Education in Western Australia

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Education in Western Australia is supervised by the Department of Education, which forms part of the Government of Western Australia. It follows a three-tier system, consisting of primary education (primary schools), followed by secondary education (secondary schools or secondary colleges) and tertiary education (Universities and TAFE Colleges).

Education is compulsory in Western Australia between the ages of six and seventeen. From 1 January 2008 persons in their 17th year must be in school, training, or have a job until the end of that year.


Education in the early years of Western Australia was limited, school were limited the first schools started to appear during the 1830s. From the 1850s schools became more common around Western Australia with many of the teachers being sourced educated convict who had obtained their Ticket of leave. Initially there was no official qualifications for teaching only being literate many of the schools became run by nuns or single women.

It wasn't until the University of Western Australia was established in 1911 that tertiary qualifications could be obtain prior to that students either studied on the east coast of Australia or in United Kingdom.

In 1915 James Miles chose Toodyay school to be the pioneer of his Special Rural Schools programme. To this end he worked with the headmaster Roderick Brooke Cowden[1] and his staff to design the equipment needed to enable the students to be more independent and resourceful in the learning process. Subjects were to be based on the practical activities of farming life. School gardens were established where the children experimented with different types of grains such a wheat, oats and barley, and the growing of vegetables and flowers. Girls were taught fruit and vegetable preservation, and first aid. When teaching standard curriculum subjects such as arithmetic and history, teachers were encouraged to use local sources, for example "figures showing the district's imports and exports were computed from the railway records".[2]:58 By 1920 twelve other special rural schools were established in the state. This number would peak at 40 in 1922. This success was in no small part due to the government's recognition of the state's dependence on agriculture. The commissioners of the Royal Commission into Education 1921 visited Toodyay and were highly impressed with its programme.[3]

From 1989 Tertiary Entrance Exam (TEE) was the standard academic examination for students completing their twelfth year of schooling up until 2010 when it was renamed the West Australian Certificate of Education (WACE) . The results of the exams were used to determine a students Tertiary Entrance Rank and Tertiary Entrance Score, which determine a students eligibility for tertiary study. Prior to this student studying in years 11 & 12 wanting enter University under took studies with the Tertiary Admittance Exam, the marks for establishing a person score was based solely on the result of a single exam for each of 6 subjects after two years of study.

Current School Structures[edit]


Pre-school in Western Australia is relatively unregulated and not compulsory. The first exposure many Australian children have to learn with others outside of traditional parenting is day care or a parent-run playgroup. This sort of activity is not generally considered schooling. Pre-school education is separate from primary school.

Pre-schools are usually run by local councils, community groups or private organizations. Pre-school is offered to three- to five-year-olds, and usually takes the form of a few hours of activity five days a week.


The year before a child is due to attend primary school is the main year for pre-school education. This run normally on site or at sites directly associated with primary schools while not complusary all primary schools encourage children to be enrolled in this program as it helps with the successful transition into primary school.

Primary schools[edit]

Primary education consists of seven grades: a preparatory year (commonly called "pre-primary") followed by Years 1 to 7. The minimum age at which a child can commence primary school education is 4.5 years. That is, the child can enrol in a school at the preparatory level if he or she would be five years of age by 30 June of that year. A child must commence education before age six.

High schools[edit]

High schooling consists of years 7 to 12. In 2015 Year 7 is considered as High School. High schools are generally separate institutions to primary schools, however this is not always the case.

Specialist & gifted programs[edit]

A number of High schools have a specialist programs for gifted students in addition to Perth Modern School which is for academically gifted children by invitation only, there is John Curtin Senior High School in Fremantle who has music program,. Canning Vale College has the states only circus course along with a specialist art program and Governor Stirling High School has a specialist Australian Rules Football academy.

The Academic Talent Program (ATP) is a program in some schools in Western Australia in the subjects of English, society and environment, mathematics and science. This program is especially for lower school (years 8, 9 and 10) secondary students who excel academically. The ATP course is accelerated and differentiated from the mainstream courses. This program also teaches about technology to allow students to learn about technology.

