Choosing a school outside of your local area
You have more than your fair share of decisions to make when choosing a school for your child, from its sector, gender and ethos, to some of the more practical considerations like location. For many families, the local school is a natural choice — after all, it’s nice and close and it’s likely that most of your child’s friends will be enrolling there too.
For others, the decision is a little more complex. Perhaps a school further from home has a special academic program, offers sports that your child is interested in or simply outshines your local school.
Here we explain the options for parents considering schools further from home, both in the government and non-government sectors, as well as some of the practical considerations that you will need to think about.
Government schools are separated into zones (or districts) and many require students to live in the local catchment area in order to be granted a place. If you are hoping to enrol your child in a school outside of your zone, it’s best to contact individual schools to discuss some of the practicalities, such as whether the school has enough places to take your child. Some schools may require that you schedule an interview to discuss your reasons for an out-of-area enrolment. It is a very real possibility that government schools outside your zone will reach their enrolment capacity just enrolling students from within their catchment, which is often the case at high-performing government secondary schools.
Independent and Catholic schools
Families researching schools in the Catholic and independent sectors often consider those outside of their immediate area. Independent schools do not generally place any restrictions on their enrolment, although many use waiting lists and have enrolment processes that begin much earlier than in government schools. Catholic schools, while not necessarily restricting enrolments based on zones, may take your location into account when considering your child’s enrolment. For example, a student who is Catholic and from the local parish may take preference over one who lives further away. A further consideration is that enrolling your child in a ‘feeder’ primary school may help them to secure enrolment in a particular secondary school.
Considerations when choosing a school outside the local area
When making this decision, it’s also worth thinking about the following:
- Does the school place significant restrictions on enrolments?
When you begin researching your child’s options, it’s important to have a careful look at each school’s enrolment process. Some government schools have very strict zone restrictions, which may not even cover the full suburb in which they are located, meaning that they are unlikely to take out-of-area enrolments. Some schools even require parents to provide utility bills and rate payment slips or lease agreements as proof of residence in the local area.
- Is an out-of-area school a practical choice?
It’s worth considering both how far your child will need to travel and to think about how this will work in practice (whether you will drive them or whether they will take public transport). For example, you may consider what time they will need to wake up in the morning and what time will they get home — an extra hour or two each day quickly adds up over a long term. If they are taking public transport, can they take a single bus or train the whole way or will they need to swap services? Also consider how this will affect their ability to participate in before- or after-school activities, such as Ride2School days.
- Are there any other implications for your child?
In addition to some of the more practical considerations, like transport arrangements, give some thought to how they will maintain their existing friendships if they will be attending a different school than their current classmates. It’s possible that your child will feel a little alienated among classmates who are all from a similar area and who may have attended the same primary schools. And, even if they do make new friends, it may prove difficult to have unplanned play-dates with them if you do not live locally.
For detailed information about your state or territory’s enrolment procedures, visit the relevant Department of Education website.
The Good Schools Guide covers every secondary school in Victoria, including including Independent, Government, Catholic and Boarding.
- Choosing a school — The Good Schools Guide
- Why choose boarding for your child - The Good Schools Guide
The Good Schools Guide provides extensive school profiles allowing parents to easily compare schools on many different aspects of the education experience including location and region, boarding and homestay options, fees, additional costs and financial assistance, enrolment size and much more.