The policy of the Department of Education is directed towards educating children in their local communities. However, parents are free to choose which government school their child attends.
Many rural communities have ageing and declining populations, which contributes to declining student numbers in rural schools; often lower than optimum numbers. These schools pose a problem for a government serving a dispersed population. Any consolidation of schools involves longer travelling times for some students.
In rural primary schools, classes are usually coeducational and unstreamed, with teachers devising programs for children of various abilities. Composite classes, consisting of pupils of different ages or grades, are common as are double units or team-teaching where two classes are joined from time to time. This allows for teachers' interests or abilities to be better utilised.
In district high schools, staffing is usually more generous than in urban high schools.