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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Sydney Public School Enrolment

Enrolment requirement for Sydney public school can be deceptively simple or annoying complex. The school is obligated by law to accept the applicants if he or she lives in the school catchment area.

You can use the Sydney public school catchment map for reference on checking this. For final confirmation I recommend you call the school in question to check.

The general requirements are normally something as following

General requirement

  • Proof of student’s residential address
  • Birth Certificate or identity documents
  • Copies of an family law or other relevant court orders (if applicable)
  • Immunisation history statement

None PR will require something as following

  • Passport or travel documents
  • Current and previous visas

Temporary visa holder

  • Authority to enrol
  • Authority to enrol or evidence of permission to transfer
  • Evidence of the visa the student has applied for

Popular public schools will have enrolment policy with a lot more stringent requirement. Below is taken from one of the top public school in the north shore area’s enrolment policy. You can more or less expect similar requirements with all top public schools in Sydney.

The school will seek evidence demonstrating local resident status through the provision of current original documents. These are:

(a) Property ownership or tenancy documents in the name of the applicant’s parent eg rate notice or tenancy agreement.

(b) Three utility account statements (water, electricity, telephone, gas) displaying the name and local address of the applicant’s parents. Property owners must include a recent Sydney Water account in the name of the parent.

For students entering Kindergarten the principal place of residence must be re-confirmed at the commencement of the school year prior to the child’s first day of attendance. An original and current utilities or services bill must be presented to the school.

There had been a lot of cases of parents borrowing address to try enrolling into the top public schools; thus the above detailed requirements to enrol into the public schools.

Schools often have a number of non-local enrolment positions available. Anybody can apply for it, however there is no guarantee of it being granted.

Again above are just for reference, each school may or may not have different requirement, so I suggest calling the school in question again to confirm.

Introduction on NSW/Sydney Public School K-6 (Part 2)

Most of public schools in NSW are comprehensive which goes from Kindergarten to year 6. However there are eighteen infants school which only go from Kindergarten to year 2, once the students in those school finish year 2, they will need to move on to a comprehensive public school in their local catchment.

Enrolment is fairly complex subject depending on the school you are trying to enrol your children into, some are very easy and some are very competitive and require a ton of documents. I will cover that in more detail in a different post later.

There are also a number of special needs public school sprinkled throughout the state; they are generally smaller in size compare to the other schools. Normal public schools can also have special needs children attending, I know situation where there are dedicated resource for those children. However I do not know how common that is and what the standard procedure for those types of situations in the public schools.

From year 5 to 6 there is also something called opportunity class. Quoting directly from department of education of NSW, they supposed to achieve the following purpose.

Opportunity classes cater for highly achieving Year 5 and 6 academically gifted students who may otherwise be without classmates at their own academic and social level. These classes help gifted and talented students to learn by grouping them with other gifted and talented students, teaching them in specialised ways and providing educational materials at the appropriate level.

It is a two year placement and application happens in year 4, there are 75 schools in NSW with opportunity classes. Depending on which part of Sydney, the application and test process for this can get very competitive.

The application and placement test for year 7 selective high schools happens in year 6. This again can be very competitive in parts of Sydney and NSW.

Again according to the department of education the curriculum for K-6 looks like following.

Learning in Kindergarten to Year 6 focuses on six key learning areas (KLAs):

  • English 
  • Mathematics
  • Science and Technology
  • Personal Development, Health and Physical Education
  • Human Society and Its Environment
  • Creative Arts

 

Each syllabus has a set of aims, objectives and outcomes, organised as knowledge and understanding, skills, values and attitudes.

More information about Sydney/NSW public school and curriculum can be found at http://www.schools.nsw.edu.au/.

 

Introduction on NSW/Sydney Public School K-6 (Part 1)

NSW/Sydney public schools are from K-12, K-6 is generally referred as primary schools or commonly just public schools. Years 7 to 12 are also public schools but they are generally called as high school, it maybe girls, boys or just high school in which case is comprehensive.

For the purpose of this article, I am just going to talk about primary level of public school from K-6. K in this case means from Kindergarten, year 1, year 2, year 3, year 4, year 5 and year 6.  The cut off birthday for enrol into kindergarten in your local public school is 30th of July from between age of 4 to 6. This means if your children are four years old at 30th of July in 2015, then you can enrol them in your local public school for year 2016. So the children in kindergarten are generally between age of four and half to five and half. It is however not uncommon for some parents in delaying sending their children to start school until the year after, so some children maybe close to six year old when they start in the kindergarten. This practice is very common in north shore area in Sydney from personal observation, particularly with boys as a lot of parents want their kids to be more mature and fit in better sports wise, so don’t be surprised at a lot of parents delaying the starting of the school for their children for one year. However it is not legal to delay it further after this point.

Public school is basically free; however there will be some cost like excursion, special activities, earphone for the computers etc. You can reasonably expect a few hundred dollars per children per year at minimum to cover the basic costs. Then there are things like summer and winter uniforms, school bag etc.

There are four terms in a year, first term start around beginning of February ends before Easter, second term start after Easter and ends before July, third term start at mid to late July and ends mid to late September, fourth and last term starts at early to mid-October and last until just before Christmas. The summer holiday is around six week in length and other three breaks are all roughly two week each.

School run from Monday to Friday during the terms and normally start at 9:10 and finish around 3:10. There are two recesses, one in the morning and another in the afternoon. There is also a lunchtime which is around 45 minutes in duration. School yards are supervised by teachers about half hour before the morning starting time.

Travelling to primary school are generally done by walking, car or public transport, there are also normally school buses as well which are run before and after school. Everyone is eligible for school buses between Kindergarten to year 2. From year 3 onwards the eligibility is dependent on the distance between student’s home to the school.

Schools will have a general assembly at least once a week, normally this happens on Friday. Awards etc. are given out during the assembly; parents are often welcome to visit.

Public schools in Sydney are generally very good in quality in my personal experience. Ranking has more to do with social economical background and how involved are the parents rather than anything else. This is why when you looking at area such as lower and upper north shore area, there is really no bad public schools. This is not because the teachers in those schools are better than the others or they receive more resource, it is really due to the similar minded and actively involved parents.

One interesting things about public school at primary level is that there are very few male teachers, there is maybe less than a handful at my children’s school and from what I know of other parents, this is pretty much the case throughout the entire Sydney.