How to rank public schools (Part 2)

First it is no surprise that schools with higher Socio-Educational advantage do significantly better than average. However even with schools that got similar ICSEA (Social-Educational Advantage Score), some schools do better than others.

First Wahroonga Public School, the 2014 NAPLAN result as following taken from Myschool website.

Wahroonga Public School Public School NAPLAN 2014

As you can see it does significantly better than the Australia average and about on par with similar schools.

Then you look at Epping West Public School, its 2014 NAPLAN result as following taken from Myschool website.

Epping West Public School NAPLAN 2014

As you can see Epping West Public School has significant higher score for all categories across the board even when compare to similar schools. Also I purposely picked these two school because none of them play host to OC classes which pollutes the result for year 5 and makes it impossible to do a straight comparison. This will artificially make some public schools rank higher than the others because they have a concentration of more talented students in the OC classes. List of public schools that will hosts the OC classes in 2016 can be find here.

Using the raw scores between school it is possible to compare schools directly with academically. It is difficult and very hard to measure other aspect of different schools. However ranking them will be hard as there are different categories through different years, how do you weight and compare the these?

When selecting schools, if test score if the main thing you value, then what Myschool website will provide everything you need as long as you understand how to interpret the data available. I will not go into too much detail on the topic of choosing a school for your child as they have been already covered in detail with the following articles

And finally if you ask me what is the different between these two school that with similar ICSEA score have such a difference, I think Epping West Public School just got more tiger mothers.

How to rank public schools. (Part 1)

One of the eternal question that get asked all the time is how does the school rank and how do they compare with each other. The primary source of the school information come from the relative newly minted myschool.gov.au that came out during the Julia Gillard’s labor government period. This site is absolutely monumental for someone like me, for the first time in ever I had access to just a wealth of information.

However now the question is how to interpret all these data and make sense out of them. We first need to understand ICSEA commonly being mentioned, official definition as following, in simple term higher the number more Socio-Educational Advantage a school has from the prospective of the Department of Education.

In using the Index of Community Socio-Educational Advantage (ICSEA) calculation to describe school populations on the website, the median value of all schools’ ICSEA values is set at 1000. This represents the ‘middle ground’ of educational advantage levels among Australian school students. The median is used because the ICSEA values of all schools are unevenly spread, reflecting the great diversity of student populations across Australia.

Most of stats on the site will compare with schools with similar ICSEA and another with all schools. One brief look at a single school such as Summer Hills Public School will show that it is only compared with 57 other school and ten of which is actually public school from NSW. Another thing with Summer Hills Public School is that it hosts OC classes for the local area as well, so the number for the year 5 are artificially inflated by this factor as well. What this means is that the raw result of year 5 of a school that host the OC classes can give a false impression of what general performance level.

There are five factor that NAPLAN measures

  • Reading
  • Persuasive Writing
  • Spelling
  • Grammar and Punctuation
  • Numeracy

It appears what myschool.edu.au gives a straight up measurement of number on above five which is possible to measure the schools against each other. However given the number of the schools in Sydney alone, let alone NSW and entire Australia, this is a mammoth task indeed.

There is no really a good way of mashing up the measurement from different year and also account for things like OC classes etc to extract a true general level of performance for a school. I will try to do a sample comparison on two schools to illustrate the difficulties in comparing the results.

Some Sydney Schools Becoming Ghettos

I read this article Sydney Schools Becoming Anglo Ghettos on SMH a few weeks back. This is a very interesting article and deserve some in depth discussion. I think the more correct term would be the some schools are becoming ghettos, not just Anglo. First the word ghettos may often used in denigrating fashion, most commonly refer to area that is mostly reside by population that are under privilege or minority groups. However modern day usage can mean concentrate of certain groups of people in a particular area. Since people with Anglo background is the majority group in Sydney, so use of the term “Anglo Ghettos” is more for the shock value and attracting attentions. To be honest the title of the article did its intended job very well, it generated plenty of controversy and interest.

It is no argument that public school has higher percentage of students with none English speaking background than their private counter part. Most of examples are from lower north shore area. In general the pattern is that public schools have higher percentage of students from none English speaking background compare to their private school counterpart where the government selective schools contain even higher percentage of students from none English speaking background.

The important part the particular article does not go into is why this is the case in Sydney, only point mentioned is that parents with Anglo background maybe actively shunning the public schools.  So exactly what has driven and formed these “Ghettos” in public and private schools? In my personal opinion there are multiple of reasons that contributed to this particular phenomenon.

