Four Ways To Help You Find The Best Schools In Sydney
- Parents Only
By Jennifer R. Uhlmann, Guest Contributor
Finding the right school for your child is a daunting task. There are so many factors to consider: private vs public, single-sex or co-educational, the local school or an out-of-area, special school? Rather than feeling liberated by the number of options we have available, we are often overwhelmed by what seems like fateful, momentous decisions.
Thankfully in Australia, we have a number of resources that we can use to make more informed choices about our children’s schooling. This same level of transparency does not exist in the United States, where I grew up and had my children. There we relied on common knowledge (not always reliable) and had to look up individual schools, go on tours and spend many hours trying to see through the marketing pitch of these institutions. Here in Australia, though, we have cold, hard data for both private and public schools. We have easy-to-find information from pretty reliable sources that lets us compare schools and make better choices for our kids.
Here are four educational resources that will let you compare your child’s schooling options.
1. Use mychild.gov.au to compare the quality of early childhood programs
This is the single best website to compare the educational quality of programs in Sydney for children up to around five years old. It evaluates the quality of childcare providers, whether daycare, preschools or kindergartens, on such criteria as educational programs and practices. Each establishment is formally assessed and rated (note: those who provide care in their own homes are not assessed). There are five ratings available, from Excellent (the top rating), Exceeding National Quality Standard, Meeting National Quality Standard, Working Towards National Quality Standard and Significant Improvement Required (the bottom rating). The website is trustworthy, maintained by the Australian government, and is an excellent place to start your research on early childhood education programs.
The website is not the easiest to navigate, though, so here are a few tips to help you sift through the options. Once you are on the home page of the website, click on the tab called “Find Services” at the top of the page.
Fill in the form by nominating the service type, state and location. Then click search. Now you will have a list of preschools, daycare providers and other caregivers in your chosen location. Click on the one that you are interested in. The page that appears will provide contact and general information about the establishment. Half-way down the page, you will find the tab called “Quality.”
Click on this tab to find the government assessment of the provider. Remember that people who provide babysitting or programs in their own homes have not been assessed. If you have troubles finding information on the My Child website, send me an email or comment and I’ll be happy to help.
2. Search the My School website to evaluate and compare schools on academic performance and demographics
This is the most comprehensive website of Australian primary and secondary schools, both public and private. My School is run by ACARA, an independent, statutory public service authority and is reliable. It provides aggregated information about school size, faculty numbers, student profiles (including socio-educational background, language backgrounds other than English, percentage of Indigenous students, and the ratio of boys to girls) and achievement in NAPLAN tests. NAPLAN (National Assessment Program – Literacy and Numeracy) tests are administered annually to all public and private students in years 3, 5, 7 and 9 in Australia. The tests assess students’ skills in reading, writing, conventions of language (spelling, grammar and punctuation) and numeracy (mathematics). It is a moot point whether the figures reflect the quality of education at schools, as other factors could affect student performance. Nonetheless, these figures are an ideal starting point for an exploration of schooling options.
The My School website allows parents to see how well individual schools in Sydney are performing based on the school’s aggregate NAPLAN scores and to compare the school’s performance to other schools. School communities with similar socio-educational backgrounds are compared on the site as a matter of course. The figures also compare student achievement over time, giving some indication about the possible school effect. The website also profiles individual schools. Each school profile offers parents an unparalleled glimpse into the school’s student body, the size of the school, the number of teachers, and the school’s budget, as well as a narrative description of the school’s program and approach, and a link to the school’s website. As such it is a must-use resource for parents who want to make better choices about schooling for their children.
3. Use school ranking tables to zero-in on high performing schools.
School ranking tables (also known as league tables) are another useful source of information. The methodology used to create these rankings is not always clearly explained on the websites that publish these tables, but it appears that predominantly NAPLAN data for years 3-9 are mined to create the rankings. There are also not many websites that offer primary and secondary school rankings because a 2009 NSW law prohibits the publishing of school rankings in newspapers and other public documents (Education Amendment (Publication of School Results) Act 2009, link to the law). Nevertheless, there are a handful of sites that publish this information and they can be used to begin narrowing down your search to the best performing academic schools.
The Better Education website is the most up-to-date tool for primary school up to Year 10 high school rankings. Without the benefit of 2020 NAPLAN results, it's best to check the 2019 ranking of the best primary schools and best high schools.
4. Use HSC results to rank the best high schools in Sydney.
Each year the NSW Education Standards Authority (NESA) publishes selected year 12 student results on the Higher School Certificate (HSC). These results are used to create rankings tables of high performing schools in Sydney. These rankings of both public and private high schools are highly popular and several newspapers report them. You can find the rankings of most NSW high schools that participated in the HSC, including an explanation of the terms used in the rankings, via the Daily Telegraph.
I hope these resources will help you find the best school in Sydney for your child.
This article by Jennifer R. Uhlmann was originally featured on EducationGPS.org as 4 Key Resources to Help You Find the Best Schools in Sydney and is republished here with permission.
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