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For expats with children, one of their foremost concerns will be ensuring that there is access to good education in their prospective new country, whether in the form of public schools or private schools.
Melbourne is home to a number of good government schools, and also a few highly-rated private and independent schools, many of which are Catholic. With few schools in Melbourne offering the curriculum of a foreign country, only a few nationalities have the option of continuing with their home country's schooling. A good alternative for expats is the International Baccalaureate (IB), which is recognised worldwide.
Government schools in Melbourne
Any child in Melbourne may attend a public school, regardless of their parents' visa status. That said, the parent's visa status is likely to affect the fees associated with doing so. It is best for expat parents to consult with Victoria's Department of Education and Training to find out whether they will need to pay fees and, if so, what the amount will be.
Residential areas are divided into different 'zones', and where one lives will determine which schooling zone they belong to. These zones are strict and an expat's inclusion in a zone may come down to which side of the road they live on. It is possible to attend a school outside of the assigned zone, but only if that school has space available, which may not be the case in the more acclaimed government schools in Melbourne. For this reason, it is often best to base accommodation searches on the desired school zone.
Non-government schools in Melbourne
Most of Melbourne's non-government schools are Catholic schools. Although Catholic students from the local area around the school are given preference, non-Catholic students may be admitted if there is space.
Non-Catholic private schools may be categorised as 'independent schools', and include schools of other religions, such as Christianity, Judaism and Islam. Independent schools also include schools which follow a particular educational philosophy or curriculum, such as Montessori or vocational schools.
International schools in Melbourne
With just a handful of international schools available in Melbourne, many parents who want their children to continue studying their home curriculum may be out of luck. Most of the city's international schools offer the International Baccalaureate (IB), though there is also a French and a German school. The fact that the IB is a standard international programme can make this an ideal solution for expat parents who move around a lot.
Melbourne's international schools offer a high quality of education, but this comes at a price and their fees are typically well above those of local schools. In some cases, parents may be able to negotiate an education allowance with their employer as part of a relocation package. This kind of financial support can be very helpful, although parents should keep in mind that there may be additional expenses above and beyond school fees, such as for uniforms and textbooks.
Special educational needs in Melbourne
Melbourne has a robust programme for students with special educational needs. Parents can work with schools and health specialists to draw up what is known as a 'developed education plan' for their child. This plan is personalised according to the individual's needs and is reviewed at least once per school term.
Students with a first language other than English can obtain assistance from the English as an Additional Language (EAL) unit. This unit provides intensive English courses at language schools or centres for such students, usually for between six to 12 months.
Tutors in Melbourne
There are a number of reputable tutor companies in and around Melbourne offering a range of services. Whether an expat child struggles with a particular subject or just needs a bit of help getting into the swing of a new schooling system, tutors can be extremely useful to new arrivals.
Recommended tutoring companies in Melbourne include LearnMate Tutoring and TuteSmart Melbourne City.
►For tips on finding the perfect home, see Accommodation in Melbourne.
Are you an expat living in Melbourne?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Melbourne. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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