How COVID-19 Changes How We Choose the Right School

Picking the right school is a big decision, and like many parts of our life now, choosing a school is largely done online.

Residz Team 5 min read

From school tour to search tool: New site shows HSC, VCE, and NAPLAN results.

Picking the right school is a big decision. The pandemic adds another layer of hassle. Open days and school tours aren’t allowed. Fairs have been cancelled. And, when you’re in lockdown, you can’t do a sneaky out-of-area drive-by. Like many parts of our life now, choosing a school is largely done online.  

Important factors in choosing a school

There are many factors involved in finding the best school. Rankings or catchment areas are worth hunting down. Free online platform Residz.com has pulled the publicly-available data from 13,756 schools in Australia. Parents can type in their home address and get help with questions like:

  • Which schools are near me?
  • Which school catchment areas are we in?
  • How many teachers and students does each school have?
  • What are the results or rankings of schools near me?
  • What might I pay for a house near the school I want?
  • What’s my suburb’s internet speed for online schooling?

Below we explain why these factors are important when choosing the right school for your child.  

Which schools are near me?

Let’s face it. We’re hyper-vigilant about school location thanks to 40 km/h speed zones. But which schools are near your house? Use Residz.com to find your local schools.

Real-time traffic info on Residz.com can also help planning.  

Which school catchment areas are we in?

Some houses fall into prized government school catchment areas. It’s a detail worth knowing about your home.

Here’s how school catchment works.

  • Let’s imagine you buy a house in the suburbs near Schools A, B, and C.
  • You hear good things about School B, so you go to enrol your child.
  • Sorry, you’re told, your address is in catchment areas A and C, not B.
  • Aha! This is why your house was cheaper than the one up the road!

Also known as school boundaries, school zones, school intake areas, or priority enrollment areas, prized catchment areas can inflate house prices. To find out your catchment areas, type your address into Residz, click ‘Choose Property’ then click ‘Schools’. Catchments will show up under the ‘Schools’ button.

You can also compare NAPLAN or HSC/VCE results, and other features of each school. As we explain below, even teacher and student numbers are listed.  

How many teachers and students does each school have?

Nobody wants their child to fight for individual attention. So class size is a popular factor for choosing a school. According to Schoolapedia:

  • the first three years of school have a class size of around 24;
  • the upper primary/early middle years will be around 28;
  • and the senior years may be anything from 5 to 35 (depending on subject).

Residz.com publishes the number of teachers and students for every school. The Australian average is 13.5 students to one teacher. Independent schools are a bit lower (11.8 students to one teacher) than Catholic schools (13.7) and government schools (13.9). As you’d expect, it’s not just the number, it’s also teacher quality that matters.

What are the results or rankings of schools near me?

School results are made public. Below a Residz.com search shows us James Ruse Agricultural High School in Carlingford got the best HSC results in 2020 and 2019.

Selective government schools consistently get top results in NSW. Tests for entry are held in March and sample questions can be found here. In Victoria, the best results for the VCE went to Bialik College in Hawthorn East.

NAPLAN is one way you can compare school results across Australia. Aussie kids in years 3, 5, 7 and 9 sit this test in May each year (but not in 2020 due to COVID-19).  To find NAPLAN results, type a suburb or your address into Residz.com, then choose SCHOOLS> NAPLAN.


Independent schools also unofficially rank for prestige as much as results. Many Sydneysiders live near the elite Eastern Suburbs or North Shore private schools, and Melbournites enrol their children in prestigious school equivalents around Kew and Hawthorn.

What might I pay for a house near the school I want?

A private education can add up to half a million dollars by the time your child finishes school.

But it’s also quite costly living near a top government school. Elite government school catchment areas in Melbourne can see $320,000 price differences between houses in and out of the zones. And one primary school catchment in Perth (Como) rose 35.6% in 2020 to a new $901,750 median (Metropole).

Whether buying or selling, it’s worth knowing if you fall into a good catchment area. As I said earlier, a starting point is to type in any address to see school catchment areas and the effect on average price (or last sale price) for houses in that area. You can then factor in school fees, which range from:

  • $12,000 to $42,500 a year (Geelong Grammar School) for independent schools;
  • $9,000 to $12,500 a year for Catholic schools;
  • $3000 to $4,500 a year for government schooling.

What’s my suburb’s internet speed for online schooling?

Who prior to 2020 predicted online schooling would go mainstream?  But, like remote work, that’s reality thanks to COVID-19. Australian teachers were well-prepared.  OECD data shows about 80% of lower secondary teachers ‘frequently or always’ let their students use technology (ICT) prior to the pandemic. For home schooling or remote work, experts recommend 50 to 100 Mbps minimum download speeds and at least 10 Mbps upload speeds if you upload large files to the internet. Data about internet speeds at your house (or any house in Australia!) can be found by typing in your home address here.

Summary

Finding the right school for your child joins the long list of tasks disrupted by the pandemic.

But take a beat to be grateful that we live in such a lucky country.

  • Australia ranks #11 in the most educated countries list.
  • Total student enrolments continue to increase (independent schools 9.5% increase in the five years to 2020, followed by government schools with 5.9% - Australian Bureau of Statistics).
  • And we’re blessed with good technology infrastructure for online schooling.

Yes, it’s important to choose the right school for your child. But even the wrong choice is not the end of the world. You just un-enrol and choose again!

Other resources:

https://raisingchildren.net.au/preschoolers/play-learning/preschool/choosing-a-school

https://is.vic.edu.au/independent-schools/

https://www.australiancurriculum.edu.au/consultation/  https://worldpopulationreview.com/country-rankings/education-rankings-by-country

https://www.abs.gov.au/statistics/people/education/schools/latest-release

From 2020, the OP rank was replaced with the ATAR, bringing Queensland in-line with all other Australian states and territories for university admission scores. Calculate the equivalent here: https://www.uac.edu.au/future-applicants/admission-criteria/atar-op-comparison-table

Image source: https://img.choice.com.au/-/media/39bfe0ffeeb04f6d82bd2d8d132adc49.ashx?w=760