Choosing a school for your child is a big decision – so how do you ensure you make the right choice for your child?

All parents want the same thing from their child’s school – for their child to be happy, learn and thrive in a supportive environment. There are many wonderful government schools in WA but there are many other options available, from schools providing a religious-based education, to schools that have a teaching philosophy that differs from the mainstream.

Do your research and talk to the schools and other parents to help make your decision – and remember that you know your child best and what will be the best decision for your child and family. We take a look at the range of schooling options available for your consideration.



According to ABS Schools Australia, as of 2013 there were 768 government schools (both primary and secondary) in Western Australia.

If you want to enrol your child into a local government school, you should note that each school has an ‘enrolment zone’, so you will have to check which school zone your address falls into. However, even with these school zones in place you do still have some choice when it comes to choosing a Government school for your child. If you wish to enrol your child in a government school that is outside of your local government school zone or district (for example, you might wish to enrol your child in a school that is close to a grandparent’s house or to your workplace) you can apply – but a place is not guaranteed.

In addition to your options if you are considering government schooling, there are also independent public schools, which are government schools that have increased autonomy to make decisions at a local level. Like government schools, independent public schools do not charge tuition fees to parents or have selective enrolment processes.

A Department of Education spokesperson says the Australian Government believes students should have access to high quality education with access to the best teachers and an up-to-date and relevant curriculum.

“Under the students-first approach, the Australian Government will work with the states and territories, teachers and parents to focus on four key areas: teacher quality, school autonomy, parental engagement and a strong curriculum,” they state.

“While we understand that there are always going to be some bad influences wherever they go, we think that in a Christian school they are far more likely to learn in a gentle and positive environment.”


For Mel Hearse, the choice to send her boys Max (9) and Sam (7) to her local government school was an easy one because she says they live in a great school district. “We plan to send them onto the high school as well as we are lucky enough to be in the school district for a high school with a lot of quality programs that many kids apply for out of district, so there was no need to get them into a feeder private school in primary school,” she says. “If we weren’t living here and guaranteed a spot at the high school, I would have explored more private schools but as we do, it was unnecessary.”

For further information about Government schooling in WA, visit

“While we understand that there are always going to be some bad influences wherever they go, we think that in a Christian school they are far more likely to learn in a gentle and positive environment.”


The Association of Independent Schools of Western Australia currently has 144 member schools (not including Catholic or Government members), enrolling 68,786 students (as per 2014 February Census data).

Valerie Gould, executive director of the Association of Independent Schools of Western Australia, says the independent sector has the largest range of schools in the three sectors including Christian, Jewish, Steiner, Montessori, Islamic and Community schools.

“For parents, the wide range of independent schools means they have more say on the type of education they want for their child,” she says.

For information on independent schools, visit the Association of Independent Schools of Western Australia website,



Karen Morton chose a small private Christian school for her girls Laura (8) and Emily (6). “Although we do not practise religion at home, we do believe in Christian values and are happy for our children to learn about God. We love the close ‘family’ atmosphere that our school has, and the smaller class sizes mean more individual attention for students. While we understand that there are always going to be some bad influences wherever they go, we think that in a Christian school they are far more likely to learn in a gentle and positive environment.”

The children do not use computers or iPads, but learn through imitation. All toys are made from natural materials and the space is set up like a home environment.


Tracey Puckeridge, CEO Steiner Education Australia, says every school has to meet the same curriculum requirements – the difference with Steiner schools is the way they teach.

In the Early Childhood sector, experience is based on play in a Steiner school. The children do not use computers or iPads, but learn through imitation. All toys are made from natural materials and the space is set up like a home environment.

“The curriculum is based on the developmental needs of the children in each year to engage the child at each stage of their development,” Tracey says.

“A unique feature of Steiner education is that children will have the same teacher throughout their primary years,” Tracey says. “This creates the opportunity for strong relationships between teacher, student and the student’s family. One of the highest indications for excellent learning outcomes involves positive student/teacher relationships.”

For information on Steiner schools visit


Karen Lacey spent a lot of time researching different styles of teaching and decided on a Steiner school for her daughter Chimaera (5) for a number of reasons. For starters, the sense of community was something Karen wanted for her children. “We don’t have a very large extended family and after moving we lost regular contact with most of our friends. The Steiner school lifestyle seemed (and has so far proven to be) almost like joining a family. It’s a holistic approach that is not just about learning, but a way of life in which cooperation and contribution is promoted and relied upon, freely given and never demanded. I wanted my daughter to grow up feeling like she is part of something bigger than just herself and her immediate family because I believe that tie, which exists for everyone but seems so rarely felt, is crucial to positive mental health and wellbeing.”

Karen says this is particularly important to her because Chimaera is on the Autism spectrum. In addition, because Chimaera is ‘face blind’, Karen felt that having a class teacher that stays with the child throughout their schooling instead of changing every year was a great advantage.

20 percent of students in Australia attend a Catholic school…there are 161 Catholic schools in WA, with almost 70,000 students.


20 percent of students in Australia attend a Catholic school – with just over 747,000 students at 1711 Catholic schools across Australia in 2013. According to the Catholic Education Office of Western Australia, there are 161 Catholic schools in WA, with almost 70,000 students.

Ross Fox, executive director of the National Catholic Education Commission, says Catholic schools are very inclusive. “In recent years the fastest growing student groups in Catholic education have been indigenous students and students with special needs,” he says.

If you want to enrol in a Catholic school, you must contact the individual school to put in an application. Submitting an application does not guarantee you placement, and you will usually be asked to attend an interview. You do not have to be Catholic to attend a Catholic school, but enrolment priority is usually given to Catholic students. However, Catholic schools are very inclusive, so ask your local school about their enrolment procedures.

