While the broad range of schooling options currently open to parents reflects a well-developed and thriving educational system, the choices can be a little overwhelming. Here, we explain all available educational options and school types in NSW to help parents with their decision.
The choice within the NSW public school system has greatly increased in recent years. Your child is automatically entitled to a place in their local high school, but you can also apply for a place at non-local high schools, such as single-gender, specialist, selective, sports or agricultural high schools. You can potentially take advantage of increased specialisation in the public education system.
Some restrictions do apply. Students from outside a school’s designated local enrolment area can be offered a place only if space permits after local students have been accommodated. Additionally, schools such as selective and agricultural high schools have special enrolment criteria based on academic merit.
Currently in NSW, there are 17 fully selective schools, four selective agricultural high schools, 25 high schools with selective classes and a virtual selective class provision (Western NSW Region).
The aim of selective high schools is to provide a scholastically challenging environment for more academically able students. The usual range of subjects is taught at these schools, but they are geared towards the needs of gifted and talented students. Partially selective high schools offer both selective classes and community-based classes. Students gain places at selective schools by competing academically with other prospective students.
There are differing opinions on the benefits of selective schools. Some education experts argue that talented children should be educated with their intellectual peers, thus benefiting from the intellectual stimulation this grouping provides. Others argue for the comprehensive system, claiming students benefit more from a wider range of mixed abilities and attitudes.
Entry into these schools is determined by the student’s results in the Selective High School Placement Test in English (including reading and writing), mathematics and general ability, together with their primary school’s assessment of their performance in English and mathematics. Other evidence of academic merit may also be considered.
Parents wishing to apply on behalf of their child for Year 7 can do so online via the NSW Public Schools website, schools.nsw.edu.au. Students throughout the state sit for the Selective High School Placement Test in designated test centres on a specified date. Applications and results are considered by a selection committee, which will also take into account circumstances where a child has a sensory or physical disability or is from a non-English-speaking background.
Agricultural high schools are selective high schools that specialise in agricultural studies. Students wishing to enrol in day places at agricultural high schools are selected in much the same way as those in selective high schools. Boarding places for all years are offered at Hurlstone (boarding and day), Yanco (boarding only) and Farrer Memorial (boarding and day). Hurlstone and Yanco are both co-educational while Farrer accepts boys only. Offers of boarding placements in agricultural high schools take students’ geographic isolation and their ability to cope in a boarding situation into consideration.
For more information about selective schools, consult your government primary school principal or phone the Selective High School and Opportunity Class Placement Unit on 02 9707 6262 or your regional office on 13 15 36.
Selective high schools
High schools with selective classes
Agricultural high schools
Specialist high schools teach the NSW Board of Studies core curriculum while also placing emphasis on a particular area of learning. This type of school may be beneficial for your child if they show talent for and wish to specialise in the area of creative arts, performing arts, sports, technology or languages. A sports high school, for example, maybe suitable for your child if they show the potential to reach elite sports level.
Creative and performing arts high schools provide opportunities for students to pursue excellence within these fields while studying the core curriculum prescribed by the Board of Studies. These schools offer a specialised environment. They have performance and creative spaces, lighting and sound systems, dance studios and specialist teachers.
Each school’s facilities are tailored to the particular area of specialty. Entry to a specialist school is based on the student meeting certain criteria. For entry to a performing arts school, for example, the application process may include an audition.
Distance education centres are also part of the network of specialist high schools.
For further information, go to schools.nsw.edu.au/schoolfind/types/index.php
Sports high schools
Creative and performing arts high schools
There are specialist technology high schools covering technology, rural technology and marine technology.
Technology high schools have a whole-school focus on technology across all Key Learning Areas. Students learn to select and use a wide range of technologies. An emphasis is placed on the impact of technology on the environment and society. This is not at the exclusion of any subject areas. These schools all offer a comprehensive curriculum but there is a commitment to using and fostering an understanding of new technologies in all areas of study.
