School cut-off dates: When can my child start school?

One of the trickiest things about starting school in Australia is that every state seems to do it differently!

  • Some Australian states have different names for the first year of primary school.
  • Some Australian states allow children to start school before they turn 5.
  • Others have ‘preliminary’ years that are not compulsory.
Cut off dates to start school in Australia

Instead of all children starting school when they are of a similar age, each state has its own set of rules about the age at which children can start school. In all Australian states, however, kids need to be enrolled in a school in the year they turn 6.

Confused? We don’t blame you!

To make it easier for you, we’ve developed this summary, so that wherever you live in Australia, you know the cut-off dates for schools in your state. At the end of this summary, you’ll also find information about other schooling options for Australian children.

Cut off ages for starting school for Australian children

Cut off dates for children starting school in Australia

New South Wales (NSW)

The first year of school in NSW is called Kindergarten – or more colloquially, ‘Kindy’. NSW kids are allowed to start school on the first day of first term as long as they turn 5 by July 31 that year. All NSW children must be enrolled in a primary school in the year they turn 6.


The first year of school in Victoria is called Prep – which is short for ‘preparatory year’. Victorian children are allowed to start school on the first day of first term as long as they turn 5 by April 30 that year. If you live in Victoria, your child must be enrolled in a school in the year they turn 6, which is the compulsory school-starting age.


The first year of formal schooling in Queensland is called Prep. To enroll in Prep, Queensland children must turn 5 by the 30th of June in the year they are enrolled. In Queensland, it is not compulsory for your child to attend the Prep year as soon as they are old enough. You can delay your child’s entry by one year if you feel your son or daughter is not ready. If you do decide to delay your child’s start until the year they turn 6, your son or daughter will still go into a Prep class in their first year of school.

Western Australia (WA)

In WA, the first year of compulsory schooling is called Pre-primary. To enroll in Pre-primary, your child must turn five by June 30 that year. In WA, your child can also be enrolled part-time in a preliminary year called ‘Kindergarten’, which is available, but not compulsory, for four-year-olds. To be eligible to enroll in a Kindergarten class, WA kids must turn four before 30 June that year.

South Australia

The first year of schooling in South Australia is called Reception. South Australian children can enroll at school from the first term as long as they turn five by April 30 that year.


In Tasmania, the first year of formal schooling is called Prep. To enroll in a Prep class, children must have already turned five by January 1 of the school year. In Tasmania, a preliminary program called Kindergarten is also available for four-year-olds in the year before formal schooling begins. A minimum age of 4 years 0 months on or by 1 January in the year of admission applies to all children wishing to enroll in a Kindergarten class.

Australian Capital Territory (ACT)

In the ACT, the first year of schooling is called Kindergarten. Your child can start Kindergarten at the beginning of the year if they turn five by April 30.

Northern Territory (NT)

In the Northern Territory, the first year of formal school is called Transition. As long as your child turns five by June 30 of that year, he or she may be enrolled in a Transition class at the start of the year.

What are the cut off dates to school start in Australia

Other options for starting school

Most states have special programs that cater to children who are starting school and have additional learning and developmental needs.

This might be relevant if your child is Gifted, or if your child has medical, developmental, or other needs that could affect their participation at school.

Contact the Department of Education in your state for specific information about the procedures that apply to your family.


Homeschooling is legal in Australia and is an educational option that an increasing number of Australian families are choosing for their children.

Homeschooling regulations are strict and if you are thinking about home-schooling your children, it is important to be aware of the state laws that you will need to comply with if you intend to assume primary responsibility for your child’s education.

Check with your local Department of Education for home schooling registration procedures.

Cut off dates to school start in Australia

School Readiness Support from Kids First

Kids First Children’s Services are experts in helping children make a confident start to school.

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