While the broad range of schooling options currently open to parents reflects a well-developed and thriving educational system, the choice 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). As such, 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.
Selective and agricultural schools
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 to 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.
Qualifying for a selective school
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 apply 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
Agricultural high schools