Language high schools are comprehensive high schools that provide students with an opportunity to study at least two languages other than English. They ensure continuity of study to the Higher School Certificate. A flexible curriculum allows some students to undertake in-depth language study for an extended period and/or to study more than one language.
Language high schools develop and implement innovative methods of teaching languages and offer assistance to other schools in this field.
Language high schools do not offer all languages and many specialise in only a few. However, where there is student interest in languages not available at the school, students may apply to study the language through The Open High School or the Saturday School of Community Languages.
Of course, substantial language programs are also provided by many other schools, both government and non-government. Some schools provide opportunities to study languages spoken by significant numbers of the student population.
Languages high schools
A multi-campus college comprises a number of campuses that work together as a single educational entity across a number of separate sites. Each campus is usually specialised in the sense that it targets the needs and interests of a particular group of students. For example, junior secondary campuses are designed to support the learning needs of young adolescents, while senior secondary campuses are designed to provide a more adult learning environment for post-compulsory students. A number of multi-campus colleges are co-located with TAFE and university campuses.
Brisbane Water Secondary College
Woy Woy Campus
Waratah Technology Campus
Mount Druitt Campus
Georges River College
Hurstville Boys Campus
Oatley Senior Campus
Penshurst Girls Campus
Great Lakes College
Tuncurry Junior Campus
Tuncurry Senior Campus
Moree Secondary College
Albert St Campus
Carol Ave Campus
Nirimba Collegiate Group
Quakers Hill High School
Riverstone High School
Seven Hills High School
Northern Beaches Secondary College
Balgowlah Boys Campus
Freshwater Senior Campus
Mackellar Girls Campus
Sydney Secondary College
Blackwattle Bay Campus
Tuggerah Lakes Secondary College
Berkeley Vale Campus
The Entrance Campus
Tumbi Umbi Campus
Walgett Community College
The Department of Education has distance education provisions in place to deliver full-time educational programs to students who are isolated or whose special circumstances prevent them from attending school on a regular basis. Single-subject (Years 9 to 12) programs are also provided to specific categories of students. Schools in remote areas are also given support through the NSW Country Areas Program (CAP). Distance education provision is available from 16 locations across the state.
Saturday School of Community Languages teaches languages to students from government and non-government secondary schools or from TAFE HSC programs who wish to study their background community language to Record of School Achievement (RoSA) and Higher School Certificate levels but are unable to do so at their home school. Courses are available in 24 languages at Higher School Certificate level. These include Arabic, Armenian, Bengali (Bangla), Bosnian, Chinese, Croatian, Dutch, Filipino, Hindi, Hungarian, Italian, Japanese, Khmer, Korean, Macedonian, Modern Greek, Maltese, Persian, Polish, Portuguese, Serbian, Spanish, Turkish, Ukrainian and Vietnamese. A Bosnian class is also on offer at Liverpool Girls High. There are approximately 3400 students enrolled in the Saturday school in Years 7 to 12 at the following campuses:
The Saturday School of Community Languages can be contacted on 02 7814 2115, firstname.lastname@example.org or saturdaycl-h.schools.nsw.gov.au
Newly arrived secondary-aged students requiring intensive English as a Second Language (ESL) support in metropolitan Sydney and Wollongong may be able to enrol in an Intensive English Centre (IEC) or the Intensive English High School (IEHS) before transferring to high school.
IECs and the IEHS provide intensive ESL tuition to recently arrived, high-school-aged students whose first language is not English. The IECs/IEHS provide English language, orientation, settlement and welfare programs to prepare students for study in a NSW high school. To be eligible for enrolment in an IEC/IEHS, students must be of high school age and meet eligibility requirements relating to the need for intensive ESL support, and will need to provide the date of arrival in Australia and residency status. In certain cases, Year 6 students may transfer from a primary school to an IEC/IEHS to prepare for entry to high school the following year.
In rural and regional areas where there is no IEC, newly arrived ESL students enrol in their local school where they may be eligible to receive additional short-term ESL support.
