Best Primary Schools in Canberra

Emily Morris 20 August 2019 38

Primary Schools in the ACT

This has been updated for July 2017

We all want to give our children the best opportunities in life and this often starts with a good education. While the best education always starts at home, choosing a primary school that is going to give your child every opportunity to learn and thrive is undoubtedly important.

While the criteria for the ‘best primary school’ is very subjective most parents will generally consider a range of factors, including whether they would prefer a private or public education for their child, the schools available in their location, the academic record of the school and the anecdotal experiences reported by other parents.

This updated post aims to consolidate a range of information and feedback received from the previous post into a more easily digestible format to help other parents who are trying to determine what the ideal school for their child may be.

Private vs Public

The decision to send your child to a private or public school is largely a matter of personal preference. If you’re looking for a school with a specific set of values, ethos, focus or extracurricular options, private or independent schooling may be for you. However, you would need to be pretty passionate about the reasons you select the school to justify the hefty fees you’re going to be up for.

For example, to send your child to Brindabella Christian College it will cost a little over $4,600 per year for junior school (years 1-4), Burgmann Anglican School will set you back $7,900 per annum, Canberra Girls Grammar School fees start from a little over $13,800 for prep and continue to increase as your child progresses, or Canberra Grammar School starts from a little over $15,800 per year for primary school.

While you will still be up for some school fees if you take the public primary schooling route, they will be minimal in comparison to most private or independent schooling fees.

Priority Enrolment Areas

If you decide to pursue the public schooling option, where you live will play a significant role in the school options you can select from because of Priority Enrolment Areas (PEA’s).

Because public schools in ACT are non-selective, each school will give enrolment priority to students living in its PEA so it’s important to check your available options before falling in love with an out-of-PEA school where there is no guarantee your child will be accepted.

Academic Record

The academic record of the school may also be an important factor for you in selecting the best primary school for your child.

According to Better Education, a school directory and information website that compares the academic and other results across schools Australia-wide, the following Primary Schools in Canberra we’re the highest-ranking schools receiving an overall score of 90 or more in 2016.

Top Primary Schools in Canberra – 2016

School Score English Maths Enrolments Locality
Garran Primary School 100 5 5 562 Garran
Canberra Girls’ Grammar School 100 5 5 1472 Deakin
Radford College 99 5 5 1567 Bruce
Canberra Grammar School 99 4 5 1600 Red Hill
Emmaus Christian School 98 5 5 286 Dickson
Hawker Primary School 97 5 5 335 Hawker
Weetangera Primary School 97 5 5 385 Weetangera
Brindabella Christian College 97 5 4 791 Lyneham
Telopea Park School 97 5 4 1358 Barton
Turner School 96 5 4 509 Turner

Source: Better Education (https://bettereducation.com.au/school/Primary/act/canberra_top_primary_schools.aspx)

Anecdotal Feedback

While price, location and performance are all likely to play a part in your decision-making process, so is anecdotal feedback from other parents who have had a particular experience with a school.

Here is a summary of some of the primary schools recommended by other parents in response to the previous post:

