Finding quality childcare and schools in Sydney is a daunting task. There are so many options and factors to consider. Rather than feeling liberated by these choices, we often feel overwhelmed by what seem like fateful 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 five educational resources that will help you find the best childcare and schools in Sydney.
#1. Use Starting Blocks to compare childcare and day care programs.
This is the single best website to compare the educational quality of childcare 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 and is an excellent place to start your research on early childhood education programs.
#2. Review EducationGPS.org’s childcare report cards to make quick and easy comparisons.
If the bureaucratic language and format of Starting Blocks doesn’t suit you, try childcare report cards. These report cards use the familiar A-F system (you can find out more about it here) and are based on government assessments organised by the Australian Children’s Education & Care Quality Authority (ACECQA). The report cards allow quick and easy comparisons of childcare and daycare establishments in Sydney and as such are a favourite of many.
#3. Search myschool.edu.au 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 aggregate information about school size, faculty numbers, student profiles (including socio-educational background, language backgrounds other than English, percentage of Indigenous students, and 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.
#4. 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 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 and up to year 10 high school rankings. The website is difficult to navigate and chock-a-block full of distracting advertisements. I search it via Google rather than suffering through the ads. Here is a link to a list of its 2017 best primary schools in Sydney (click here). For a list of Sydney’s suburbs with its highest ranked schools, click here (click here). For the Better Education 2017 ranking of Sydney’s best high schools, check here (click here). To confirm the picture that the Better Education rankings draw, you can also search the School Catchment website (click here) which provides a 2016 rankings table for Sydney’s primary schools.
#5. 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 mined and 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 2017 rankings of most NSW high schools that participated in the HSC, including an explanation of the terms used in the rankings, on the Daily Telegraph site (click here). For those wanting to search a particular school’s ranking, the Sydney Morning Herald has an interactive website that allows you to search schools by name (click here).
I hope these resources will help you find the best childcare and schools in Sydney for your child. If you have any questions or concerns, please get in touch.
This article was first published on EducationGPS.org.