Families forced apart by new school out-of-area enrolment policies


Under strict new out-of-area enrolment policies, some younger siblings starting kindergarten in 2021 are unable to attend the same public school as their older brothers or sisters, if they don’t live in their newly enforced catchment area.

The NSW Department of Education has had a major crack down on out-of-area enrolments. So much so, that families with existing children at a public school are not being accepted into the school that their older sibling is attending. 

Under the new changes, every principal has given a student population limit based on the number of permanent buildings at their school, and will not be given demountables if they exceed their student cap due to out-of-area enrolments.

But it seems no leniency is given for existing families. As one North Shore Mum shares:

We enrolled our daughter to start at a nearby but ‘out of area’ school this year. We chose an out of area school because my husband and I both worked full time and required before and after school care each day, something our local ‘catchment’ school could not guarantee. In July 2019, a new policy was implemented by the NSW DoE meaning we couldn’t guarantee our youngest daughter will be able to attend school with her big sister. This has caused a huge amount of stress and anxiety as we battle with what is best for both of our children and our family – disrupt our eldest child, or send our children to seperate schools.

Whilst the need for catchment zones is understood, this policy should be rolled out to all new families entering the public school system – not splitting up existing families who already have children at the school. These families are left with two options:

1. Split their children between two public schools

This option is completely impractical, and adds a huge amount of extra stress to parents – who will have double drop offs & pick ups (often at times that are hard to coordinate), not to mention double Book Parades. Easter Hat Parades, Swimming Carnivals, Athletics Days, Speech Nights. Parent-Teacher Interviews. The list goes on.

2. Remove the older child from school so they can attend the same school

This option is to remove older siblings from their school. This can be very upsetting for children who have already formed strong friendships and settled in.

The year of COVID has been hard on everyone and this extra stress should not be happening to families. Common sense and compassion needs to be considered.

One North Shore Mum, Erin, has written to the Legislative Assembly, requesting:

To the Speaker and Members of the Legislative Assembly,

In July 2019 a revised enrolment policy was implemented into NSW Government Schools to address out of area enrolments.

Under the new policy, school principals were given a population limit based on permanent building structures, disregarding demountable classroom capacity. This has meant that school principals are actively trying to reduce their student numbers to bring them inline with the cap.

For families with children enrolled prior to July 2019, this policy did not exist and parents are now forced to make a decision between having children attend separate schools or relocating older siblings to another school. This has caused an extreme amount of stress and anxiety for the parents and students involved.

We would propose that the policy be updated, across NSW, to be family friendly, ensuring that families with students already enrolled at out of area / non local schools have younger siblings accepted without the need for review by an enrolment panel, effective immediately.

And another North Shore Mum says:

Families who started this year, were not made aware of the new Out of Area policies until after their children started school in 2019. Fast forward to today, our school has not accepted younger siblings to stay with their older sibling. How can you tear families apart Department of Education?! Families that did the right thing applying for out of area in 2018 were accepted into that school – now the same family have been rejected!

If you think it’s unfair that families are being split apart by the strict catchment rules, please support these families by signing the petition.


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