Why school shopping is killing off the local high school

Feb 24, 2019 by

Almost half of the students attending Sydney public secondary schools live outside the catchment area, suggesting the local comprehensive high is becoming a thing of the past as parents embrace school shopping.

Among non-specialist, non-selective schools in the greater Sydney area, 43 per cent of students live outside their school’s catchment area. When partially selective and schools with specialties such as sports and performing arts are included, that grows to 44 per cent.

Girls schools have the highest proportion of students from outside the zone at 50 per cent, according to NSW Department of Education figures obtained under freedom of information. But boys schools are not far behind, with 48 per cent out-of-area students.

Among comprehensive co-ed schools, one in four students attends a school outside their zone.

So-called school shopping has grown in popularity since strict catchments were relaxed in the late 1980s. Of 90 non-specialist, non selective high schools, 25 now have more than half of their students coming from out-of-area.

At Holroyd High, 87 per cent of students live outside the catchment, the highest proportion in Sydney. It’s a school that takes many migrants and refugees; students often go for the intensive English centre, then stay.

It also has an excellent reputation; until recently, it was led by renowned principal and human rights medallist Dorothy Hoddinott.

At Strathfield South High, 73 per cent of students live outside the zone, while there is a similar percentage at Plumpton High. At Marrickville and Arthur Phillip High, two out of three students are out-of-area enrolments.

Marrickville is becoming a popular co-ed option in an area with many single-sex public schools, while Arthur Phillip is at the key transport hub of Parramatta, and will soon move site to a new, designer high-rise school worth $227.5 million.

A high proportion of out-of-area students also suggests its local students are going elsewhere. In Marrickville, which has become relatively wealthy, many locals are opting for private schools such as Newington, Trinity Grammar and St Scholastica’s.

Some of the most popular schools have the lowest out-of-area numbers because there is such demand from within the catchment.

Year 6 student Andrea Ceccarini wants to attend The Forest High but is one street out of the catchment.
Year 6 student Andrea Ceccarini wants to attend The Forest High but is one street out of the catchment.Credit:James Alcock

Those schools include Cherrybrook Technology High (home to celebrity maths teacher Eddie Woo), with just 14 per cent of students living out-of-area, The Ponds High (17 per cent), which has grown rapidly since it opened in 2015, and Killara High (17 per cent), which consistently performs well in the HSC.

continue: Why school shopping is killing off the local high school

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