Senior high schools are comprehensive high schools that cater exclusively for senior students from Years 10 or 11 to 12. As the focus in these schools is on senior students, they are able to develop and employ more flexible and innovative curriculum timetabling arrangements to suit the needs of young adults.
Senior high schools offer a more adult learning environment than most other high schools. Students are given opportunities and support as they develop maturity and independence. Some of the best features of tertiary-style, independent learning are combined with the more supportive, welfare-oriented secondary education culture.
In terms of curriculum, a focus on the senior years allows senior high schools to deliver a wider range of courses in the senior domain, including special accreditation arrangements with TAFE and industry. Senior high schools in Sydney and surrounds include:
Trade schools are designed to link schools with industry and TAFE to tackle skills shortages. Currently, 26 trade schools are open for enrolments in NSW. About half of these will be based in existing high schools and provided with upgraded industry-standard facilities. The other half will consist of school-TAFE partnerships using existing TAFE facilities.
Students in trade schools will have the option of undertaking a school-based apprenticeship, a school-based traineeship or other vocational course while completing their HSC. Students will have access to specialist industry-standard facilities.
Students will also have access to new industry support services that will place them in jobs to complete their training. Industry and the local economy benefit from having more job-ready graduates able to take on work in key skills-shortage areas. For more information, visit education.nsw.gov.au/teaching-and-learning/curriculum/career-learning-and-vet.
Today, the number of non-government schools is almost as numerous as the number of religious affiliations that abound. You can choose to send your child to a traditional Protestant church school, traditional independent school, Catholic systemic school, Catholic independent school, Jewish school, Greek Orthodox school, Muslim school … the list goes on.
As well as the non-government schools associated with particular religious groups, there are many non-religious alternative education schools such as the Montessori and Steiner schools.
Non-government schools must operate within certain legislated boundaries irrespective of their religious affiliation, educational philosophy and methods. The BOSTES is responsible for monitoring the compliance of non-government schools with the registration and accreditation requirements of the Education Act 1990. Registration is a non-government school’s licence to operate under the Act.
Accreditation authorises a non-government school to present candidates for the Record of School Achievement (RoSA) and/or Higher School Certificate. All schools are required to teach the NSW syllabus.
The Commonwealth and state governments each provide per-capita grants and other assistance to non-government schools to help meet their costs. The level of that support varies between schools. The balance must be made up by the schools through fees and other forms of fundraising, which may be a determining factor in your choice of school.
If you are interested in private education for your child, it’s a good idea to make an appointment with the school and discuss their philosophical and religious rationale. This will provide you with a better idea of how suitable the school is for you and your child.
Although it’s difficult to generalise, it can be said that traditional grammar-type schools base their educational instruction broadly on Christian principles. Generally, the foundation of their education system is the English public school model.
Among the attractive features of most of these schools are their on-site facilities, which are generally of a high standard. All schools in this category tend to have high fees and long waiting lists.
About 20 per cent of students in Australia attend Catholic schools. The first Catholic school was established in 1821 in Sydney’s Parramatta and has grown into a system of approximately 1700 schools nationwide.
Catholic schools are divided into two categories: independent (private colleges run independently by religious congregations) and systemic (a network of parish primary and regional secondary schools that are administered by the Catholic Education Office in each diocese).
The aim of Catholic schools is to commit to the development of the whole person — intellectually, physically, spiritually and socially. The curriculum followed is set by the NSW Board of Studies and focuses on the needs of individual students. Emphasis is placed on the quality of the pastoral care. Catholic schools also strive to provide a meaningful, relevant and comprehensive religious education program. Additionally, they encourage parents to participate in the life of their school.
Catholic schools provide educational opportunities for gifted and talented children, children with handicaps (both physical and intellectual) and children with emotional disturbances through a number of Catholic special schools and within the system.
The fees charged by Catholic systemic schools are relatively low compared with those of independent Catholic schools. This is partly because of the significant financial support provided by both the Commonwealth and state governments. Other sources of funds are school fees, building and subject levies, parish grants and fundraising by Parents & Friends Associations.