Anglo Families are Shunning the Public Schools

This is definitely is the case by looking at the statistics and from personal experience. I know from first hand information, some Anglo families are giving up the government selective school position because they think the school in question had too many Asians. This is probably one of the biggest reason other than Asian families tend to favour government selective schools with higher academic performance.

Families with none English Speaking Background Shunning the Private Schools with Religious Background Particularly Catholic

This is my theory, Asians I know tend to be agnostic or lower level of religious association so some of them may have avoided the private schools with religious affiliations. I do know Asian families avoided catholic schools for this particular reason. I may make a research project out of this in the future to collect more stats and do a better analysis on this sub topic.

Difference in Social Economic Background

Again this is my theory only, despite the news report that Asians are buying up everything in Australia. Majority of immigrants families here just did not have the same amount of time accumulate wealth over multiple generations. It is not really affordable for middle income families to send more than one children to one of the top private schools on full fee. Even one child at top private school with full fee will stretch a middle class family’s budget badly.

Most selective schools students tend to be solidly middle ground however it is rare to have students with “super rich” parents. And this I think in a large degree explains why public school in general have higher level of students from none English speaking background.

Tradition

For families that resided in Sydney for a long time, you often had grand parents, parents, sisters and brothers all went the same set of private schools. It is natural for the particular families to wish their children to go to the same schools. Families with none English speaking background tend to be new comers and just have less affiliation with a particular school. This phenomenon is very common in private schools from the people I talk to, but much less than with public schools.

Asians Favours Academic Performance

It is probably not a secret that many first generation Asian families favours academic performance over most other factors when picking schools. Government selective schools are focus of this which is why you have a much higher concentration of students with Asian background. For Asians families that are second generation I do not found too much of a difference in their motive compare to Anglo families in whether sending their children to private or public schools.

A lot of top private schools offer scholarship for students based on academic performance, it would be really interesting to see the composition of those students and how many of them are from none English speaking background.

 

Overall there are a wealth of information from myschool.edu.au and a lot of can be learned from data gathered. I wanted to do a follow up article on this topic to go over some of the stats around it.

Lindfield Public School

Lindfield Public School is one of the older more established school in the north shore area. The school is located on the corner of Pacific High Way and Grosvenor I have done some research and only after some innovative searches, I was managed to confirm the school was established in 1903.

In 2014 there are 725 students enrolled in the school which is an increase of 10 per cent over the 660 students enrolled in 2008. It has not seen the significant increase in the enrolment like many other public schools in the north shore area. The main reason is likely that Lindfield Public School is pretty much at max capacity and you simply cannot squeeze much more students into the school. The new public school in west Lindfield will come into play in a few years which should relieve the pressure it is currently under. Once the new public school opens then the catchment for Lindfield Public School will change significantly and likely will have flow on for other nearby public schools like Roseville and Chatswood etc.

In 2014 students with a language background other than English sits at 35 per cent. Lindfield Public School also performs very well academically and consistently rank in the top of the state public schools.

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Its catchment straddles both sides of Pacific High Way and the North Shore Railway. The catchment consist mix of single and multi-dwellings. The multi dwellings concentrated around East of Pacific High Way and around the Lindfield Railway Station. You can search for a particular school or address in the search box in the top right-hand corner of the embedded map or zoom into an area of interest on the map.

The school itself is located just a stone’s throw away from the Lindfield railway station which made is very easily accessible by public transport.

As with most of older public schools, there is a mix of old and new buildings. The school contain a swimming pool as well which is very handy. However there are very little playgrounds in the school, this is actually likely is one of the more crowded schools in the north shore area.

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As usual contact the school in question for the final confirmation and you can also access the full catchment map by following this link.

 

 

Choosing a school for your child (Part 3)

This the last article in choosing a school for your child series.

  • School’s size, the number and composition of the students enrolled

Class size wise public schools that I know off all have it well managed. The main issue with this is that Sydney and in some areas like north shore, northern beaches etc, a lot of schools experienced increase in enrollment of 40 percent or more in less than ten years time. What this means is that a lot of schools in the old more established suburbs all became very crowded and forced to settle with a lot of demountables. The 2008 GFC actually provided a much needed capital construction for the public schools in Sydney. Going to the public schools in north shore area, just about the only new buildings they had in I do not know how many years are all constructed during that period.

The issue with the composition in the public school it is a lot more tricky. Some school’s catchment contain large amount of public housing which can have a direct impact. If you intend to send your children to the local public school, it certainly pays to do research first on the local intake area so you do not get yourself into a situation you do not want to be in.

