Aussie Educator

Primary Education

Primary Education is generally accepted as the first of three major areas of formal education. However, this is changing with an increasing emphasis on the Early Childhood area. Primary Education in Australia equates to Elementary Education in a number of other countries, e.g. USA and Canada.

Primary education is usually broken into Infants [Early Childhood] and Primary areas, the division commonly occurring at the end of the third year of schooling.

A majority of children now proceed to Primary Education from Early Childhood Learning. This may be done at Day Care Centres, Kindergartens or Preschools. It includes 15 hours a week in the year before schooling begins.

Children are legally required to be enrolled in formal education by the age of 6, though most states provide for this to occur from about 5 years of age. Children remain in Primary Education for 6 or 7 years, before making a transition to Secondary Education.

Australian school systems do not provide a formal qualification at the end of Primary Education.

The following information is provided on an as is basis. It is only intended to assist in find information relating to Primary [or elementary] Education. Links are provided for further information on specific aspects of Primary school education.

Prior to formal primary education, there is often considerable “primary education” by parents.

An Overview of Australian Education

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Starting School, Entry Age, …

The following articles and information may be of help either in making decisions, or in preparation for entry to Primary Education.

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Information about aspects such as Classes, Teachers, …


For full details, check information provided on the Enrolments page.

Mandatory Legal Attendance

All children must be in formal education once they turn 6 years of age. There are some options with this including registered Home Schooling.

All states & territories make provision for children to commence earlier than this. You are referred to the Enrolments page for specific details for all states & territories.


There are normally smaller classes in the early years. These often fall to between half to two thirds the size of classes at the upper end of Primary education.

Classes may be created in one of the following models or combination, based on multiple features. These will include :

  • Single Sex Classes - less common in state systems, more common in non-government systems where single sex schools exist.
  • Mixed Sex Classes - the most common model across all systems at this level.

These may then be combined with :

  • Single Year or Grade groupings [e.g. Year 1, Grade 4].
  • Multi-Age and Multi-Grade groupings, sometimes called Composite Classes, e.g. Years 3/4, Years 4/5/6. Very common in smaller schools where there is often no choice.
  • Some schools may use a mix of these in different parts of the curriculum and at different times of the day. For example, core classes for core subjects such as Language and Mathematics, with composite groups in areas such as The Arts.

If you have concerns about a multi-grade class and your child’s placement in it, consider the following points.

  • Provided appropriate student selection is carried out, composite classes can be beneficial to all students involved. They can provide support, allow the development of leadership and much more.
  • In smaller schools, it may not be possible to avoid them. If there are not enough staff for individual year groups there is no choice about having them. A vast majority have proven successful.

Before becoming upset by the possibility of your child’s inclusion in such a class ensure you do the following and make judgements on Knowledge not feelings, perceptions or a common belief that all such groups are less than desirable.

  • Talk to the school.
  • Ask how arrangements were decided and what benefits are anticipated ?
  • Why was your child included and what benefits do they expect him/her to gain from his/her placement ?
  • If your child knows about the placement, talk to him/her. You may find you are the only one who has a concern.

Several sites provide information about composite classes. These include the following from over more than a decade :

Other options include the following. These vary from state to state with some not found in all states.

  • Family Groups [Multi-age] are groups of children from across the whole primary school. There are often social benefits for all students involved in such groups. See Choosing Multiage for an explanation of this.
  • Streamed Classes are created by grouping students in the same cohort on their educational ability/capacity.
  • Parallel Classes allow common groups from the same cohort of students.

Special Groups. In addition to the combinations possible above, there are also classes catering for children with special needs or having special talents, e.g. intellectual capacity.

  • Opportunity C Classes [New South Wales] - children grouped based on high intellectual capacity. These only cover the last two years of Primary education. Some schools run their own gifted classes or groups.
  • Classes for children with disabilities, e.g. Hearing, Vision, Behaviour, Learning, Physical, … . These are usually significantly smaller in size and have additional teaching/support staff. However, there is a movement away from separate classes toward the integration of such children into regular classrooms, with itinerant specialists and extra support staffing.


