School Enrolment Management Plans

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This procedure outlines the responsibilities of principals to fulfil their legislative obligations in relation to accommodating in-catchment students at their school.

A School Enrolment Management Plan (School EMP) is implemented in a state school which is nearing its Student Enrolment Capacity in order to maximise the use of facilities provided for enrolled in-catchment students, and restrict the enrolment of out-of-catchment students. The Principal will ensure sufficient capacity is reserved to accommodate in-catchment students, taking into account projected enrolment growth.​​​


This procedure:

  • Establishes protocols to restrict out-of-catchment students through the management of enrolments based on a school’s Student Enrolment Capacity.
  • Outlines the principal’s requirement to ensure student enrolments do not exceed the school’s Student Enrolment Capacity.



  • Must adhere to the Education (General Provisions) Act 2006 (Qld) regarding the development and implementation of a School EMP.
  • Assess enrolment applications to determine if an applicant is eligible to enrol under the School EMP and other eligibility criteria in the Education (General Provisions) Act 2006 (Qld).
  • Make decisions regarding all enrolments taking into consideration the in-catchment student number forecasts, current out-of-catchment numbers, potential siblings of out-of-catchment enrolments, available spare capacity and planning for the impact of this enrolment to ensure the school can accommodate future in-catchment students.
  • Are accountable to, without reasonable excuse, ensure their enrolments do not exceed the Student Enrolment Capacity.
  • Coordinate an annual review of the School EMP to ensure that the School EMP is current and relevant, and that Student Enrolment Capacity is accurate.
  • Utilise local communication processes to inform the school community of the need to implement a School EMP and initiate the consultation process to complete the School EMP template.
  • Complete the School EMP Template and present at a P&C/School Council meeting. 
  • Submit an electronic Word version of the School EMP, along with a scanned and signed version, to the Regional Director for approval.
  • Embed a link on the school’s website to the gazetted School EMP on the Department’s School EMP website.
  • Where a Principal forms a preliminary view that an application will not succeed, applicants will be notified in writing. Applicants may respond to the Principal’s preliminary view by making a submission to the Principal, no later than seven school days after receiving the preliminary view letter.
  • If no submission is received, the Principal’s preliminary view will be treated as the final decision and no further notice will be provided. 
  • If a submission is received, the Principal will consider the submission and make a final decision. A final decision notice will be provided to the applicant as soon as is practicable. Refer to Enrolment in State Primary, Secondary and Special Schools procedure.
  • When considering introducing a Program of Excellence, or if one is already in place, ensure sufficient spare capacity is reserved for current and future in-catchment students, prepare a Program of Excellence Proposal and submit to the Regional Director for consideration and approval.

Regional Director

  • Ensure effective enrolment management across the region and pro-actively manage enrolments across clusters of schools, including Independent Public Schools.
  • Inform Principals of schools which have reached a utilisation rate of 80% (trending upwards) of their requirement to implement a School EMP.
  • Submit exemption requests, on the approved template, for any schools with an eligible reason for not requiring a School EMP.
  • Consult with Principals whose School EMP needs to be reviewed or rescinded due to enrolments dropping below 70%, as advised by ISRP or capacity changes as advised by the school.
  • Nominate, if necessary, any schools required to implement a School EMP that fall under the standard trigger – i.e. a utilisation rate of less than 80%.
  • Ensure that schools identified for implementing a School EMP adhere to the required process and timelines for approval and submission.
  • Approve schools to reserve learning spaces to meet future enrolment requirements as a result of an approved specialised education program (e.g. Year 7 to High School program and Education Queensland International (EQI)). 
  • As Director-General’s delegate, review  and approve the School EMP  for each state school, including Independent Public Schools.
  • Consider and approve proposals received from schools to establish Programs of Excellence, or other merit based programs prior to the approval of the School EMP, ensuring sufficient spare capacity is reserved for current and future in-catchment students.
  • Submit an electronic Word version, along with a scanned and signed version, of the School EMP to ISRP officers for gazettal.
  • Once notified of the gazettal date by ISRP, notify school that the School EMP can be published on the school website.
  • As Director-General’s delegate, consider and approve negotiated catchment requests, within required timeframes, in consultation with ISRP.