  • “Monash primary school is good if you want public in the Tuggeranong area.
  • “Chapman primary is great for Weston Creek.”
  • “Aranda and Majura Primaries are two that have particularly good reputations.”
  • “In Belconnen, Marybynong Primary in Kaleen seems to be the stand-out at the moment. Arawang seems to be doing well in the Weston area.
  • “…if you head to the far, far north Burgmann in Gungahlin is fine (private however).”
  • “Maribynong was good for those who had a creative side back in the day.”
  • “Miles Franklin Primary in Evatt is great…and this is coming from me who was highly critical of the Govt primary system with my other 3 kids who are still attending Catholic schools.”
  • “Fraser primaryCharnwood primary (improving I hear) Latham primary Kaleen primary”
  • “Latham is a well-kept secret (well, it was). Definitely worth a try if you can’t get a house close to Maribyrnong.”
  • “Arawang Primary…looks great. Smaller than some of the other primary schools, but still with a really nice parent community.”
  • “Torrens Primary is a very traditional-style school culture.”
  • “Mawson Primary has a bilingual Chinese language program, and has a Chinese language pre-school nearby too.”
  • “Farrer Primary is a nice smaller school with a friendly culture…”
  • “Hughes Primary is a great school, they have lots of English as a second language programs and a very friendly, multi-cultural community.”
  • “Garran Primary is another great school, bigger than Hughes. They have a new environment program, and run programs for gifted & talented and kids with learning difficulties.”
  • Curtin Primary is another school similar in size to Garran, and has programs for gifted & talented and kids with learning difficulties.”
  • “Lyons is an early childhood centre – pre-school to Year 2. Which means your child needs to move in Year 3 to a P-6 school.”
  • Yarralumla Primary School (inner south, next suburb north of Curtin) has a bi-lingual Italian program and is now one of the smallest schools in Canberra.”
  • “Garran, Curtin, Forrest and Chapman Primary Schools all have good names. My daughter went to Garran for about three years and I was sorry to leave it.”
  • “I believe Holder and Waramanga Primary are pretty good too in the Weston Creek area.”
  • “Chapman is also in this area. I have a few friends with kids in these schools who are very happy.”
  • “Steiner School is also in Weston if you want an alternative choice.”
  • “For affordable rent and a good government primary school I think you will have to look at Weston Creek or Belconnen.”
  • “Yarralumla and Garran primaries may well be excellent, but the rent would be enormous.
  • “I think Waramanga or Kaleen would be good choices, and not too far from the rest of Canberra either.

What's Your Opinion?


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38 Responses to Best Primary Schools in Canberra
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emd emd 9:17 am 27 Dec 09

As my daughter starts public primary school next year, we’ve been checking out the public schools in our area. They all seem to be pretty good, but they all have a different focus and culture. For example, there are at least three public schools with bi-lingual education, some have Gifted & Talented programs, English as a Second Language units, special focus on the environment, Montessori programs, early childhood units that specialise in pre-school to year 2, super-schools that cover pre-school to Year 10, and special needs units (eg autism).

Also, not all suburbs have a public primary school within walking distance, and some suburbs don’t have a school bus to & from their priority area school either. If you’re a one car family, this might affect your choice.

Lilli Lilli 9:42 am 27 Dec 09

Hi Begbie,

Canberra is quite a sprawling city, would it be possible to have a more specific location i.e. Northside/Southside?

Are you planning on a religious education for your children or would you prefer a government-run school?

grunge_hippy grunge_hippy 9:47 am 27 Dec 09

define canberra. where do you want to live?? public or private?

vg vg 10:13 am 27 Dec 09

You might want to do a little more research about Canberra before you move.

‘Canberra area’ is like saying ‘Sydney area’

Cameron Cameron 1:08 pm 27 Dec 09

Which area of Canberra?

bd84 bd84 3:13 pm 27 Dec 09

A judgement made on personal preference/needs and geographical location.

astrojax astrojax 3:14 pm 27 Dec 09

all the canberra primary schools are hideous, dangerous places. in fact, the whole canberra area is unsafe, filled with bogans and druggies and people who can’t spell or use punct-uat/ion properly and all the drivers are bad and cycling is for losers, don’t come here ever and you should avoid coming here, even if it means quitting that job and staying wherever you are now.

[there, did i do a good job of scaring away interlopers into our fantastic city? ..oops!] 😉

ange_canberra ange_canberra 10:50 pm 27 Dec 09

Monash primary school is good if you want public in the Tuggeranong area.
Chapman primary is great for Weston Creek.

begbie01 begbie01 11:28 pm 27 Dec 09

Hi all,
Thanks for the quick responses. I will clarify “canberra”
I was thinking in the Belconnen District or perhaps Weston Creek or Woden Valley Areas.
I know that covers many suburbs, sorry that I can’t be more specific at this point in time.
However I was also thinking that a Gov School would suffice.

cheers,

s-s-a s-s-a 12:06 am 28 Dec 09

There have been quite a few school closures in Weston Ck and Woden Valley in recent years. Eg I know families who moved to Chifley and Weston walking distance to school within the last five years who now have to drive children to preschool/school (in both cases more than one campus when they have one child in preschool and one at school).