Tuition fees for systemic secondary schools in the Archdiocese of Parramatta in 2020 are:
Sydney Catholic Schools Central Office
38 Renwick Street (PO Box 217),
Leichhardt NSW 2040
Phone: 02 9569 6111
Formerly known as Christian Parent Controlled schools, Christian Education National schools are governed by associations of parents and are non-denominational. In Australia, there are more than 80 schools with a total of 23,000 students, most of them catering for Kindergarten to Year 12. Of these, there are 17 schools in NSW, eight of which are in the greater Sydney area. Each school is as varied as the community it serves.
A key feature of each school is the association’s commitment to maintaining a quality education from a Christian perspective, as well as to keeping the cost at a level that ensures the accessibility of the school to all families who would like a Christian education for their children.
Phone the NSW state coordinator on 02 9671 3311, email email@example.com or visit cen.edu.au
There are 48 primary and secondary schools throughout Australia operated by the Seventh-day Adventist Church, providing Christian education as a service to the community. In NSW, there are nine primary schools and 10 combined primary and secondary schools. Enrolment is open to any student who seeks a positive learning environment with strong Christian values.
All students receive well-balanced academic, physical, social and spiritual development in a caring, well-disciplined environment. The curriculum is constantly reviewed and updated to ensure the needs of all students are well catered for.
Parents are encouraged to become actively involved with trained, professional teachers in a fully accredited, highly resourced facility. A strong pastoral care program provides additional support for students.
School fees are modest when compared with many other independent schools. Special fee assistance programs are available and discounts are provided where more than one child is enrolled. Many schools also offer scholarships.
For more information, visit nnsw.adventist.edu.au
The Steiner Waldorf educational movement was founded in Germany
by Dr Rudolf Steiner, an Austrian scientist, philosopher and educationalist. Steiner’s educational philosophy focuses on the three developmental phases of childhood: imitation (age zero to seven), imagination (seven to 14) and rational judgment (14 to 21).
Steiner schools facilitate this philosophy in their teaching and use interactive teaching methods that incorporate an experiential and multi-sensory approach to learning. The schools’ curricula focus on the appropriate abilities of children based on their age. They aim to balance academic achievement with the development of physical, artistic and social skills.
All Steiner schools are co-educational and non-denominational and are run by
a college of teachers, not a principal.
Home education, home schooling, “unschooling”, natural learning, home-based learning — however you describe it, home schooling essentially means education by parents. Parents or guardians who are home schooling a child are responsible for developing, implementing and accessing their child’s educational program. Registration with the BOSTES is a legal requirement for home schooling while a child is of compulsory school age and not enrolled at school. In recent years, there has been a marked rise in parents choosing this path.
The reasons parents choose home schooling for their children vary greatly. Some parents may prefer to tailor education programs to the needs, abilities and learning style of their child or to pass on their family’s ethical or religious values through day-to-day education. Some parents may wish to avoid the potential challenges of school-based education, such as bullying and learning in large classes. Many parents of students who are particularly gifted in a certain area will also choose to home educate.
Learning difficulties have also emerged as strong grounds for the decision to home educate. Home education allows students to be educated gently and appropriately by those who have their best interests at heart: their parents.
This can also be a temporary option leading to reintegration back into school
at a later date.
Home schooling is officially legal in Australia, although legislation on home education differs for each state. In NSW, parents must register with the BOSTES as the educator of their child.
For detailed information on the requirements for home schooling, visit boardofstudies.nsw.edu.au/home-schooling/index.html and download a detailed home schooling package.
This association offers information, networks, resources and education guidelines at hea.edu.au
The Home Education Association Courses for Parents in Home Schooling cover how people learn, brain functionality, child development, program writing, resources, research in home schooling, approaches to home schooling, registration and legalities.
Almost all secondary schools in NSW offer Vocational Education and Training (VET) as part of their curriculum. VET courses are delivered at school and at TAFE colleges. These courses provide students with access to nationally recognised vocational qualifications, which are part of their HSC pattern of study, and prepare students for employment or a pathway into further education and training.