Frequently asked questions

What are the main changes?

The revised policy documents are essentially a consolidation of many of the enrolment procedures and instructions provided to schools through memoranda and web sites over a number of years.

The revised policy features the following changes:

  1. Every school with a designated intake area will have an enrolment cap – the number of students that can be enrolled based on its permanent accommodation. The cap is centrally set. It replaces the locally determined enrolment ceilings. Schools that have exceeded their enrolment cap will not enrol non-local students, unless required by the Director Educational Leadership.
  2. As a result of (1) above, schools may need to set a different local enrolment buffer to ensure that places are set aside for local students who may enrol during the year. Any changes to the buffer must be approved by the Director Educational Leadership and be made early enough to ensure the buffer is in place before the annual intake for the following year. Schools that have exceeded their local enrolment buffer level will not enrol non-local students, unless required by the Director, Educational Leadership.
  3. Schools that have exceeded their enrolment cap, or have reached their local enrolment buffer level, or have received more non-local enrolment applications than the number of available places outside the buffer, will use the prescribed 100-point residential address check to confirm that the student being presented for enrolment lives within the school’s intake area. Subject to approval by the Director Educational Leadership, this address check may be waived or varied by principals in exceptional circumstances.
  4. In schools that are nearing their local enrolment buffer, principals in receipt of a non-local enrolment application will inform the principal of the student’s local school and seek the approval of the Director, Educational Leadership before enrolling the student.
  5. The revised policy clarifies that the selection criteria for non-local enrolments will not include student ability, performance or achievement, and that priority should be given to siblings of currently enrolled students where possible.

This page has more details.

Has the intent of the revised enrolment policy changed from the previous one?


Not significantly. The revised policy includes the prioritisation of siblings and clarification for non-local enrolment processes (100-point residential address check and more specific advice on enrolment panel criteria).

The previous policy required each school to have an enrolment ceiling (the equivalent of the cap in the revised policy), that was based on permanent accommodation. The policy made clear that no additional accommodation (permanent or demountable) would be provided to cater for increased enrolments resulting from non-local placements.

In the revised policy, the enrolment cap for a school is established centrally, based on available permanent accommodation. Demountable classrooms are not usually counted towards the enrolment cap unless new or replacement accommodation planned for or under construction. The revised policy makes clear that no additional accommodation (permanent or demountable) will be provided to cater for increased enrolments resulting from non-local enrolments.

Has consideration been given to the revised policy’s impact on principal classification and school staffing?

Concerns regarding the policy’s impact on individual circumstances is understandable.

Principals should be reassured that policy changes are not taken lightly and their potential effects are weighed against the need to manage resources efficiently across the whole school system.

Some schools will see a flow back of local enrolments which may offset the loss of non-local enrolment numbers.

Will the changes affect all schools?

No. The changes will only affect schools with a designated intake area.

Are current students affected by the policy?

Students in K-12 already enrolled in their school for 2019 are not affected by the introduction of an enrolment cap.

How do the changes affect local students?

The changes do not affect the eligibility of students enrolling in their local school.

Students will continue to be able to enrol at their local school, regardless of whether the school is over the buffer or cap.

For schools near or at their local enrolment buffer, the prescribed 100-point residential address check will be used to confirm that the student lives within the school’s designated intake area.

How do the changes affect siblings of current students?

The revised policy clarifies the enrolment rights for siblings of non-local students in schools with capacity constraints.

  • In schools that are allowed to accept non-local students, selection criteria for any non-local enrolment panel will give priority to siblings of existing students, where possible.
  • Siblings of currently enrolled students who were local when enrolled but are now non-local because of boundary changes are also entitled to enrol, even if their school is over the buffer or cap.
  • Like other non-local students, siblings do not have an entitlement to be enrolled at a school that has reached its cap or local enrolment buffer level.

The revised policy retains its focus on the department’s obligation to give paramount importance to the best educational and wellbeing needs of students. Supporting at-risk students will remain a consideration for principals and DELs in making decisions in relation to families seeking to enrol siblings in an at-capacity non-local school.

