Application Process and Time Frames

It commonly takes a number of years from initial planning to the opening of a new school.

Stage 1 - Initial Preparation Stage

As the proprietor of an individual non-government school must be a type of corporation or legal entity approved by the NSW Minister for Education and Early Learning, a new school will need to establish a legal entity, if it doesn’t already have one.

The governing body usually establishes the business plan for the new school, which informs the scope, philosophy and location of the proposed new school.

Generally, new schools are considered a State Significant Development (SSD) and require an application to the Department of Planning and Environment for development application approval. Commonly, it takes 24 months for approval of an SSD application.

Stage 2 - Preparation of Documentation for NESA Application

The minimum requirements for registering and for accrediting a non-government school are set out in NESA's NSW Registered and Accredited Individual Non-government Schools Manual (the Manual).

The Manual identifies the minimum amount of evidence that all registered and accredited NSW non-government schools must have, including policies, procedures, and curriculum documentation. It also identifies what evidence a new school must have when applying for initial registration. 

Part B of the Manual outlines 9 registration requirements all NSW non-government schools must meet (B1-B9). Schools providing boarding or distance education must also meet additional requirements (B10 and B11). 

If a school wants to be accredited to enter candidates for the award of the Record of School Achievement (RoSA) and/or Higher School Certificate (HSC), there are additional curriculum requirements in Part C of the Manual. 

Below are the registration and accreditation requirements from Part B and C of the Manual.

Registration requirements

B1 Proprietors and Principals
B2 School management and operation
B3 Staff
B4 Curriculum
B5 Premises and buildings
B6 Facilities
B7 Enrolment and attendance
B8 Safe and supportive environment
B9 Discipline
B10 Boarding facilities
B11 Distance education

Accreditation requirements

C1 Curriculum for the RoSA
C2 Curriculum for the HSC
C3 Quality of the educational program

New schools need to demonstrate capacity to comply

A school applying for initial registration must demonstrate its capacity to comply with the registration requirements in the Manual.

Within each registration requirement there is a section that lists what evidence must be submitted with a new school’s application. This section is at the end of each registration requirement. A new school will be required to have in place:

  • policies and procedures that detail how the school will operate once established
  • planning for the intended curriculum to be delivered by the school (including scope and sequences of learning and assessment planning)
  • other required documentation such as evidence of the legal entity, financial viability certification and development approval etc.

Stage 3 - Submit Application

An application for initial registration (and accreditation where relevant) must be submitted to NESA by March 31 in the year before the proposed school is due to open.

The application is submitted to NESA via RANGS Online by 31 March in the year prior to opening.

NESA Inspectors will assess submitted documentation and visit the school site.

The Education Act requires that the Minister for Education and Early Learning make a decision on the application within 6 months.

Stage 4 - Open School

Generally, a school is granted initial registration for one year. Newly registered schools must meet the requirements of the Education Act from their first day of operation as detailed in section 3 of the Manual for all schools and section 5 for accredited schools.

The school will be inspected for implementation of its policies, procedures and curriculum in its first year of operation.

In the school’s first year of operation, the school will need to submit a renewal of registration and, if relevant, accreditation application to NESA by the 31st of March in the first year of operation. Schools may also apply for new Years of Schooling as the school expands. In their first year of operation, new schools will have an inspection visit for the renewal of registration/accreditation, commonly during Term 2.