  • How well the particular school is managed

Generally in personal experience the public schools in Sydney are well managed. However to find out more details, you will need to do the research yourself online and if possible get into contact with parents who have children going to the school. This will differ from school to school and even principle to principle.

  • The non academic programs in the school such as sport, music, arts etc.

This is the part where private schools have an edge over the public ones. That being said in the more affluent areas just about every children going to the public school all had private non academic programs happening outside of school hours.

  • Will your child have friend in the school they are going to and do you think they will fit in

Public school wise, I think there is no great difference between the different ones in the state. If your child had been going to the local childcare or preschool previously, then it is very likely he or she will have people they know going to the same school.

  • The availability of the after school care

This is actually more important than many people think. In the modern age, a lot of families got two working parents, without after school care it is almost impossible to manage the pick up and drop off. Depending on the area, some may have very tight competition on the spots for the after school care. You may even need to book as soon as possible even before they actually started in the school to secure a position.

Not all after school cares are made to be equal as well, some are well organized and have good programs, food etc. So definitely pays to do research on this.

  • Family involvement with the school life

My child goes to one of the public school in the north shore area and people I know had children going to the public school school in the north shore generally had very positive experience in this aspect.

There are a lot of opportunities for volunteer work and very good family involvement in the schools as well. Again this is very much a case by case situation, so if this is something important for you, then it pays to do the  research ahead.

Choosing a school for your child (Part 2)

This is the continuation of choosing a school for your child article part 2. Three point I am going to discuss over this part

  • Private or public school

To many this maybe a personal preference on whether to send your children to private or public school. There are however many factors that also determine this, such as cost. Many private schools also have religious affiliation, another point for the parents to consider. The top private school will easily set you back 30k plus a year while even on the lower end you probably looking at at least a few thousand per year at a minimum. This may not seem a lot for some, but consider if you have two children going to the private school at same time, it is going cost a bundle. I know a couple who are on very good income level and sending three sons to a top Sydney private school, even they are struggling fair bit with the cost.

Public school in generally probably will set you back between one to two thousand per year. There are of course some additional cost like uniform etc. However in general the cost of sending multiple kids to public school is not a problem for average families. Generally the public school is excellent, however school in some area need to be avoided. I am personally is a support of the public school system, however if I live in certain area such as Phillip Bay, I would send my children to the private school.

If cost and religious affiliation is not an issue, just pick whatever is your personal preference. If academic performance is your major concern, top public school do just as well as the private ones. So in this particular case pick the one that suit your economic circumstance and personal preference.

  • Distance of the school to your home

Distance and travelling is a also a big concern, particular in the primary school years where they require supervised drop off and pick up. Spending two hour doing so would be a major problem for some parents. Two working parents in the modern age is fairly standard for many families and unless you have someone to help out full time, this is certainly something many will have to take into consideration when choosing a school. Personally most ideal is within walking distance to the school, obviously with the skyrocketing Sydney property prices, this is simply not possible all the time.

  • The academic performance of the school in question

The top private school has good academic performance and abundance of non academic programs which is a major draw point for many parents. The top public school also have excellent academic performance. The top public schools also have very strict catchment/intake area, so unless you live in the school catchment, it can be very difficult to get into them. In general a public school at the primary school is good because most of the parents are “Tiger Mothers”. If you shift the same set of parents to another school, it pretty much guarantee to make that into a top school as well.

Choosing a school for your child (Part 1)

This is something every parents will go through at some stage and there are a lot of things to consider as well. This is a very personal decision for each parent and can be a very difficult to make for some. Some of us maybe content to send their children to whichever state public school they are zoned for, while others may consider private or out of area state public schools.

Some and certainly not all the things to consider as following

  • Private or public school
  • Distance of the school to your home
  • The academic performance of the school in question
  • School’s facilities
  • School’s size, the number and composition of the students enrolled
  • How well the particular school is managed
  • The non academic programs in the school such as sport, music, arts etc.
  • Will your child have friend in the school they are going to and do you think they will fit in
  • The availability of the after school care
  • Family involvement with the school life

I will go in further and discuss all of the above in more detail in following articles.

Chatswood Public School

Chatswood public school was established in 1883 and is one of the oldest state schools in Sydney. The school’s logo is Latin word “Fortiter” which means strong or mighty in English. In 2014 there were 957 students enrolled in the school and that is an increase of 40% since 2008, this is very common in the north shore area. As a result, the school is extremely over capacity like many of the top state public school in Sydney.

