Starting Preschool and School – everything you need to know

Child at preschool

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Starting school is a huge milestone for both your child and you as a parent. It can be a time of much excitement and anxiety (for both parents and/or the child!) It may be the first time they are away from you for long periods of time. Preschool in the Northern Territory is the first year of schooling.

Darwin Family Life has done the research and currently has two boys in preschool so knows what to expect. Read on for more information about what you need to do, when your child can start preschool and which schools they could attend.

About Preschool

Children can start Preschool the year they turn 4 years old. If your child’s birth date is between 1st of January and 30th of June they can enrol to commence school at the start of the year in Term 1. If your child turns 4 after 30th of June they can start preschool on their 4th birthday if the preschool has positions available. Preschool classes are capped at 22 students per class due to ratio requirements for this age group.

If your child does commence preschool in Term 3 or Term 4 they will need to complete that year of school plus re-enrol in the next year at preschool. It is also should be noted that school in the Northern Territory is NOT compulsory until they turn 6. However there are numerous benefits for children attending preschool and transition. Transition is the year of schooling after preschool and is full time.

Preschool hours in the NT are set at 15 hours per week. How each school structures these hours is their choice. Some schools will set morning/afternoon half day sessions. While other schools opt for full days and a half day. It is best you contact the school of your choice to enquire what their hours are.

School Priority Areas

Darwin and Palmerston Primary schools are all zoned and have priority enrolment areas. Priority is given to students living in the school’s priority enrolment area however you can apply to enrol your child in a school of your choice but the school may decline if it is near or at capacity. There may be wait lists for students outside the priority area to be considered once students in the zone are given a spot.

To see which school you are zoned to, check out the maps from the NT Department of Education website available online here.


Enrolment process

Once you have decided upon which school you will need to complete an enrolment form which can be done online here for NT public schools or by visiting the school in person. If you enrol online you will still need signatures witnessed at the school and provide additional completed documents. Also when a child starts preschool you will also need to complete the supplementary preschool information form which can be found here or your school can give you a copy.

Documents you will need to have handy when enrolling your child are listed below. Your school may need to take copies of these documents for the student file.

  • birth certificate or equivalent identification
  • proof of address (eg Council rates notice, PAWA bill/Jacana energy bill)
  • details of any medical conditions
  • emergency contact details
  • immunisation record
School choices

There are a variety of different school systems available for Darwin families. Types of schools in the NT include public schools, private schools, independent school, Steiner school, distance education or approved home education. For a full list of school in the Northern Territory check out this list!

Preparing for 2018

Schools are now starting to prepare for 2018. I would advise if your child is 4 or turning 4 next year to now start the enrolment process.

Here is also a handy checklist and information we found regarding school readiness. Which is great for parents to read who have children aged 3-6.

We hope Darwin Family Life has helped explain Preschool and schooling in the NT. Leave us a comment if you found this helpful.


  1. Thanks very much for this info! I didn’t know how this worked. Where I’m from, Prep was the first full-time year of school and Kindergarten was the part-time year before that.
    Does Kindergarten figure in the NT anywhere? Or has kindy just been renamed as preschool?

    1. Hi Lisa, We are glad you found the blog useful! So prep is the equivalent of transition here in the NT (First year of full time school). So Kindy would also be the equivalent of Preschool in the NT. Keep in mind this is the Public school system – when you go private to Independent or Christian/Catholic schools their system may be slightly different. Cheers

  2. Wow. What a great read. Thank you so much. I really appreciate the extra knowledge. Keep up the great work. Ta

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