FAQ on Priority Enrolment Areas

Frequently Asked Questions on Priority Enrolment Areas

  1. What is a priority enrolment area (PEA)?
  2. Why are PEAs necessary?
  3. My residence is not within a PEA. Can I enrol my children at a public school in the ACT?
  4. What are my options when I live in an area served by more than one school in a 'shared PEA'?
  5. I want my children to attend a particular school and propose to buy/rent a house within the PEA to ensure my children get into that school. What are the risks that the PEA will change before they are accepted?
  6. I want my children to attend a particular school but I do not live within the school's PEA. What is the process for seeking placement for my children? Who determines whether my child can be enrolled?
  7. How often are PEAs changed, what process is used and how are changes notified?
  8. Why are there no PEAs for some schools?
  9. My child attends an Early Childhood School and will finish Year 2 this year. Do we have PEA status for the primary school adjacent to the Early Childhood School for Year 3 even if we live out of the PEA for that primary school?
  10. My child is attending an annex preschool. Do we have PEA status for the public primary school in the region?
  11. Do my children have right of entry to the same school as their older siblings (including step and foster children) attending the same school?
  12. My family will be moving to the ACT and will be living in temporary accommodation for several months before moving into longer term accommodation. I intend to enrol my child at a school near my temporary accommodation. Will my child be able to continue at this school when we move to our longer term address which may be out of the school's PEA?
  13. I was unable to enrol my child at the school I prefer. Can I appeal this decision?
  14. Why is proof of residential address required when I enrol my child?
  15. Policy

1. What is a priority enrolment area (PEA)?

Children residing in the PEA for a school have priority enrolment at that school. Some specialist schools do not have PEAs but use other placement criteria (see FAQ 8).

A PEA may be one suburb, part of a suburb, or a group of suburbs. Schools must retain space for in area year K-6 students but may offer places to students who live outside the PEA. Decisions on out of area placements are according to school policy approved by the school board and the Directorate's Enrolment in ACT public schools (Early Childhood Schools - Year 12) procedures.

As out of area placement is subject to availability, enrolment at a primary school does not guarantee placement at the high school in the same region. Similarly, enrolment at a high school that is located in a college's PEA does not guarantee enrolment at that college.

2. Why are PEAs necessary?

PEA boundaries are established to balance the capacity of a school to accommodate students with the demand for services. Coordination of school accommodation and staffing requirements for all ACT public schools requires advanced planning and takes account of significant population growth in the ACT. PEA boundaries are established with consideration of school capacity, projected placements, land release and housing data and trends in local communities to ensure that children have access to schools in their local area. PEA information with maps are made publicly available on the Directorate's website.

3. My residence is not within a PEA. Can I enrol my children at a public school in the ACT?

Residents of rural areas in the ACT have priority for placement at the public school closest to the residence by road. If you wish to seek placement at a different public school, you should contact the principal to discuss availability for out of area placement.

Out of area enrolment at one public school does not guarantee out of area enrolment at another public school in the same region.

NSW residents have notional priority placement at a number of selected Canberra Public schools.  For more information, visit: NSW enrolments.

4. What are my options when I live in an area served by more than one school in a 'shared PEA'?

Some schools share a PEA with another school. Areas served by more than one school described in the footnotes to the tables and on the maps. In areas with a shared PEA, enrolment will be negotiated between both schools and the family.

5. I want my children to attend a particular school and propose to buy/rent a house within the PEA to ensure my children get into that school. What are the risks that the PEA will change before they are accepted?

Residents within a school's PEA have priority for enrolment at that school. If the PEA is shared by two schools, children will be enrolled at one of the schools within the PEA.

PEAs can be changed to ensure that the changing needs of the community are met. PEAs are reviewed each year to balance projected enrolments and the capacity of a school to provide adequate classrooms and other essential facilities. PEA reviews also take account of new schools or schools transitioning to a different structure. The Directorate provides information about PEA changes on its website.

Children who live within the PEA boundary of a school have priority for enrolment at that school over students who live out of area. There are a small number of schools with specialist programs that do not have PEAs.

6. I want my children to attend a particular school but I do not live within the school's PEA. What is the process for seeking placement for my children? Who determines whether my child can be enrolled?

