All schools in NSW are required to deliver study programs that comply with the NSW Education Standards Authority.
Years 7 and 8 (Stage 4)
The Stage 4 syllabus aims to build on the knowledge and skills acquired by students in primary school. Students are introduced to a broad range of subjects as part of the mandatory curriculum so that they will know what their interests and abilities are before they start making choices in later years. Schools offer mandatory subjects in the areas of English; mathematics; science; personal development, health and physical education; creative arts; human society and its environment; technology; and languages. Schools may also provide additional compulsory or elective subjects that are not part of the syllabus.
Years 9 and 10 (Stage 5)
In Years 9 and 10, the syllabus continues to build on students' knowledge in order to prepare them for HSC studies or training and employment. All students begin choosing elective studies in addition to the mandatory core curriculum of English; mathematics; science; personal development, health and physical education; history; and geography in order to gain their School Certificate at the end of Year 10. Schools offer electives that align with the needs and requirements of students, although these are limited depending on the school's resources and facilities. Students also have the option of undertaking VET studies. Students who leave after Year 10 must take up full-time employment or approved education or training such as TAFE, traineeships or apprenticeships (or a combination of the two) until they turn 17.
Years 11 and 12 (Stage 6)
In NSW, students complete the Higher School Certificate (HSC) over Years 11 and 12. To be eligible for the HSC, students must complete Year 11 and 12, satisfy HSC course requirements and sit for the HSC examinations. The only mandatory subject at this stage is English, allowing students to choose units from a list of elective subjects to make up their HSC and/or gain an ATAR.