The only public primary schools left in Weston Ck are Arawang (at Waramanga, with a 2nd preschool at Weston), Chapman and Duffy. Chapman is a big school I think over 400 students. Arawang is around 200 and Duffy slightly smaller.

There are public primary schools in Curtin, Lyons (but only up to year 2), Torrens, Mawson, Farrer, Garran and Hughes.

All the school web sites I have seen include PDF of the recent school board reports which will give you a fair bit of info. There is a full listing with links to school sites here.

2604 2604 10:22 am 28 Dec 09

Hi Begbie. From your posts, it sounds like you’re planning to pick a school and then rent/purchase a house close to that school.

Canberra was planned so that there is a government primary school in nearly every suburb and a private (mostly catholic) one in every third or fourth suburb. Most, if not all, primary schools are of a good standard, so wherever your kids end up will most likely provide them with a good education. Can’t think of any that have a particularly bad reputation, and Aranda and Majura Primaries are two that have particularly good reputations.

Don’t know if this has been mentioned above, but which government school your kids can attend depends upon which “Priority Enrolment Area” you live in. Each school has a PEA and families living in that area have priority in enrolling their children at that school. Maps of each school’s PEA can be found here: http://www.det.act.gov.au/school_education/choosing_a_school/priority_enrolment_areas . So, if you see a school that you like the look of, you can see which area you’ll need to buy/rent in to get your kids in there; alternatively, if you find a house and want to check out the local school’s website, these maps will help you see which school that is.

Good luck and welcome to Canberra.

troll-sniffer troll-sniffer 1:44 pm 28 Dec 09

Just send em off to the local school by means of shanks’ pony and don’t rely on the school to do the hard work for you, education is 80% what you learn and foster at home, the other 20% can be filled in by the teachers and the curriculum, but schools cannot ever take the place of a supportive learning environment at home.

Aren’t pupils supposed to go to their local school unless they have special needs? Or has time slipped me by and everything moved on from the ‘old days’?

housebound housebound 4:24 pm 28 Dec 09

The 2006 school closures left the surviving primary schools feeling insecure and inappropriately competetive at times. You will find schools are much more ‘assertive’ in promoting themselves because of the fear (however (un)founded) of the consequences of a sustained drop in numbers – it is a case of buyer beware.

Pick a school on the basis of where you can afford to live and what you value most. Even by primary, some schools specialise in languages, some are better at looking after the struggling kids (but leave the bright kids bored), some are better with the bright kids (but the strugglers can be left behind), some concentrate more on socialisation in the early years, some are brilliant at early childhood (P-2/3) – and it varies with the teachers. A school with a lot of long-term (more established) teachers tends to do better.

In Belconnen, Marybynong Primary in Kaleen seems to be the stand-out at the moment. Arawang seems to be doing well in the Weston area. There are schools I would avoid like the plague, but there’s no way I am naming them here!

s-s-a s-s-a 7:06 pm 28 Dec 09

Canberra was planned so that there is a government primary school in nearly every suburb

Once upon a time this was true. Not sure where you have been hiding over the past few years but this is definitely no longer the case.

In the area mentioned by the OP, government schools have been closed as follows:
– Holder High closed years ago and is now a community centre
– Holder Primary closed years ago and is now occupied by Therapy ACT
– Rivett Primary closed
– Weston primary closed, preschool still operating administered by Arawang
– Chifley primary closed, preschool still operating administered by Torrens
– Lyons is now an early childhood school so no classes beyond year 2 and I think is supposed to feed into Curtin – this is despite having what from all accounts was an incredibly successful Italian immersion program

somewhere_between_bundah_and_goulburn somewhere_between_bundah_and_goulburn 9:43 pm 28 Dec 09

housebound said :

In Belconnen, Marybyrnong Primary in Kaleen seems to be the stand-out at the moment.

Definitely, having been a student in its darker days (2001-2004), I had a great time. It is one of the few remaining small schools in the area. Just avoid it’s feeder, Kaleen High (the kids from Juvie go there) and send your kids to Telopea Park School afterwards (better than any of the crap on the northside).

begbie01 begbie01 9:43 am 29 Dec 09

2604 said :

Hi Begbie. From your posts, it sounds like you’re planning to pick a school and then rent/purchase a house close to that school.

