The three main education providers are the State Government (777 schools), Catholic Education (159 schools) and the Independent schools sector (132 schools). Government schools are often called State Schools or Public Schools. Non-government schools are often called Private Schools.
Most Private schools have a religious affiliation, but some are non-denominational. All Western Australian State schools are non-denominational.
In the Private sector there are co-educational and single-sex schools at Primary and at Secondary level. Western Australian Government schools are all co-educational.
Western Australia schools have one Year of (non-compulsory) Kindergarten, followed by a (non compulsory) Pre-Primary Year, seven years in Primary school; and five years in Secondary school. More than half of the Independent schools are combined Primary and Secondary schools. Most Government Primary schools are separate to Secondary schools, with a small proportion being combined - similarly for Catholic schools.
Children in Western Australian schools must turn four years old by June 30 to start Kindergarten that year and turn five years old by June 30 to start Pre-Primary year. The minimum school leaving age is 16 and will become 17 in 2008, Young people will then have to be in school, training or approved full-time employment until 17 years of age.
Although attendance at Kindergarten and Pre-Primary is not compulsory, more that 90% of children in Western Australia attend Kindergarten and 95% of children attend a Pre-Primary program. Kindergarten is four half days a week. Pre-Primary is full-time.
There are 8 Learning Areas set out in the WA Curriculum Framework and schools work within this framework until latter secondary years to develop a curriculum appropriate to the needs of students at the school. The Learning Areas are: English, Health and Physical Education, Languages Other Than English (LOTE), Mathematics, Science, Society and the Environment, Technology and Enterprise, and the Arts. In later Secondary years like Years 11-12 students specialise more.
WACE is the WA Certificate of Education. Students can achieve this Certificate by meeting the requirements set down by the Curriculum Council, which are based on Wholly School-assessed Subjects.
VET subjects are practical and industry-related subjects such as trades, hospitality and IT and a WACE can be made up of some or all VET subjects.
If Western Australian students wish to gain entry into university they need to complete TEE exams (which are based on the TEE subjects they have selected) at the end of Year 12. There are about 20 TEE subjects, but this will increase in 2008. The results of the exams are used to calculate a TER (Tertiary Entrance Rank). The rank achieved determines whether a student is eligible for entry into particular university courses.
Western Australian Special Needs Schools for children with disabilities are mostly in the Government sector. Some mainstream schools also have programs for Special Needs students on their campuses.
There are several schools in Western Australia which have an alternative philosophical approach to education, such as Steiner or Montessori. All are Independent schools.
There is a Western Australian School of Agriculture with several campuses in the countryside for Year 11 and 12 students. Some schools may have strengths in particular areas that can appeal to students with talents and interests in those areas.
Many Independent and Catholic schools offer scholarships to students for academic excellence and some for excellence in other areas.
The Western Australian government provides Distance education for students in remote areas or those unable to attend school.
There are Boarding schools in the Private Sector at Primary and Secondary level and Government Residential Colleges in rural areas.
International students can study in a variety of schools in Western Australia.
Most schools expect students to wear uniforms. Uniforms are usually unique to the school.
The school year usually runs from late January/early February to mid-December. It is divided into two semesters, with two terms in each and vacation breaks for Easter, winter, spring and summer. All Government schools follow a set of annually determined term dates. Private school term dates can vary a little from the Government schools and from one another.