Key features of the Melbourne school system

Age

Education in Victoria, Australia is compulsory for children aged from 6 to 17 years. Students attend school for a total of 13 years. Primary school students are aged between five and 12 years old. Classes are divided into Prep and Years 1 – 6. Secondary school students are aged between 12 and 20 years old. Classes are divided into Years 7 – 12.

School types

The school system has a range of schools including:

  • primary schools
  • secondary schools
  • P-12 (Prep to Year 12) or K-12 (Kindergarten to Year 12) colleges.

Most Victorian Government schools are co-educational but there are also some single gender schools.

There are three main types of schools based on funding and structure: (1) government, (2) Catholic, and (3) Independent. Government schools enrol about 63% of students, catholic schools enrol 23% and independent schools enrol 14%.

Class sizes and ratios

Class sizes vary across Melbourne, though on average, in Victorian secondary schools the average class size is 21.6 students with a student/teacher ratio of 11.8.

Typical school day

School takes place five days per week, from around 8:30am to 3:30pm, Monday to Friday. In most secondary schools on a typical school day, students tend to move from classroom to classroom rather than staying in one room.

The school year

There are four terms in the school year. School usually starts in late January and runs until mid-December. There’s a short break of 2 weeks between terms and a longer break of 6 weeks in December and January.

Curriculum and school programs

The school curriculum in Victoria depends on the student year level:

  • Victorian Essential Learning Standards for Prep to Year 10
  • Victorian Certificate of Education for Years 11 and 12.

All schools also offer extra-curricular programs with many options and experiences.

Regardless of whether a school is government or independent, they are required to adhere to the same curriculum frameworks. Education in all government schools must be secular and not promote any particular religious practice, denomination or sect.[5] Most school students, be they in a government or independent school, usually wear uniforms, although there are varying expectations and some schools do not require uniforms.

Uniforms

Most school students, be they in a government or independent school, usually wear uniforms, although there are varying expectations and some schools do not require uniforms.

Schools with unfiforms often include winter and summer uniforms with clothes in school colours.

Qualifications

Post-compulsory education is regulated within the Australian Qualifications Framework, a unified system of national qualifications in schools, vocational education and training (TAFE) and the higher education sector (university).

Student language background

Over 25 per cent of students are from language backgrounds other than English (LBOTE), and there is an extensive English as a Second Language (ESL) program with relevant schools staffed with Multicultural Education Aides.

The distribution of LBOTE students is uneven, with many schools enroling students mainly from English-speaking backgrounds, while others have a mix of nationalities, and others made up mainly of LBOTE students.

School sector and student characteristics

The prominence of non-government schools in Melbourne, all of which receive some level of government funding, sets it apart from most Organisation for Economic Co-operation Development (OECD) countries. However, not all Australian parents are able to access or afford such choice in schooling, particularly those from low socioeconomic backgrounds.

This has resulted in differences across schools in socioeconomic composition, largely based on the ability and willingness of parents to pay fees. In recent decades the government sector has experienced increasingly a loss in market share to the non-government sector, resulting in the government sector educating an increasing proportion of educationally disadvantaged students.

There is now a disproportional number of students from the most disadvantaged backgrounds attending government schools, as indicated by data collected by the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) on the occupation and education level of students’ parents (the socio-educational advantage measure).

In 2010, 36 per cent of all government school students were from the lowest quarter of socio-educational advantage compared to 21 per cent of Catholic school students and 13 per cent of independent school students. The remaining government school students were almost equally distributed across the remaining quarters of socio-educational advantage, as shown in Figure 1.