter than university degree courses.

For information on courses, college locations and entry requirements for residents and overseas students, visit TAFE NSW

You can find many Adult Education courses in NSW that cover a wide range of topics. Courses in instructional topics usually last for one term (around three months), and classes are generally held in the evenings.

For more information, visit Adult and Community Education