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Provincial high school application process | A province by province breakdown

Check the public high school application process for each province in South Africa, and learn what you need to do to secure a place for your child.
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Parents have a lot in common. We’re busy. We’re worried. And we’re a little tired. But above all, we want the best for our children. 

Part of your job as a parent or guardian is to provide your child with access to opportunities for learning and enrichment in the school that’ll suit them best. And to do that you need to decide on the best learning environment, and learning model for your child. 

That’s already a tall order, but it’s made harder by the variety of processes that exist across South Africa. While parents in Limpopo and parents in Gauteng have the same high hopes for their children, they’ll have to navigate vastly different application processes to get them into a public high school. 

As a leading online high school, our aim is to equip the learners of today to be the leaders of tomorrow. We’re passionate about providing learners and their families with quality education, paired with the flexibility they need to excel. 

We don’t believe any family should be held back by a complex provincial high school application process. So we’ve put together everything you need to know about applying to public high school in each of South Africa’s nine provinces. 

How to apply to public school in South Africa

The provincial high school application process differs between the provinces. But overall, the country is moving toward a digital system where parents can make all their applications in one go. 

Gauteng, the Northern Cape and the Western Cape all already make use of online portals to streamline the application and placement process.


The application window for public schools in Gauteng has not yet been announced. However, it’s not too soon to start the process to ensure you’re ready to apply as soon as the province’s online application system opens.

Last year, the Gauteng Department of Education (GDE) had placed 132,727 Grade 8 learners by 30 November. But, there were still over 20,000 learners waiting for their spots by this date. To avoid your child being one of these unplaced learners, start early by shortlisting the schools you’d like to apply to. 

Since Gauteng makes use of a catchment system – meaning learners registered with a home or work address that’s within a school’s catchment area will receive priority – we recommend you include at least one school that’s close to your registered address. 

In the meantime, keep an eye out for an announcement on application dates in the news, and check the online system for updates. 

While Gauteng uses an online system, parents are still able to access in-person support with their application. If you’d like guidance through the process, you can visit any public ordinary school in your area, or visit a District Office (see locations here) or the Provincial Department of Education (see location here).

Documents needed: 

  1. ​ID for parent or legal guardian 
  2. Proof of home or work address
  3. Child’s birth certificate, or
  4. Study permit (for foreign nationals) or a proof of application for a permit, or a police affidavit confirming the application has been made
  5. Current school academic report card. 

Western Cape

Applications for public high schools in the Western Cape are some of the most formalised and streamlined in the country. 

As with Gauteng, applications are made online, using a centralised portal managed by the Western Cape Education Department (WCED). The application window for 2024 is March 14 to April 15. 

Unlike much of the country, the Western Cape doesn’t make use of catchment zones. That means you can try to get your child placed at almost any school, regardless of where you live or work – if they meet the school requirements. 

Parents and guardians will only complete a single application, using the WCED portal. This allows them to apply to all their chosen schools (up to ten schools). To see how this is done, you can watch this detailed step-by-step walkthrough video here.

You’ll be prompted to upload digital copies of your supporting documents. And after you’ve received a placement for your child, you will need to deliver hard copies of these certified documents to the school your child will be attending. 

The WCED follows a tight schedule, so make sure you diarise key dates. You must confirm which of the school placements you’ll be accepting between May 29 and June 19. If you don't do so, your child will be automatically assigned to the first school where you were successfully accepted, in the order you set during the application process. 

Documents needed: 

  1. Identity document/passport/birth certificate for learner, or 
  2. Study permit (for foreign learners) or a proof of application for a permit 
  3. Proof of home address (rates account/lease agreement/affidavit confirming residence)
  4. The last report card from the child’s current school.

Northern Cape

The Northern Cape launched its own online applications system in 2020, for the 2021 school year. The system is not yet live for applications for the 2024 school year, so keep an eye on the news and the department’s social media accounts for announcements. In the past, this has taken place sometime between the months of May and September, with an additional, late application period set during November.

As with all provinces, parents in the Northern Cape are advised to apply to at least three schools. With catchment zones in use in this region, make sure you apply to schools close to your residence, or place of work. If you have another child already in school, include this in your application. It will increase your chances of getting a place at that same school for your child. 

Unlike Gauteng and the Western Cape, you don’t need to upload digital copies of your supporting documents. Instead, you’ll have seven days to upload these after making your application.

Apply early, as spots fill up fast. And if you need help with the provincial high school application process, you can visit a walk-in admissions centre in your district: 

  1. JTG District
  2. Frances Baard District
  3. Namakwa District 
  4. Pixley ka  Seme District
  5. ZFM District
  6. ZFM District 

Documents needed: 

  1. Identity document for parent or guardian, or affidavit if the parent or guardian does not have documentation
  2. Proof of home or work address (a municipal account with a home address in the parent's name, or a lease agreement)
  3. Your child’s birth certificate or an affidavit
  4. Study permit (for foreign nationals), proof of application for a permit, or a police affidavit that an application has been made.
  5. The last report card from the child’s current school.

The Eastern Cape, Free State, KwaZulu Natal, Limpopo, Mpumalanga, North West

Last but not least, parents and guardians in the Eastern Cape, Free State, KwaZulu Natal, Limpopo, Mpumalanga, North West must navigate a decentralised applications system. 

If you live in one of these provinces, you will need to make your applications with each individual school you’d like to apply to. Depending on the school, you will need to apply online, or submit a hard copy application. Some schools will have forms you can collect.

Once again, we strongly recommend that you apply to a minimum of three different schools. 

With no set timelines in place, and different deadlines and school criteria, start early to avoid disappointment. In some cases, public schools have already closed their applications for 2024, and admissions are made on a first come, first served basis. But many do have a late admissions process, so contact them to learn what you must do.

In some provinces, your catchment zone will be relevant. Some individual schools might also factor in catchment zones. With that in mind, we’d recommend you include a nearby school in your application pool. But reach out to your chosen schools to confirm this information. You should also ask them what documents you need to include, and how they’ll let you know about the status of your application.

Documents needed (varies based on school and province): 

  1. Identity document for parent or guardian, or affidavit where the parent does not have documentation
  2. Proof of home or work address (a municipal account with a home address in the parent's name, or a lease agreement)
  3. Your child’s unabridged birth certificate or passport, or 
  4. A study permit (for foreign nationals), proof of application for a permit, or a police affidavit that an application has been made
  5. The last report card from the child’s current school
  6. Proof of employment for the parent(s).

Start the provincial high school application process

Applying for high school is an intense and stressful process for parents and guardians. So we hope this guide has helped to clarify the process somewhat. If you’ve found this valuable, share this resource with other parents or guardians in your community. 

And remember, you also have the option of enrolling your child in an online high school. Places are not unlimited, so don’t leave this to the last minute. And unlike so many schools in South Africa, the University of Cape Town (UCT) Online High School has a simple, streamlined application process, no matter where you’re located. 

Share this resource, or reach out to an Admissions Consultants to learn how you can apply to our school.

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