Do the changes affect selective schools?

No. Selective schools do not have designated intake areas. The process of setting the maximum enrolment number in selective schools and the selective schools selection process have not changed.

How does this affect partially selective schools?

Students in selective streams will be included in a school’s overall enrolment numbers. However, the requirement to only enrol local students if nearing or above the local enrolment buffer, does not apply to students in the selective stream.

Does this affect SSPs?

No. SSPs do not have designated intake areas. The process of setting the maximum enrolment number is established locally.

How does this affect support classes?

Students in support classes will be included in a school’s overall enrolment numbers. However, the requirement to only enrol local students if nearing or at the local enrolment buffer does not apply to students in support unit classes.

We have reached our enrolment buffer. I have already made offers to siblings of current students for 2020. Do I now have to tell those parents that they cannot attend?

No, any enrolment offers already made and/or accepted prior to Term 4 2019 will be honoured.

However, future decisions about siblings of current students need to be managed through the non-local enrolment criteria and panel process at your school.

This page has more details about the changes to the enrolment policy.

What is the enrolment cap?

An enrolment cap is the total number of student places that can be enrolled at a school based on the number of permanent accommodation.

The enrolment cap is established and recorded centrally. It is an indicator of whether or not a school may have the capacity to accept non-local enrolments.

How were the caps calculated?

The caps have been designed to take into consideration the average number of students currently in classrooms in our 2,200 schools. The cap does not define the maximum number of students that can be enrolled in a school. Caps were determined by multiplying the number of permanent classrooms with the average number of students currently in classrooms for the school type. The caps take into consideration the range of different classroom spaces in our schools. Schools use a range of strategies when converting their Full Time Equivalent (FTE) into the number of classes.

When will schools know their enrolment cap?

Directors Educational Leadership will advise principals of their school's enrolment cap from Week 9 Term 2 2019.

It is expected that a small number of schools, particularly those with specialist support classes in permanent classrooms, may require an adjustment to the calculated enrolment caps. Directors Educational Leadership will work with principals to confirm the centrally set cap.

Enrolment caps will be finalised during Term 3 for implementation by Term 4 Week 1.

I was advised of my school’s enrolment cap. How was the cap determined and what does it mean?

The school’s enrolment cap is the number of students that may be accommodated based on the number of permanent classrooms.

It is an indicator of whether or not a school may have the capacity to accept non-local enrolments.

It is not a target nor a limit on the number of local students that a school may enrol.

It is not intended to reflect staffing, or current or future demand for enrolment.

Our local enrolments exceed the cap; what do we do?

Every eligible child is entitled to enrol in their local school. To meet the Department’s obligation under the Education Act 1990, schools that have exceeded their cap will continue to enrol local students.

Unless there are exceptional circumstances approved by the DEL, the school will use the prescribed 100-point residential address check to confirm local enrolment applications.

Schools will continue to be resourced to accommodate current enrolment, including the use of demountable classrooms if appropriate.

Where the school has increased local demand beyond permanent accommodation, the facilities will be assessed as part of the School Infrastructure NSW planning processes.

Can my school accommodate a support class/unit when we are over our cap?

Yes, support classes/units are provisions for local and non-local students, who are identified through the placement panel process. The location of support classes is determined based on the best interests of the students.

Schools will continue to be supported to provide this important service for students and families. Additional demountable accommodation will be provided to enable the support class provision if it is required as a result of the support class establishment. The school’s enrolment cap will be adjusted, if needed.

We have reached our enrolment cap. Do I have to discontinue a special program for which we have had a selection process for non-local students, and that includes a partnership with an external organisation?


No, you can continue to offer this type of program, but it would be for your local students to access. Non-local access may need to be grandfathered out, depending on the commitment already made to the program. You could continue to have a selection process for local students to be included in the specialist/extra-curricular program.

