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Are Private Schools Academically Elite?

As parents, you want your child to have the best possible education. You may spend over half a million dollars sending your children to the “best” private school in Sydney. But is that expensive private school providing your child with the best academic education? Does the private school perform at the top of the state and give your child the chance to compete academically with the students at selective schools?

When choosing the best school for your child, you will inevitably face the choice; should your child sit for the selective test or should you enrol them in a private school?

Selective schools are government high schools offering high-achieving students entry into Year 7 on the basis of academic merit as demonstrated by their performance in the school curriculum and the Selective High School Placement Test. Private schools are independent, and provide more opportunities for co-curricular activities and have access to state-of the-art facilities. But are they still academically rigorous? By sending your child to a private school, will it offer your child the opportunity to achieve the best possible ATAR and gain entry into a top-ranking university course?

The graph below shows the HSC rankings for the most prominent selective and private schools in Sydney between 2010-2016. The top 10 schools are predominately selective, with James Ruse Agricultural High at the number 1 rank for all years in our data set. Sydney Grammar and Abbotsleigh are the top performing private schools, averaging ranks 10 and 13 over the 7 year period.

Meriden, in the inner west has improved from rank 53 in 2010, to within the top 20 rank in 2016, and is considered the top private school for girls in the inner west. Reddam House has moved from a 40 rank school to now a top-10 ranked school in 2016.

Private schools that performed poorly (average rank greater than 60) over the period include; St Joseph’s College, Hills Grammar, Cranbrook, International Grammar School, The Scots College, St Andrew’s Cathedral School and Redlands. Cranbrook, St Joseph’s College and International Grammar School have had a significant decline in ranking recent years. It is clear, that not all private schools are academically elite.

Our analysis is based on HSC results only. Some schools, such as Trinity Grammar, MLC and Newington, specialise in the IB, where the top 60% of students take on this program. The results for these schools are skewed to the downside as they do not consider how the IB score converts into an ATAR as part of the school ranking. These schools look like they have performed poorly over the period and that their rank is declining. This is because more and more of the top students are doing the IB.

Why do selective schools perform better?

Entry into selective schools is based on academic merit and performance in the Selective High School Placement Test. The top performing selective schools have the highest cut offs based on minimum marks in the test. There is a high correlation to the schools with the highest ranking and the highest minimum marks required to achieve entry.

In 2016, James Ruse only took students that achieved a score above 239/300. The test is challenging and requires significant preparation if you want your child to gain an offer at the top selective schools. Here, at Little Geniuses, we specialise in training students for the selective exams.

Private schools entrance tests require coaching too

Gaining entry into private schools is not as simple as paying an enrolment fee. There are stringent selection processes for each of the elite private schools. Sydney Grammar and St Aloysius have entrance exams, different to the selective school tests. Most private schools have interviews. This requires planning and coaching to guarantee a spot for your child at the ideal school. Many of the entrance tests and applications are required at a minimum of 2 years before the entrance start date. Preparation is key and we, at Little Geniuses, specialise in preparing your child for these exams. We tailor our lessons specifically to train your child for these exams.

Which school should you choose?

As always, the decision of which school to send your child to is a question of priorities. We have provided detail on how the different schools perform academically. But there are other factors to consider such as social environment, quality of teachers and opportunities. Private schools place a lot of importance on the co-curricular programs such as music and sport and have a greater focus on producing “well-rounded” individuals.

Little Geniuses is here to help

At Little Geniuses, we specialise in training students to achieve entry into these top private schools and selective schools. We then continue to help throughout their schooling from Yr7-12 to help them achieve the highest ATAR and IB marks.

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