Infrastructure Strategy, Research and Performance (ISRP) unit

  • Annually identify state schools requiring a School EMP and provide a list of relevant schools with their capacity data to each region for the purpose of coordinating the preparation of School EMPs
  • Annually identify state schools whose School EMP needs to be reviewed or rescinded due to enrolments dropping below 70% and advise region/s.
  • Process any requests from Regions to exempt certain schools from implementing a School EMP.
  • Work collaboratively with Regional Directors and Principals to assist in local area enrolment planning in the context of infrastructure provision.
  • Support regions and schools through the provision of up-to-date student enrolment forecast data.
  • Support regions and schools during the development of a School EMP and the approval process.
  • Liaise with Government Statistician in managing equidistant and negotiated catchment boundaries.
  • Arrange the gazettal of approved School EMPs.  
  • Advise region of date of gazettal of the School EMP.
  • Arrange publication of gazetted School EMPs on Department’s website for public access.
  • Remove rescinded School EMPs from Department’s website.

Deputy Director-General, Corporate Services  

  • Approve eligible requests from Regional Directors for an exemption to implement a School EMP at a specific school.


In February of each year, using Day 8 enrolment figures, ISRP officers will conduct an assessment of all state schools (including Independent Public Schools)  to identify schools where capacity is currently under pressure, or is likely to be under pressure in the future, due to out-of-catchment student enrolments. The standard trigger for implementing a School EMP is a utilisation rate of 80% or higher and trending upwards. 

ISRP will also identify those schools which need to review their School EMP due to declining enrolments  and liaise with regions regarding possible rescindment of the School EMP.  The standard trigger point for a School EMP to be rescinded is a utilisation rate of 70% or lower and trending downwards.

Rural or provincial schools which do not have neighbouring schools within a radius of approximately 50km (based on reasonable travel distance expectations) will be automatically exempt from implementing a School EMP.

For schools identified by Regional Directors as not requiring a School EMP, an Exemption Form​​ must be completed and forwarded to ISRP for approval. 

Where an approved education program is expected to increase student numbers at a school (e.g. Year 7 to High School program, EQI program), a school may reserve enrolment capacity to meet the forecast need, as approved by the Regional Director.

Students within catchment
All students, whose principal place of residence is within the school’s catchment area/s, are (subject to the Education (General Provisions) Act 2006) entitled to enrol at the school.

A school with a School EMP has  an equidistant or a negotiated catchment area. Each year, the Government Statistician within Queensland Treasury and Trade, reviews and updates, if necessary, the equidistant catchment areas to take into account any local changes to road conditions. However, where a student intends to walk to and from school, via a designated public walkable route enrolment applications may be considered on a case-by-case basis. This provision does not apply to schools which have a negotiated catchment area.

Other students who are entitled to enrol as if in-catchment
The following groups of students will be entitled to enrol, even though they may reside outside the school’s catchment area:

  • ​Children and young people who are subject to child protection orders that grant guardianship or custody to the Chief Executive Officer of the Department of Communities, Child Safety and Disability Services (Child Safety Services).
  • Siblings of current students at a school who reside outside of the catchment are entitled to enrol at the school (excluding siblings of students accepted into programs such as Programs of Excellence).
  • Where a state school has both a primary and secondary campus, siblings are only entitled  to enrol in the same campus as the currently enrolled student.
  • Students whose parent or legal guardian is employed by the school.
  • Students who live outside the catchment area and are verified with a disability can enrol at the school to attend the specific disability program if it is the closest program to their home and meets their individualised needs.
  • Students who have been excluded from a school, if approved by the Regional Director.

Out-of-Catchment application
Applications from any other person, not meeting the criteria outlined above is an out-of-catchment application. A school must not enrol out-of catchment students unless there is sufficient spare capacity after reserving places for in-catchment students, taking into account siblings of current students, students who move into the catchment during the year and future enrolment growth.