Schools will continue to be encouraged to develop and implement special programs, including those that involve partnerships with community organisations, which enhance students’ learning, health, wellbeing and welfare outcomes.

Participation in these programs needs to be inclusive and non-discriminatory and should not be limited by a requirement for the student to be enrolled at the organising school.

How does the cap impact specialist high schools where many of their students are non-local?

There are currently 33 specialist high schools that have a cap. The types of specialist schools include:

  • Creative Arts
  • Languages
  • Performing Arts
  • Marine Technology
  • Sports
  • Rural Technology
  • Technology
  • Visual Arts

If a school is identified by the Department as a specialist high school and has an evidence of enrolment based on specialist programs or provisions, then the principal and DEL should discuss the enrolment profile of the school and how the cap could be adjusted to accommodate the specialist provision.

My school operates differently to others. What options do I have to adjust the centrally set cap for my school?

The policy is being implemented in two phases to provide the opportunity for DELs and principals to discuss the centrally set cap and any adjustments that might be required to account for local factors or differing operating parameters.

The cap can be adjusted by reducing or increasing the number of designated permanent classrooms that are recorded for the school.

Any local adjustments to the cap need to be agreed with the DEL and endorsed by the Executive Director for the approval of the Deputy Secretary, School Operations and Performance.

What is the local enrolment buffer?

The local enrolment buffer is a fixed number of student places within the enrolment cap set aside for local students who enrol throughout the year. The places may not be offered to non-local enrolments unless required by the Director Educational Leadership.

Who sets the local enrolment buffer for a school?

The size of the local enrolment buffer is determined by the principal and approved by the Director Educational Leadership.

Will all schools have an enrolment cap and local enrolment buffer?

All schools with a designated intake area will have an enrolment cap set centrally and a local enrolment buffer established by principal, and approved by the Director Educational Leadership.

What if a school is over its buffer or cap?

Non-local enrolment applications will not be accepted at schools over their buffer or cap level.

Unless exceptional circumstances exist and are deemed acceptable by the Director Educational Leadership, the prescribed 100-point residential address check will be used to confirm that the child being presented for enrolment resides within the school's intake area.

The same procedure applies to schools nearing or above their local enrolment buffer level.

What if a school is nearing its local enrolment buffer level?

A school is nearing its buffer level if it receives more non-local enrolment applications than the number of available places under the buffer level.

Schools that are nearing their local enrolment buffer will need to establish selection criteria to assess non-local enrolment applications.

In a school is nearing its buffer, the principals in receipt of a non-local enrolment application will inform the principal of the student’s local school and seek the approval of the Director Educational Leadership to enrol the student.

We have reached our enrolment buffer. I have already made offers to siblings of current students for 2020. Do I now have to tell those parents that they cannot attend?

No, any enrolment offers already made and/or accepted prior to Term 4 2019 will be honoured.

However, future decisions about siblings of current students need to be managed through the non-local enrolment criteria and panel process at your school.

We have reached our enrolment buffer. I have already made offers to siblings of current students for 2020. Do I now have to tell those parents that they cannot attend?

No, any enrolment offers already made and/or accepted prior to Term 4 2019 will be honoured.

However, future decisions about siblings of current students need to be managed through the non-local enrolment criteria and panel process at your school.

What are local and non-local enrolments?

Local enrolment applications are those from students residing within the designated intake area for the school.

Non-local enrolment applications are from students residing outside the school’s designated intake area.

For both local and non-local enrolments, the Application to enrol in a NSW Government school form is used.

How do families know what their local school is?

The department’s NSW Public School Finder tool locates a school and displays its designated intake areas, if the school has one. The School Finder will locate schools by name or from a residential address entered on the website.

Is the school closest to the student's home the local school?

A student’s designated local school may be further away from their residential address than the nearest school due to boundaries set by the department to assist with managing student numbers across all schools.

Can parents/carers continue to choose which school they want to enrol their child into?

Parents/carers may apply to enrol their child at any school. An enrolment place will continue to be guaranteed at the child’s local school.