According to Ross, Catholic schools focus on the development of the whole child. “They are more than just test results,” he says. “Catholic schools strive to meet the unique needs of every individual student.”

“Catholic schools are animated by the mission and tradition of the Catholic Church stretching over more than 2000 years,” Ross adds. “In their work they exhibit a deep commitment to Christian values, the example of Jesus Christ and his teachings. This means Catholic schools often display a deep commitment to social justice and prioritise the needs of their local community.”


Aimee Waller says she will be sending her two year old son, Riley, to a local Catholic school. “We are Catholic and I like the community spirit of a Catholic school,” she says. “I am a Catholic school teacher as well so that helped make the decision.”

For more details about Catholic schooling visit or go to the Catholic Education Office of Western Australia website,

“Allowing children to work to their own capabilities adds to their concentration and self-esteem, and encourages them to think creatively and independently.”


The Montessori philosophy is different to ‘mainstream’ education, with an emphasis on independence, by providing an environment of activities for children to use at their own pace.

Christine Harrison, president of Montessori Australia Foundation, says Montessori thinks about the whole child. “Our view of education is as an aid to life – to help them grow from childhood to maturity. Each child is individual… and we encourage each child to follow their own path of learning.” Children are in classes of ‘multi-age’ groups. For example, children aged three to six years will be in the same class.

Christine says children work to their ability with sets of materials in a prepared environment, and allowing children to work to their own capabilities adds to their concentration and self-esteem, and encourages them to think creatively and independently. “Montessori has been around for over 100 years and it is proven to help the whole child in a holistic way,” she says.

She recommends parents go to a Montessori school to see for themselves the philosophy in action and to see how Montessori can benefit their child. Christine says there are also Montessori long day care centres with programs for babies and toddlers, which may appeal to parents of younger children who want to get a taste for the Montessori philosophy.

For more information visit


Eva Schmalkuche was a Montessori student herself, so with fond memories of her time there, it was a simple decision to send her son Jaxon (5) to a Montessori school. “I like that the class sizes are much smaller with a mix of ages, so the older students help the younger students,” she says. “Their philosophy is attractive because it allows the child to choose what they want to do, and they learn things other than the curriculum including sharing, socialising with older students and responsibility.”

“There is a lot of misperception surrounding Montessori – but it’s a fantastic grounding,” Eva says. “Parents considering Montessori should not fear something that is not mainstream – the Montessori community is open for discussion and is very welcoming.”

“We love the home schooling lifestyle and are thrilled we took the plunge.”


Parents are the first educators of their children – so why not consider home schooling and extend this important role to their everyday schooling?

Stuart Chapman, director of Homeschool WA, says parents choose home schooling for a number of reasons including:

  • Bullying.
  • Not being happy with the academic progress of their child at school.
  • Concerns about behaviour.
  • Concerns with the culture of the school.
  • Deciding to home school their child with a learning difficulty.


Stuart says there is a lot of support available for parents wanting to take the plunge, however, they need to consider the time they can commit. “Home education involves a huge commitment on (the parent’s) behalf. In some cases they will need to drop, reduce or reschedule work commitments, and they need to come to grips with some negative attitudes from family and friends who may question a parent’s ability on being able to educate their child.”

However, he says the advantages are many. Although some people worry about the opportunity for home schooled children to socialise with other children, Stuart says home schooled children learn better social skills because they interact with children and adults of different ages instead of only their same-age peers in the school yard. There are also advantages to the child’s education, including the opportunity for increased parent/child interaction and ensuring your child gets lots of one-on-one attention. “A parent is a highly motivated educator,” he says. “A teacher is a paid employee who will never make the sacrifices a parent will. Parents will always make the extra effort.”

For more information about Home Schooling WA visit

To find out further details about home schooling and registration, contact the Department of Education or go to



great way to find out about a school is to go see it in the flesh. ‘Open days’, conducted by some schools, offer an opportunity to view its resources and meet staff.

If you can, speak with parents of students already attending the school you are considering. Of course, not everyone is going to have the same opinion of a school, but speaking to a few parents is a good way to get a feel of the school culture.

Go to the MySchool website This website enables you to search profiles of schools, as well as statistical information, resources and performance indicators.



There are so many school options, so ensure you do your research and ask lots of questions to make the best decision for your child.

Some things to consider include:

  • Location. As in real estate, location is very important when choosing a school. If the best school choice for your child is the government school across the road from your house, then that will be very convenient! If your preferred school is further afield, you will need to take into consideration travel time and public transport (if required).
  • The school’s uniform requirements.
  • If your child has a special interest, such as music, sport or languages. Ask the school what programs they offer.
  • The school’s policies on homework and bullying.
  • The cost. The expense of uniforms, fees or additional costs can vary greatly between schools so it is best to find out these details when enquiring about enrolment to ensure they fit within your budget.


Pre-kindy programs

Although not compulsory in Western Australia, most parents will enrol their child in kindergarten. However, it is also becoming popular to enrol your child in pre-kindy or ‘three-year-old kindy’ programs. These privately-run programs offer a gentle introduction to schooling and many parents believe they give their children a head start in their schooling life.

Note: some Catholic schools offer three-year-old programs, but your child attending this program does not mean you automatically have a place in kindergarten or pre-primary at the school – you still have to ensure you put in your enrolment application forms.


Brooke has written for home improvement, bridal and women’s lifestyle publications, but says Offspring enables her to combine writing with her new favourite hobby, being a mum to her boys Caleb and Jonah.

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