In 2014 students with a language background other than English sits at 80 per cent, this number is really high for public schools in northern Sydney suburbs. It also hosts opportunity classes for year 5 to 6. Chatswood public school has an excellent academic reputation with 50% of Year 6 students accessing Selective High Schools according to the school website.

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The geography of the north shore suburb is naturally divided by the Pacific high way; the land is relatively flat to the east and often falls off with a fairly steep to the west of it. Chatswood public school is very much the case, the east of school sits next to the Pacific high way and fall fairly steeply to the west. You can easily see that in the following images.

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As with a lot of public schools in the old established suburbs, the school is very crowded, the school ground is occupied with a mix of old and new buildings along with obligatory demountable as well. However, there is still a decent amount of playground and open spaces. That being said with close one thousand students, it is still going to be very crowded, it is not likely a lot more can be fit into the existing grounds.

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With the amount of the new apartments being built, the school catchment is likely to shrink significantly in the near future. You can search for a particular school or address in the search box in the top right-hand corner of the embedded map or zoom into an area of interest on the map.

As usual, contact the school in question or Department of Education for the final confirmation and you can also access the full NSW and Sydney Public School Catchment Map by following this link.

Artarmon Public School

Artarmon public school in Sydney, NSW was established in 1910 and currently occupy a split site only meters away from west of Artarmon railway station. It had 980 students enrolled in 2014 and only 667 in 2008. In 2014 students with a language background other than English sits at 71 per cent, this number is pretty high for north shore public schools. It also hosts opportunity classes for year 5 to 6.

Artarmon public has a very good reputation academically and consistently rank number one or two in the state. This obviously helped by the OC classes it hosts.

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Like many schools located in the old established suburbs, space is a premium. This is particularly true as Sydney is experiencing a dramatic increase in the number of students enrolling in the state public schools. The increase in a number of students experienced by Artarmon public school is by no means unique in the north shore area. As a consequence what available space in the school is almost fully occupied by the demountable classrooms. Luckily the school is located right next to a park which would have made things much easier.

I took a screenshot in the Google map and circled the school area and as you can see play area would be at a premium here with close to 1000 students. You can search for a particular school or address in the search box in the top right-hand corner of the embedded map or zoom into an area of interest on the map.

Overall speaking I’d say Artarmon public school is very good with convenient and easy to access location. It located in the heart of north shore suburbs. However, with the number of new apartments being built up, you can reasonably expect the school catchment to shrink in the coming years. There is just not much more space to try cram more students onto the existing ground.

Artarmon public school building

Also see the follow up article on Artarmon Public School at here.

As usual contact the school in question or Department of Education for the final confirmation and you can also access the full NSW and Sydney Public School Catchment Map by following this link.

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Willoughby Public School

 

Willoughby public school was established in 1863 and is one of the oldest public schools in Sydney. It is situated in the leafy lower north shore suburb of Willoughby. Its school catchment runs across Chatswood, Willoughby and Castlecrag.

Willoughby public school is a very good school with a solid academic result as well.

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Willoughby public school also does not host OC classes so its academic scores are not artificially inflated like some others.

The school is very typical of ones that constructed in the same era with a combination of old and new buildings. The school ground is very decently sized and with a number of playgrounds. There are also three different sets of playing equipment dotted across different parts of the school.

The school had a large influx of student recently and demountable classrooms can be seen in just about all parts of the school. The school has about one thousand students and ten kindergarten classes which are very big in Sydney, there are only a few schools that I know of are bigger. There used to be a public school in Castlecrag which are scrapped a few years ago and its school catchment divided to the other public school nearby. Willoughby also had a lot apartment build recently and with the area being progressively occupied by younger families with children, it is not a surprise that the size of school keeps swelling recently.

Following are a few photos that I have taken when I visited the school a few days ago. You can clearly see the good playgrounds despite the amount of demountable in the school, also the mix of old and new buildings as well.

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A lot of schools in the inner city suburbs actually are very crowded and do not have any decent playgrounds. Willoughby public school despite the number of students still has a lot of good open playing areas.

The school also is located centrally in the suburbs with good public transport which made it easy to get to for the catchment it is zoned for. You can out about the school catchment/zone for Willoughby Public School at following by entering the school name or address in the search box in the top right-hand corner of the embedded map or zoom into an area of interest on the map.

The most common name used by NSW Department of Education is called “catchment” which refer to that students resides in particular area is guaranteed a position in specific schools. When discussed from the perspective of a particular school is often referred to as one of the following terms.

  • School Zone
  • School intake area
  • School catchment

As usual contact the school in question or Department of Education for the final confirmation and you can also access the full NSW and Sydney Public School Catchment Map by following this link.

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