If you do not live in the PEA for your preferred school then you may seek 'out of area' enrolment. However, a place cannot be guaranteed in your preferred school as in-area children must be given enrolment first, then ACT-resident siblings of existing students and those who meet any selection requirements that apply at particular schools. Any remaining spaces are then decided in accordance with the enrolment management plan for the school.

7. How often are PEAs changed, what process is used and how are changes notified?

PEAs are reviewed annually for the school year commencing two years ahead. For example potential changes of PEAs for 2018 were considered in 2016/7.
The process, in summary, is that:

  • The Directorate reviews placement trends and forecast population changes in each suburb from various official demographic data and also reviews school capacities.
  • If changes are proposed, these are reviewed with the principal of the affected school will consult the School Board. If proposed changes to PEAs are agreed by the Director-General, these are notified on the Directorate's website.
  • The PEAs for some areas have not required change for some years but in areas of rapid growth or re-development, PEAs may require change to ensure in-area students can be accommodated within existing capacities. The PEA may also change when new schools open or existing schools transition to different structures.

8. Why are there no PEAs for some schools?

There are a small number of schools with special curricula that do not have a PEA but have particular criteria for entry to the school. These include specialist language schools such as Telopea Park School (for entry to primary school), specialist education schools (which provide education for students with special needs) and Early Childhood Schools. More information about the entry requirements for these schools is available on the Directorate's website and on the websites of these schools.

9. My child attends an Early Childhood School and will finish Year 2 this year. Do we have PEA status for the primary school adjacent to the Early Childhood School for Year 3 even if we live out of the PEA for that primary school?

No. Your place of residence will determine your PEA school or schools, which may not be the primary school adjacent to the Early Childhood School. While Early Childhood Schools do not have a PEA, adjacent primary schools do have a PEA and these schools must cater for students who live in the area first. Many schools in areas near Early Childhood Schools have growing in-area populations so they may not be able to place out of area students.
Enrolment at an Early Childhood School that is located in a primary school's PEA does not entitle enrolment at that primary school. Enrolment at a primary school that is located in a high school's PEA does not entitle enrolment at that high school. Enrolment at a high school located in a college's PEA does not entitle enrolment at that college. More information about the PEA boundaries is available at Priority Enrolment Areas or by contacting the Directorate.

10. My child is attending an annex preschool. Do we have PEA status for the public primary school in the region?

Yes. All public preschools are connected to a public primary school. Only children residing in the PEA area have PEA status. However as annex preschools are connected to a primary school, the primary school will take enrolments from the annex preschool when capacity exists. This means that when a school is close to capacity in area students have priority over all out of area applicants.

11. Do my children have right of entry to the same school as their older siblings (including step and foster children) attending the same school?

Yes, provided:

  • the siblings reside in the ACT; and
  • the younger sibling enrols while the older sibling is still attending the school

The Directorate's intent in allowing siblings to attend the same school is to help families to make practical arrangements to travel to school and to promote family associations with the school, but this must be balanced against enrolment pressures and practical constraints on service provision.

12. My family will be moving to the ACT and will be living in temporary accommodation for several months before moving into longer term accommodation. I intend to enrol my child at a school near my temporary accommodation. Will my child be able to continue at this school when we move to our longer term address which may be out of the school's PEA?

Yes. Once a child is enrolled in a school, every effort is made to support the continuity of the child's education and the involvement of the family in the school community. However, at the next transition point (moving from primary to high school or high school to college) if the family no longer resides within the PEA, there is no entitlement to enrolment at the next level of schooling within the PEA. These students will be treated as out of area applicants.

13. I was unable to enrol my child at the school I prefer. Can I appeal this decision?

Yes, you can. Information about the review and appeal process is available in the Parent Guide

Why is proof of residential address required when I enrol my child?

Your entitlement to priority enrolment in a school is determined from your address on the enrolment form. You are only guaranteed enrolment at a school if you live in a school's PEA and your residential address can be confirmed by the School. The onus of proof of residence rests with the parent or carer of the child.

14. Policy

The schedule of PEAs is in accordance with the Directorate's Education Participation Policy and the Enrolment in ACT public schools Word File (121 kb) procedure PEA boundaries are regularly reviewed to ensure there is an acceptable balance between expected student enrolments and school capacities. Most boundaries remain unchanged from year to year, while others may vary (for example, due to population changes).

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