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Enrolment

School age requirements and age exemptions

School age

Under the Education and Training Reform Act 2006, schooling is compulsory for students aged between 6 and 17 years unless an exemption from enrolment or attendance has been granted. For enrolment and attendance exemption categories and processes — refer to Exemptions from School Enrolment and Attendance.

Compulsory schooling for students aged between 6 and 17 applies to all schools including mainstream, specialist, and government English language schools or centres. 

A person who is not of compulsory school age may not enrol in or attend a government school unless:

  • the person falls within an exception to the age eligibility requirements set out in the Education and Training Reform Regulations 2017 (Regulations) — refer to the Exceptions information below; or
  • the person is granted an exemption from the age requirements in the Regulations — refer to the Exemptions information below

Educational programs not subject to the school age requirements

The school age requirements set out in the Education and Training Regulations 2017 (Vic) do not apply to individuals who will attend programs conducted at a government school:

  • outside school hours; or
  • by Registered Training Organisations or other bodies that are separate from the school

Differences between an exception and an exemption

A person who falls within an exception automatically meets the age eligibility requirements to enrol in or attend a government school.  If the principal is satisfied that the person meets the criteria for the exception, the principal cannot refuse to enrol the person on the basis of their age and the person will not be required to obtain an exemption from the Minister or their delegate.

A person who does not fall within an exception may be eligible to apply for an exemption. Exemptions are granted at the discretion of the Minister, or Minister's delegate (which currently include Regional Directors). There is no automatic eligibility to enrol in or attend a government school.

Responsibility for assessing and approving school age eligibility requirements

Principals are responsible for assessing eligibility and approving the enrolment of:

  • individuals who are of compulsory school age (those aged between 6 and 17 years); and
  • individuals who fall within an exception under the Regulations

The Minister or delegate (such as a Regional Director) is responsible for assessing and granting exemptions to the minimum and maximum school age requirements.

Exceptions to the minimum age requirements

A child who is aged less than 5 years old at 30 April of the year of enrolment may enrol in or attend a government school for the purposes of attending:

  • short-term prep transition programs in primary schools that prepare pre-schoolers for primary school
  • Early Education Programs in special developmental schools (as approved by the Minister)

A child who is aged 5 years or over by 30 April of the year of enrolment may enrol in or attend a government school if they are enrolling in or attending a:

  • course of primary education
  • course approved by the Minister
  • preschool program conducted on government school premises

Exceptions to the maximum age requirements

Exceptions apply to individuals who:

  • are turning 18 during the year of enrolment, if they are enrolling solely in an accredited senior secondary course, for example Victorian Certificate of Education (VCE), Victorian Certificate of Applied Learning (VCAL) or International Baccalaureate (IB)
  • are turning 19 during the year of enrolment, if they are enrolling solely for the purpose of  completing an accredited senior secondary course in that year (or that they are expected to successfully complete their course in the year of enrolment based on current assessment information and course plan)
  • are enrolling or attending an English language government school or centre, if the student is seeking to continue their enrolment in the year in which they turn 18 years of age and in the following year, solely for the purpose of completing the program
  • will turn 20 years of age during the year of enrolment, and satisfy each of the following criteria:
    • is enrolled at a government school situated outside the metropolitan area solely for the purpose of completing an accredited senior secondary course in that year: and
    • there is no TAFE institute or other registered education or training organisation (other than another government school) within 50 kilometres of the school in which the person is seeking to enrol that is offering an accredited senior secondary education course through a distance education program that the person is eligible to enrol in

Exemptions from the age requirements

The Minister or delegate (such as a Regional Director) may grant an individual an exemption from the minimum and maximum age requirements in the Regulations in limited circumstances.

An individual is eligible to apply for an exemption if they meet the criteria set out below. Eligibility does not guarantee that an exemption will be granted. 

Exemptions from the minimum and maximum age requirements are rare, rather than being considered normal practice. This should be taken into account when considering enrolment decisions, such as beginning school, transitioning from primary to secondary school and planning for completing school or moving to other available settings.

Schools may not always be the most appropriate place for some children or young people. There are a range of age appropriate settings available for children and young people, whether they may be early childhood services and settings or adult education options.

It is important that when considering applications for exemption from the age requirements that a balance needs to be struck between the best interests of the child or young person and that of other students. This balance must be considered for individual cases and circumstances, while also ensuring that the exemption process is consistently and fairly applied.

The following arrangements apply to enrolments that can be assessed and endorsed by principals but require relevant Regional Director approval.

Early age entry

Where a student is younger than 5 years of age on 30 April in the year of enrolment and does not meet one of the exceptions listed above, an exemption from the minimum age requirements is required. Early age entry or exemption from the minimum age requirements must be:

  • requested in writing to the school by their parent/carers
  • considered by the principal, who must make a written recommendation for consideration by  the Regional Director
  • forwarded to the relevant Regional Director, with all supporting documentation attached, via email
  • assessed by the Regional Director, who must consider eligibility, the principal’s recommendation and all other relevant circumstances, and make a decision regarding the application
  • approved or not approved in writing by the relevant Regional Director. The regional office should notify both the parent or carer and school of the decision in a timely manner

To be eligible for an exemption from the minimum age requirements a child must meet both of the following criteria:

  • the child possesses suitable academic ability; and
  • it is in the child’s best interests to be enrolled at or attend a government school

Applications that do not address the requirements for both criteria will not be eligible for approval.

