Education across the Northern Territory


School is compulsory in the Northern Territory from the age of six. However, children can enrol in preschools earlier than this and start Transition as they approach five years of age.

Stages of school

Preschool in NT is not compulsory, although it is highly recommended. Children can attend government preschools from the age of four. At some non-government preschools, children can start earlier than this. At age five or soon after, children start Transition, the first stage of primary school. Children often enter Transition mid-term, depending on their birthday and the numbers of other children in that age group. Children are in Transition for up to 12 months and move into Year 1 when the school and parents agree they are ready. Students attend primary school until they complete Year 6. For Years 7 to 12, children attend secondary school. Most primary and secondary schools are open from 8.00am to 2.30pm, Monday to Friday. Preschools offer morning and afternoon sessions for students.

Senior secondary schooling

Senior secondary students generally work towards the Northern Territory Certificate of Education. The certificate is issued to students who meet the requirements and levels of achievement during their senior secondary studies. There are two levels: Stage 1, generally Year 11, and Stage 2, generally Year 12. Although most students complete the certificate in two years, it can be done part-time for as many years as required. At least 22 approved units must be studied. Senior secondary students in the Territory undertake subjects developed and accredited by the Senior Secondary Assessment Board of South Australia (SSABSA).

The Australian Curriculum

Northern Territory schools commenced teaching Australian Curriculum English and Mathematics in 2012 and Science and History at the beginning of Semester Two in 2013. The NT implementation timeline approved by the NT Board of Studies provides details on the implementation of subsequent Australian Curriculum learning areas and subjects.

NT Curriculum Framework

Since 2002 the Northern Territory (NT) has had a mandated Curriculum Framework that identifies learning outcomes for all Northern Territory students from Transition to Year 10. The NTCF describes what students are expected to achieve and is used to determine what has been achieved. NTCF outcomes have been re-constructed into achievement standards to enable a consistent assessment and reporting methodology with Australian Curriculum achievement standards. NT schools continue to use the learning areas of the NTCF that are not yet replaced by Australian Curriculum learning areas and subjects according to the implementation timeline.

Year 10 curriculum

Support materials are provided for Year 10 Australian Curriculum English and Mathematics. These include sequence suggestions, template learning and assessment plans and subject specific performance standards which are aligned to the Australian Curriculum achievement standards. Year 10 literacy and numeracy courses are offered for students who have not met the Year 9 achievement standards. Teachers design student specific programs to meet a students’ current ability and move them towards the year 10 achievement standards.

School leaving age

In the Northern Territory it is compulsory for all students to complete Year 10 and then participate in education, training or employment until they turn 17.

Tertiary Entrance Rank

The Tertiary Entrance Rank (TER) is one of the factors universities use to determine whether a student is eligible for a course. The Northern Territory Certificate of Education (NTCE) and TER issued to Northern Territory students are recognised nationally. The NTCE is the equivalent of senior secondary certificates across Australia.


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