Schools may only accept enrolments from outside their local area if the school is under its enrolment cap and has places outside its local enrolment buffer.

What enrolment rights do siblings of currently enrolled students have?

The revised policy clarifies the enrolment rights for siblings of non-local students in schools with capacity constraints.

  • In schools that are allowed to accept non-local students, selection criteria for any non-local enrolment panel will give priority to siblings of existing students, where possible.
  • Siblings of currently enrolled students who were local when enrolled but are now non-local because of boundary changes are also entitled to enrol, even if their school is over the buffer or cap.
  • Like other non-local students, siblings do not have an entitlement to be enrolled at a school that has reached its cap or local enrolment buffer level.

The revised policy retains its focus on the department’s obligation to give paramount importance to the best educational and wellbeing needs of students. Supporting at-risk students will remain a consideration for principals and DELs in making decisions in relation to families seeking to enrol siblings in an at-capacity non-local school.

The policy says that we can enrol students who are out of our local intake area if there are exceptional circumstances. Is there a definitive list of what circumstances might be considered ‘exceptional’?


No, there is not a definitive list of the circumstances that could be considered exceptional. The policy does not (and should not) define the range and scope of exceptionality. This supports local and sensible decision making by the people who know the families best.

Exceptional circumstances should be determined on a case-by-case basis by the school’s placement panel if the school is near its buffer. If the school is over its buffer level or cap, the decision is made between the principal and DEL. There are subject matter experts in state office who are able to provide advice to support decision making.

As an example, exceptional circumstances may occur when the safety and wellbeing of students could be compromised. We have an obligation to protect and ensure the wellbeing of our most vulnerable students.

Some examples of exceptional circumstances might include:

  • Families in a situation characterised by domestic violence. The parent may not be able to prove their residential address at point of enrolment. The principal can waive the 100 point residential address check and enrol the child with the approval of the DEL.
  • Sometimes parents with limited resources and support who have a child with unique support needs and who is enrolled in a specialist support class in a mainstream school may seek to enrol their other children in the same school. The opportunity to keep siblings together might be a determining factor in the decision to access support for the child with a disability.
  • Some refugee families are initially placed in temporary housing and enrol as local students. When permanent housing is provided this can be out of the school’s local intake area. Consideration might be given to siblings coming into school at a later date if separating them from their siblings is likely to cause undue stress or trauma.
  • Where a non-local family did not have reasonable expectation that their subsequent children may not have been able to enrol in the same school as their sibling. This expectation should be set by schools at the time of any non-local enrolment, however where that has not previously been the case, this may be considered an exceptional circumstance in consultation with the DEL.

When will parents/carers be asked to complete a 100-point residential address check?

The 100-point residential address check will be used in schools that are nearing or over their local enrolment buffer or have exceeded the enrolment cap to verify that students being enrolled reside within the school’s designated intake area.

In exceptional circumstances, this requirement may be waived with approval by the Director Educational Leadership.

Do all schools need to use the 100-point residential address check?

The 100-point residential address check need only be used in schools that are near or over their buffer, or over their enrolment cap, to ensure students being enrolled reside within a school’s designated intake area.

This requirement may be waived for students with exceptional circumstances, subject to approval by the Director, Educational Leadership.

Schools that have places below the buffer to accommodate all its applications for enrolment need not use the 100-point residential address.

How can affected schools help parents understand the 100-point residential check requirements?

A fact sheet which lists the acceptable documents has been prepared. This may be provided to parents seeking to enrol their child in the school.

What are the responsibilities of school staff when conducting a 100-point check?

All staff in schools must continue to abide by the Privacy and Personal Information Protection Act 1998 (NSW).

Information provided will be used to process applications for enrolment and associated purposes, the information will be stored securely. Visit https://education.nsw.gov.au/public-schools/going-to-a-public-school/enrolment for more details.

Schools continue to comply with records retention and disposal requirements under 3.0.4 and 3.0.5 of the Functional Retention and Disposal Authority FA387.

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