To understand how the Department applies the eligibility criteria for an exemption from minimum age requirements, the following guidance is provided:

Suitable academic ability

The Department's preferred evidence of suitable academic ability is:

  • a report from a psychologist confirming that the child has been assessed as  ≥ 130 Full Scale IQ (2 standard deviations, or more above the mean), preferably using the Wechsler Preschool and Primary Scale of Intelligence, Fourth Edition, Australian and New Zealand (WPPS-IV A&NZ), including the 10 sub-tests required to calculate the Full Scale score and Primary Index Scales, conducted after the child has attained the age of 4 years; or:
  • where a child is transferring from a school in another state or country after more than one term of enrolment and attendance, evidence from that school confirming that the child has suitable academic ability to attend school

Where a child does not fall into one of the above categories, the Department may also consider other evidence of suitable academic ability that:

  • is provided by an authoritative independent source(s) — for example, a child psychologist registered with the Psychology Board of Australia, with experience in educational and developmental psychology; and
  • clearly demonstrates that the child has suitable academic ability to attend school

It is the responsibility of the parent/carer to obtain all relevant cognitive assessment/s and/or other reports and evidence to support their child's application.

Applications based solely on parental observations will not be accepted.

Best interests

Schools must consider the entry assessment from kindergarten and informal observations to assess development, literacy, and numeracy, and academic, social and emotional needs in determining a student’s school readiness.

Early entry to school is generally not considered to be in the best interests of a child unless the child is:

  • at least 4 years 6 months of age on or before 30 April in the year of school commencement; and
  • considered at risk of long term educational disadvantage by a childcare, kindergarten, allied health or other relevant professional if they do not commence at school

To apply for a minimum age exemption for early entry to school, use the: Minimum Age Exemption — Early Entry to School Application Form.

Maximum age exemption

A student aged over 18 years of age at any time during the year of enrolment who does not meet one of the exceptions listed above may only enrol in or attend a government school if they are granted an exemption from the age requirements.

Exemption from the maximum age requirements must be:

  • requested in writing to the school by the young person or their parent/carer
  • considered by the principal, who must make a written recommendation for consideration by  the Regional Director
  • forwarded to the relevant Regional Director, with all supporting documentation attached, via email
  • assessed by the Regional Director, who must consider eligibility, the principal’s recommendation and all other relevant circumstances, and make a decision regarding the application
  • approved or not approved in writing by the relevant Regional Director. The regional office should notify both the parent or carer and school of the decision in a timely manner

A student is eligible for an exemption from the maximum age requirements if they meet one or more of the following criteria:

  • the person will be under 20 years of age on 31 December in the year the person completes year 10 and is unable to complete year 10 before they turn 18 and one or more of the following special circumstances exist for that person:
    • pregnancy
    • parental or primary carer responsibilities
    • serious illness or injury
    • a period of imprisonment
  • the person is aged between 18 and 21 and the Minister is satisfied of one or more of the following:
    • the exemption will enable the person to participate in a specific course or program approved by the Minister
    • the exemption will enable the person to transfer from an English language government school or centre into year 10 at a government school
    • it would be unreasonable in the circumstances not to grant the exemption
  • the person is seeking to enrol in an English language government school or centre, and the Minister considers it in the person's best interest to be enrolled at or to attend that educational setting.

To apply for a maximum age exemption use the Maximum Age Exemption Application Form.

It is Department policy that an exemption from the maximum age requirements will generally not be granted unless the person:

  • has previously been enrolled in and attended the school in the last 12 months
  • is expected to complete school in the exemption period based on their current or proposed course information and assessment. This means that if the student successfully completes the requirements of their current enrolment/course plan/units in which they are enrolled, they will have successfully completed the requirements of the accredited senior secondary course in which they are enrolled, and they are expected to do so in the year of enrolment; or
  • has a clear transition plan that has been agreed to by the young person and/or their parent/carer; and poses no or minimal risks to other students through their attendance at the school
  • has no other age-appropriate setting or option available for an equivalent course of study (no other age appropriate setting within 50 kilometres of the student’s home and online study is inappropriate)

When considering an application for exemption from the age requirements and gathering the supporting documentation, principals and decision-makers should consider the following:

  • best interests — includes the child or young person’s academic, social and emotional needs, aspirations and abilities
  • age-appropriate settings or options — taking into consideration the student’s aspirations, abilities and needs, such as relevant adult education settings
  • online study — may be inappropriate if the student does not have reliable access to the required technologies to undertake the course, will not meet the prerequisite requirements for enrolment, and/or does not possess the required English language proficiency

Please note:

  • accredited senior secondary course — includes Victorian Certificate of Education (VCE), Victorian Certificate of Applied Learning (VCAL) or International Baccalaureate (IB)
  • complete school — means that if the student successfully completes the requirements of their current enrolment/course plan/units in which they are enrolled, they will have successfully completed the requirements of the accredited senior secondary course in which they are enrolled, and they are expected to do so in the year of enrolment.
Chapter in the Enrolment in a Victorian Government School Guidelines outlining the age requirements, and exemptions, for enrolment and attendance in a government school

Reviewed 26 November 2020

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