ATP Online is a program allowing rural students participate in the ATP through the internet. The ATP program is being phased into upper school (year 11 and 12) after running a successful pilot in 2006 at Willetton SHS.

Participating schools[edit]


The curriculum for all Western Australian schools, both government and non-government is determined by the Curriculum Council. Secondary students in years 11 and 12 are enrolled in the Western Australian Certificate of Education program.

Australian Tertiary Admissions Rank[edit]

The Australian Tertiary Admissions Rank (ATAR) was introduced in 2010 in all states of Australia bar Queensland as a means of standardizing the national university entrance system. The ATAR system follows the same principles as the systems that it replaces and improves upon them by allowing for greater interstate comparison of student achievements.

Tertiary Pathways[edit]

The classification of tertiary qualifications in Western Australia is governed in part by the Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF), which attempts to integrate into a single national classification all levels of tertiary education (both vocational and higher education), from trade certificates to higher doctorates.

Technical and Further Education[edit]

Technical and Further Education (TAFE) institutes are state-administered. TAFE institutions generally offer short courses, Certificates I, II, III, and IV, Diplomas, and Advanced Diplomas in a wide range of vocational topics. They also sometimes offer Higher Education courses.

In addition to TAFE Institutes, there are privately operated Registered Training Organisations (RTOs). They include:

  • commercial training providers,
  • the training department of manufacturing or service enterprises,
  • the training function of employer or employee organisations in a particular industry,
  • Group Training Companies,
  • community learning centres and neighbourhood houses,
  • secondary colleges providing VET programs.

In size these RTOs vary from single-person operations delivering training and assessment in a narrow specialisation, to large organisations offering a wide range of programs. Many of them receive government funding to deliver programs to apprentices or trainees, to disadvantaged groups, or in fields which governments see as priority areas.

All TAFE institutes and private RTOs are required to maintain compliance with a set of national standards called the Australian Quality Training Framework (AQTF), and this compliance is monitored by regular internal and external audits.

Vocational education and training (VET) VET programs delivered by TAFE Institutes and private RTOs are based on nationally registered qualifications, derived from either endorsed sets of competency standards known as Training Packages, or from courses accredited by state/territory government authorities. These qualifications are regularly reviewed and updated. In specialised areas where no publicly owned qualifications exist, an RTO may develop its own course and have it accredited as a privately owned program, subject to the same rules as those that are publicly owned.

All trainers and assessors delivering VET programs are required to hold a qualification known as the Certificate IV in Training and Assessment (TAA40104) or demonstrate equivalent competency. They are also required to have relevant vocational competencies, at least to the level being delivered or assessed.


There Universities in Western Australia, the oldest being University of Western Australia who's campus is in Nedlands. Murdoch University with campuses in Murdoch and Rockingham, Curtin University with its main campus in Bentley. Edith Cowan University newest education department associated university has campuses in a number of locations also includes WAAPA in Mt Lawley and Joondalup campus which also houses the WA Police training facilitiy. Fremantle's historic west end is home to University of Notre Dame Australia Westerns Australias only privately operated university

However, as Universities in Australia (and a few similar higher education institutions) largely regulate their own courses, the primary usage of AQF is for vocational education. However, in recent years there have been some informal moves towards standardization between higher education institutions.[citation needed]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "The New Education. Demonstration at Toodyay. Addresses by Ministers and Inspectors.". The West Australian. 1917-10-09. p. 8. Retrieved 2015-10-18. 
  2. ^ John A. McKenzie, "Wise Man from the East. The educational career of Senior Inspector Miles, in Early Days", Journal of the Royal Western Australian Historical Society, Vol. 8, Part 3, pp.46-71
  3. ^ Taylor, Robyn (2015). Toodyaypedia. Lotterywest Toodyaypedia - Part II. Newcastle Gaol Museum Collection: Shire of Toodyay (draft).  Missing or empty |title= (help);

"Gifted and Talented". Department of Education and Training (West Australia). Archived from the original on 22 February 2006. Retrieved 21 March 2006.