The private school enrolment process can sometimes be an overwhelming experience for parents unfamiliar with it. Conflicting information in the media or from other parents about school selection processes can make securing a spot in a private school seem complex or nigh on impossible.
Generally speaking, each school uses a similar process so we hope the following will give you an overview of what to expect:
Applying for a school.
The start of the enrolment process is often the most complicated step for parents. While some schools don’t have a waitlist for prospective students (meaning they accept students on a ‘first-come, first-served’ basis), other schools do.
It’s important to note, that a waitlist is often a reflection of parents’ demand for a particular year level at a school and doesn’t necessarily mean its quality of teaching is superior to schools without one. Waitlists are mainly used for key intake years such as pre-grade 1 (Prep/Kinder/Reception) or Year 7. For those year levels, getting your child's name down early on a waitlist can be an advantage. Expect to pay a waitlist fee and to wait until around two years out from the enrolment year before receiving an admission offer. As there’s no guarantee a child on a waitlist will receive an admission offer, many parents opt to play it safe and put their child’s name down at multiple schools.
If you didn’t manage to register your child on a waitlist upon leaving hospital after their birth, don’t panic! There are other options to consider. Sometimes enrolling your child in an earlier or later year level, where there may be less demand, is a way to secure a spot at the same school. Doing a quick search on School Places will also reveal which schools in your area may have last minute, unexpected vacancies that they’re looking to fill for the year level that you’re after.
Be sure to register your details with School Places to be notified as soon as a school loads a vacancy that matches your search criteria.
The next step is to prepare for the enrolment form completion. For this, parents need to collect and submit copies of their child’s key documents, such as a birth certificate, immunisation records and sometimes baptism certificates, if the private school is affiliated with a religion. This will kick start the next round of the enrolment process - interviewing and testing.
Interviewing and Testing.
In order to process a student’s application, a school will invite the student to attend a personal interview and, depending on the school and the intake year, sit a series of tests.
For students entering primary school, it may simply be a basic Q&A session with your child. For children of this age, schools are generally looking for language abilities to help them identify whether the child may require education assistance.
For students entering secondary school, this step is a more rigorous process. Aside from reviewing the student’s past academic records and evaluating their interests, the school may expect all applicants to complete written tests, aptitude tests, language tests and numeric reasoning tests.
Students entering secondary school years will be interviewed, too. During this step, schools examine the general presentation of a student - if they are well-spoken, can converse and if they fit in well with the school’s culture.
Fees and costs Involved.
Naturally you can expect to pay more for education if you choose to send your child to a private school. There are particular costs to be mindful of and plan for at certain stages of the process.
Most private schools charge an application fee of between $50 and $200. This is to be paid at the time of submitting your application for enrolment.
Once you receive an admission offer, you will be required to pay an enrolment or confirmation fee to accept and confirm your child’s place at the school. This fee can range from $500 to $2,500 and, depending on the school’s policy, may be credited towards your first term’s tuition fees.
Parents should expect to pay the first term’s tuition fee upfront. Most schools offer a small discount (up to 5%) if you’re able to pay a full year’s fees in advance. Discounts are often given when siblings attend the same school, with the size of the discount increasing for each additional child you enrol.
As private schools emphasise a student’s all-rounded development, there may be a range of required, elective or voluntary activities that attract additional on-going costs.
Certain costs may be compulsory, for example, many schools will charge a technology fee for providing an approved laptop or tablet (around $800 per year); while other charges are optional, such as costs for uniforms, camps, excursions, and extra-curricular sports activities or music tuition.
Making large sum payments each term can put a strain on a family’s finances so don’t be afraid to ask the school if they have payment plans available or to investigate initiating your own through a third party. School fee payment service providers pay your child’s fees directly to the school by the due date and then spread the payments out into manageable monthly or fortnightly instalments. These regular payments can be direct debited from your bank account or credit card. A service fee is applicable based on the tuition fee amount.