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One of the foremost concerns for expat parents will be ensuring that their children have access to good education in their new home. Melbourne has a number of good government schools, and also a few highly rated private and independent schools.
With few schools in Melbourne offering the curriculum of a foreign country, only some nationalities have the option of continuing with their home country's schooling. A good alternative for expats is the International Baccalaureate (IB) programme, which is recognised worldwide and offered by several schools in Melbourne.
Government schools in Melbourne
Public schools in Melbourne are open to any child regardless of their parents' visa status. Education is free for citizens and residents, but non-residents may be required to pay tuition fees. 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 how much.
Certain residential zones belong to specific catchment areas in Australia. The division of these areas is strict and an expat's inclusion in an area may come down to which side of the road they live on. It is possible to attend a school outside of an assigned area, but only if that school has space available. For this reason, it is often best to base accommodation on desired school zones. Information on catchment zones is available on the official website.
Non-government schools in Melbourne
Most of Melbourne's non-government schools are Catholic schools, commonly referred to as ‘private schools’. Although Catholic students from the area around the school are given preference, non-Catholic students may be admitted if there is space.
Non-Catholic private schools are commonly called 'independent schools'. Independent schools follow a particular religious or educational philosophy or curriculum, such as Islam, Montessori or a particular vocation.
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) – a standard international programme – which means these schools are an ideal solution for expat parents who move around a lot. Among the international schools are a few Specialist Language schools, which include Greek, Japanese, German and French schools.
Melbourne's international schools offer high-quality education at high prices, but in some cases, parents may be able to negotiate an education allowance with their employers. 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-needs education in Melbourne
Melbourne has a comprehensive programme for students with special educational needs. Working with schools and health specialists, parents can draw up an ‘individual education plan’ for their child. This plan is tailored to the individual's needs, focusing on developing strengths and identifying weaknesses, and is reviewed at least once per school term.
Students with a first language other than English can elect to take English as a Second Language (ESL) unit. This unit provides intensive English courses at language schools or centres and is usually between four to 48 weeks.
Tutors in Melbourne
There are a number of reputable tutor companies in and around Melbourne offering a range of services. Tutors can be useful to expat children struggling with a particular subject or who just need a bit of help getting into the swing of a new schooling system.
Recommended tutoring companies in Melbourne include LearnMate Tutoring and TuteSmart Melbourne City.