Hi, just seeing this discussion string, and am copying/pasting what I just posted to another member's request for info, it may be helpful to you...
This may be too late for you, but I'm just seeing your request for advice. When I moved here 9 years ago, the AU public school system charged us $6k for our 13-year old to attend school, which was a rip-off IMO, as we could just as easily spent that to send her to a private school. As it turned out, we avoided the fee by bringing our wedding date sooner (my hub is Australian) and that marriage link to an Aussie was enough to avoid the $6k fee to attend a public school. However, after one term at said public school, we decided to withdraw her and put her in a private school anyway, because the public schools do not get enough money per kid and basic things you take for granted ( I.e. current textbooks, janitorial services, hand soap, paper towels etxc.) are severely lacking. The Aussie school system is not like it is in the US where public schools get the lion's share of the education funds. In fact, the public schools here are under-funded IMO. The public schools get the same per kid in government finding as the private schools do, but the private schools collect tuition on top of that, and hence, can pay their teachers more, provide nicer amenities, and have regular janitorial services!
The public transport system will also shock you, as buses and trains are always over-crowded. Traveling a few miles can take hours, especially on a bus. The road network here is not on a grid pattern like you might be used to, and driving to the nearest freeway can take over an hour.
If you are only going to be here for a few months and then plan on moving back to the states, you should consider sending your kid to the American School in Carlingford, their website is www.amschool.com. I recommend this because they run on the US school calendar and will provide the least amount of disruption to your kid, who will feel lost and alienated for the major part of your short stay. And staying on the US school calendar will allow for a smooth transition when you return back to the states.
If you will be living here permanently, then I recommend enrolling your kids in the AU school system, where they will have to wear uniforms, etc. There are many great public schools, the public grade schools in my experience so far are decent, but you see a big difference in the high school arena, which stars at year 7 here. Selective schools have an excellent reputation, as well.
I recommend living close to where his school is, especially if you won't have a car, and as close as you can to the nearest train station for work purposes. There are no yellow school buses here, and if you have little ones, you'll want to escort them to/from school each day.
I live on the beautiful Northern Beaches of Sydney and have three kids, aged 22, 5, and 1.5. My now-grown daughter struggled with adjusting to the AU school system, because she was a teen when we moved here. My 5-year-old is in a public school now and thriving, but I plan to put him in a private school when he starts HS to avoid a repeat of what my daughter went through.
I hope this helps and good luck!
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