Students from outside the catchment area applying for enrolment are placed on a waiting list. These applications are assessed in order of receipt within the following order of groupings: 

1. For P-12 schools:

  • Primary school-aged siblings of students currently enrolled in the secondary campus.  
  • Secondary school-aged siblings of students currently enrolled in the primary campus. (Please note: as per the section above, siblings of current students, who reside outside the catchment, are eligible for enrolment at the same school campus.)
  • Students who live within the primary catchment, but upon enrolment would be attending the secondary campus.  
  • Students who live within the secondary catchment, but upon enrolment would be attending the primary campus.

2. For schools with a Program of Excellence:

  • Subject to available Student Enrolment Capacity, places will only be available to out-of-catchment enrolments if they satisfy the school’s criteria for placement in a Program of Excellence and the defined number of places has not been filled by in-catchment enrolments. Sufficient Student Enrolment Capacity must be reserved for future in-catchment growth.

Please note: Siblings of students who have enrolled in the school’s Program of Excellence are not automatically entitled to enrol; they will be assessed as per the “Out-of-Catchment Criteria” listed above. However, it should be noted that once a sibling of a Program of Excellence student has been accepted for enrolment, any further siblings will be entitled to  enrol as per the sibling criteria listed above in the “Other students who are entitled to enrol as if in-catchment" section).​

3. For secondary schools with a wider catchment area for Years 11-12:

  • Students who live within the senior secondary catchment but not within the junior secondary catchment.

4. All other enrolment applications.

Facilities provision:
The Department’s responsibility is to provide facilities to meet the educational needs of the core curriculum for in-catchment students. Where a school has a School EMP in place, the Department will only provide and maintain facilities, including Prep, to meet in-catchment student demand. 

Other information:
Under the Department’s State Education Fees procedure, a principal of a state school with an approved School EMP, is able to charge a fee for recouping costs of enrolment processing (subject to consultation with the Parents and Citizens’ Association) where:

  • the enrolment management plan permits the enrolment of a student living outside the catchment area based on cultural, sporting or academic merit, and
  • the significant number of prospective students living outside the catchment area and applying to enrol results in abnormal administrative costs to the school, for example, enrolment examination supervision and marking.

The provisions of the School EMP will take effect upon gazettal.  

The School’s EMP does not replace other departmental procedures; for example: Safe, Supportive and Disciplined School Environment.

For more information about the process, please refer to the School Enrolment Management Plan (School EMP) – Operational Guidelines.

Online Resources

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Student Enrolment Capacity
A school’s Student Enrolment Capacity is the number of students the school can accommodate within the existing learning spaces in the school. The Student Enrolment Capacity  must not be exceeded as a consequence of out-of-catchment enrolment application approvals. The principal must forward plan for in-catchment enrolments at their school to ensure that the Student Enrolment Capacity is not exceeded in this way.

Utilisation rate
The utilisation rate is calculated by dividing a school’s total enrolment numbers by the Student Enrolment Capacity and is expressed as a percentage.

Local state school
A local state school is a primary, secondary or P-12 state school (including Independent Public Schools) which is closest to a student’s principal place of residence. This is measured by the shortest, most direct route by road to and from the main entrance at the school (return trip). A state school’s equidistant catchment area defines which residences are closest by road to the school.

Catchment area
A catchment area is the geographical area from which a  state school is to have its core intake of students. There are two types of catchment areas, namely:

  1. ​Equidistant catchment area – an equidistant catchment boundary for a state school is defined by the equal distance between schools. This is measured from the main entrance of a school and its neighbouring schools, by road.

    Major geographic obstacles, such as highways, railway lines, drainage, mountain ranges, state forest and national parks are taken into account. However, this does not take into account walkways, bus routes, etc.

  2. Negotiated catchment area - a negotiated catchment area is one where the boundaries have been adjusted to account for unique local circumstances, with approval  from the Regional Director and in consultation with neighbouring schools.

State schools with both a primary and secondary provision will have separate respective catchment areas. A limited number of state secondary schools have separate catchment areas for junior secondary (for Years 7-10 or Years 8-10) and a senior secondary (for Years 11 and 12). This accommodates neighbouring schools whose delivery is only up to Year 10. 

In-catchment students
Those students who reside within a school’s defined catchment area and those others permitted by the School EMP to enrol. 

Out-of-catchment students
All students who reside outside of a school’s defined catchment area.