Canberra was planned so that there is a government primary school in nearly every suburb and a private (mostly catholic) one in every third or fourth suburb. Most, if not all, primary schools are of a good standard, so wherever your kids end up will most likely provide them with a good education. Can’t think of any that have a particularly bad reputation, and Aranda and Majura Primaries are two that have particularly good reputations.

Don’t know if this has been mentioned above, but which government school your kids can attend depends upon which “Priority Enrolment Area” you live in. Each school has a PEA and families living in that area have priority in enrolling their children at that school. Maps of each school’s PEA can be found here: http://www.det.act.gov.au/school_education/choosing_a_school/priority_enrolment_areas . So, if you see a school that you like the look of, you can see which area you’ll need to buy/rent in to get your kids in there; alternatively, if you find a house and want to check out the local school’s website, these maps will help you see which school that is.

Good luck and welcome to Canberra.

Thanks for all you help, nice reading between the lines! I am looking for schools with decent reps and then will look for rental at first in those area’s.
All the best.

BeyondThought BeyondThought 12:22 pm 29 Dec 09

By the standards that exist elsewhere in the country, there ACT schools aren’t too bad. A lot of the ones around Belconnen or Dickson are not choice and if you head to the far, far north Burgmann in Gungahlin is fine (private however).

Part of the reason your colleagues may have ended up driving their kids to school is our local Council closed down a good many schools back in 2007 or thereabouts. Many were small though, probably too small to sustain themselves.

Good luck, Canberra isn’t as bad as many beleive.

Hells_Bells74 Hells_Bells74 8:32 pm 29 Dec 09

Maribynong was good for those who had a creative side back in the day. It didn’t suit me one bit! I loved Kaleen High, it was so lovely! (although having gone back for a 20 yr reunion tour recently, I was dismayed at how horrible it looked to me now, YUCKY, would never send my kids to it).

Miles Franklin Primary in Evatt is great (now they have new reader books, wish they would update the library books though eewwwww) and this is coming from me who was highly critical of the Govt primary system with my other 3 kids who are still attending Catholic schools.

Others I have heard good things about are:

Fraser primary
Charnwood primary (improving I hear)
Latham primary
Kaleen primary

Good luck and don’t worry too much, intuition is a great thing.

housebound housebound 8:40 pm 30 Dec 09

#18 – Latham is a well-kept secret (well, it was). Definitely worth a try if you can’t get a house close to Maribyrnong.

emd emd 9:42 am 31 Dec 09

begbie01 said :

Hi all,
Thanks for the quick responses. I will clarify “canberra”
I was thinking in the Belconnen District or perhaps Weston Creek or Woden Valley Areas.
I know that covers many suburbs, sorry that I can’t be more specific at this point in time.
However I was also thinking that a Gov School would suffice.

cheers,

You will need to look carefully at the Priority Enrolment Area zones when deciding where to live. There are now suburbs in Canberra with no public school within walking distance, and no bus either – which is a problem for families that can’t drive the kids to school every day.

In the Woden area, these are the ones I looked at this year…
Arawang Primary (in Waramanga, a suburb bordering Woden and Weston areas) looks great. Smaller than some of the other primary schools, but still with a really nice parent community.
Torrens Primary is a very traditional-style school culture.
Mawson Primary has a bilingual Chinese language program, and has a Chinese language pre-school nearby too.
Farrer Primary is a nice smaller school with a friendly culture, but the buildings are a bit run-down.
Hughes Primary is a great school, they have lots of English as a second language programs and a very friendly, multi-cultural community.
Garran Primary is another great school, bigger than Hughes. They have a new environment program, and run programs for gifted & talented and kids with learning difficulties.
Curtin Primary is another school similar in size to Garran, and has programs for gifted & talented and kids with learning difficulties.
Lyons is an early childhood centre – pre-school to Year 2. Which means your child needs to move in Year 3 to a P-6 school.
Yarralumla Primary School (inner south, next suburb north of Curtin) has a bi-lingual Italian program and is now one of the smallest schools in Canberra.

HTH.

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