In normal circumstances, children progress from school year to school year, on an annual basis;

In some instances Repetition may be considered in the best interests of the child. Repetition involves taking the same grade level a second time. If suggested, the following criteria need to be covered.

  • It should occur in the Earlier Years of school, though not recommended for the first formal year of school. In most instances, in the later years it is, at best, of dubious quality.
  • It Must be discussed with you, as parents, over a period of time before repetition becomes the chosen option.
  • You must be made aware of all that has been done to eliminate the need for repetition.
  • Evidence needs to be provided as to why it is being considered, anticipated benefits and what other alternatives have been considered.
  • Note that with increasing options available to assist children maximise progress, repetition is becoming a less valued/valuable option with many schools no longer considering it a viable option.
  • There is also concern that the negative impacts of repetition - removal from peers, self-perception, etc., may be greater than any perceived or anticipated benefits. Certainly it requires considerable commitment on the part of student, school and parents.
  • However, No Child should face repetition more than once.

Progression to High School

This is normally an automatic, accepted process unless there are extreme or special circumstances. Most children will proceed directly to their local secondary school. In a number of states there are choices available between regular secondary schools as well as specialist secondary schools in a number of curriculum or talent areas.

In all states there is a set procedure which your school follows with you and your child. It is normally carried out in the middle of the last Primary school year. If you are planning to enrol your child in a non-government school, you need to ensure you are fully aware of all requirements, especially the application timetable, process and potential fees.

The “Normal Age” for students progressing to high school sits between 11.75 and 12.75 years of age, though this can vary upward slightly. There are some restrictions on the Lower Age Limit which need to be checked if your child fits this category. These particularly take into account aspects such as social and emotional maturity and the intellectual capability to cope with age differences and other demands.

The following resources may provide assistance for those parents with children about to enter high school. While they come from New South Wales, the general thrust of these would apply in all states [even though in some cases the Year/Grade might be different, though this is changing].

  • High School
    Multiple links, with background, to a range of aspects and specialist high schools, enrolments, a school finder and more.
  • Moving into Year 7 in a NSW Government School
    ‘Includes an Information Guide and an Expression of Interest for for carers and parents’. Translations, in multiple languages, are available here.
  • Starting High School
    An overview of moving from Primary to Secondary schooling and some of the changes and requirements this involves. Includes video, starting check list and things to discuss with children.
  • Starting High School Checklist
  • Useful Information for Parents
    NSW Education Standards Authority [previously Board of Studies]. ‘There are many items on this web site of particular interest to parents. This page is designed to assist you by providing direct links to the most recent and relevant ones’. Covers syllabuses, examinations, procedures for Years 7-12.
  • Year-by-year Tips for High School
    ‘Each year in high school brings new academic and personal challenges for parents and their teens. Here are some tips from NSW public high school teachers to help you prepare for the year ahead’.

See the Important Examinations page for details about special placement tests in New South Wales and Western Australia.


In most instances, your child will have one teacher for their everyday education;

In some circumstances they may be in a Team Teaching group. Two or more teachers may teach different curriculum areas. There are obvious benefits from the use of specific expertise.

In addition they may experience some of the following specialists, based on school staffing & organisation, school size and individual needs.

  • librarian;
  • computing teacher;
  • English as a Second Language teacher;
  • music/choir teacher;
  • foreign language teacher;
  • sport/physical education teacher;
  • art/craft teacher;
  • Reading Recovery teacher;
  • Itinerant teacher [various specialities];
  • Relief from Face to Face teacher who takes normal lessons [relieving classroom teachers in some states].
  • Some specialists may be from outside the school, others may be different classroom teachers within the school who have specific expertise in a nominated area.


  • For specific curriculum information, check details from the Curriculum page.

Uniforms, Fees & Financial Assistance

Check the following pages :

  • Enrolments
    For state & territory information. Includes uniforms and dress standards.
  • Financial Assistance
    School, Department & government assistance, scholarships, discounted fees, etc..
  • Scholarships
    Most apply to secondary and tertiary education, but some are at the Primary level.

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