Beat the waiting list blues

You’ve done your homework, you’ve looked at all the options and, finally, you’ve found the perfect school for your child. Now it’s just a matter of getting in. With long waiting lists at many independent schools, it can be difficult to obtain a place at your preferred school but there are a number of ways to improve your child’s chances. offers this commonsense advice to parents.

Be organised. Submit the necessary forms, fees and documents correctly and on time.

Show interest. Book a principal’s tour, visit on open days, get to know the school well.

Don’t despair. If you do end up on a waiting list, let the school know that you remain eager to enrol your child when a place becomes available. Parents often put their children’s names down for several schools. Waiting lists can shrink quickly when it comes time to make a final decision.

For many families though, the most stressful aspect of the application process is the enrolment interview.

St Andrew’s Cathedral School registrar Bruce Perry has these tips for a smooth interview.


  • Arrive on time. If you’re running late, call ahead to let the school know.
  • Don’t answer questions directed at your child. Remember that the purpose of the interview is to get to know the student.
  • Ensure that your child is dressed to impress. Either in a neat and clean uniform or in good casual clothes that conform to the school’s dress code.
  • Be honest. Non-disclosure could jeopardise your child’s enrolment prospects.


  • Answer questions calmly and directly. Be polite. Don’t fidget, don’t slouch, don’t chew gum. Offer a firm handshake and maintain eye contact.
  • Do your research. Prepare a few in-depth questions that show you’re truly interested in attending the school.
  • Always try to answer in full sentences, not just Yes or No.
  • NEVER check your phone during an interview.
Beat the waiting list blues
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Think tank calls for greater school choice

The Centre for Independent Studies has released a new report calling for greater variety of school choice. The One School Does Not Fit All study argues that Australian students would be better served by the introduction of more educational options. The report canvasses policy options including scholarship tax credits and education savings accounts to help parents access the best school for their child.

Read more 

One School Does Not Fit All research report: Jennifer Buckingham and Trisha Jha for the Centre for Independent Studies

Coverage of the report by the Australian Financial Review

Think tank calls for greater school choice
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Questions parents can ask to help with their research in selecting a school

Does your child have a particular interest that you want the school to nurture such as:

  • music
  • sport
  • languages
  • vocational studies
  • academic studies
  • Does your child have specific learning needs?
  • Does the family have particular religious beliefs or educational philosophies?
  • Are out of hours school care and vacation care important?


  • Is it important that the school is close to where you live or work?
  • What transport is available?

Check the locations on Our Schools page to see which schools are in your area

School Characteristics

  • Is it important that the school is single sex or co-educational?
  • Is the size of the school important?
  • Do you want a pre-school, a primary school, a secondary school, or a combined primary and secondary school?
  • Are boarding facilities important?
  • What is the school’s educational philosophy?
  • What are the school’s values?
  • What are the facilities?
  • What does the school offer that makes it unique?
  • What is the average class size?
  • What is the school’s disciplinary code?


  • Does the school have a comprehensive curriculum?
  • How does the curriculum meet the needs of your child?
  • How does the school challenge and extend students of all abilities?
  • Does the school have a homework policy?
  • What is the access to computer facilities?
  • What co-curricular activities are offered such as, sport, music and camps?
  • Are any of these activities compulsory?
  • Is there an additional charge for such activities?


  • How your child will be assessed and how is assessment reported to parents?
  • How does the school measure its performance?

Pastoral Care

  • What structures are in place to ensure a caring and nurturing environment in the school?
  • How does the school provide support for students with specific learning, language and/or cultural needs?
  • What policies and procedures are in place to ensure the safety of students such as child protection and bullying?
  • How is career advice given?

Parental Involvement

  • How does the school communicate with parents?
  • What opportunities are there for parents to be involved with the school through a parents association or volunteering?


  • What fee levels are you prepared to pay?
  • What are the arrangements for paying fees?
  • Are there additional costs for text books, uniforms, excursions and extra-curricular activities?
  • Are scholarships or bursaries available?

School Visits

  • Ask for a copy of the school’s prospectus
  • Check the school’s website. Some have a ‘virtual tour’.
  • Make an appointment to take a tour during school hours to see how teachers and students interact.
  • Ask if the school is considering making any changes that may affect your decision, such as altering teaching methods or school philosophy, or going coeducational.
  • Involve your child. Attend together school activities such as drama performances or concerts, carols nights, art exhibitions etc.
Questions parents can ask to help with their research in selecting a school
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