AusFinance Gazette

Here’s How School Catchment Areas Work

Is there anything more competitive than the school enrolment process? Some parents start thinking about where they want their kid to go before they’re even conceived.

And seeing as waiting lists for some schools are even longer than The Irishman, getting in early makes sense. But before you throw down a significant chunk of change on a bribe—sorry, gift—to accompany those enrolment papers, you’re going to want to wrap your head around school catchment areas first. Don’t have kids? School catchment areas can still play a significant role in property prices, so either way, it pays to be in the know.

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The Basics

Essentially, a school catchment area is the geographical location that a public school’s core intake of students must reside. In NSW, these designated intake areas are determined by the Department of Education. Based on a child’s residential address, they are automatically entitled to enrol in a school which exists within the defined local enrolment zones—aka school catchment areas. By law, every state school must reserve enough places for students who live within the catchment area.

However, that doesn’t mean that a child must only attend a school within their catchment area. Most schools accept ‘out-of-area-enrolments’, but only if places remain available after local enrolments have been fulfilled. Obviously, then, if the demand for local enrolment exceeds the number of places available, out-of-area applications are out of the question. That’s why proximity to good schools is the top priority on so many house-hunter’s ‘must-have’ lists.

The Finer Print

Here’s the kicker, though. School catchment areas aren’t set in stone, and their boundaries can change over time. Due to schools opening and closing and changes in population demographics, the Department of Education may decide to reconfigure school catchments zones to ensure some schools don’t become overcrowded while others remain under capacity. It’s also worth mentioning that if a new school is under construction close by a property you are considering—you may want to wait for the school catchment areas to be officially released. Recently, many inner-city residents learnt this lesson the hard way when the catchment for the brand new, 14-storey Inner Sydney High on Cleveland St was released, with Rose Bay and Woollahra included in the enrolment zone while properties literally across the street in Redfern remained excluded.

Property Wise

Properties within the catchment areas of well-regarded and high-performing public schools can sell for a considerable amount more than those outside of it—up to 2.5% higher, according to a recent study by Monash University. As private school fees continue to rise, priced-out parents are looking to send their children to highly reputable state schools and are buying within their catchment zones to ensure a spot. According to Domain data, the most searched school zone in NSW by buyers was surrounding the high achieving Matthew Pearce Public School in Baulkham Hills. So forget ocean views and proximity to the beach—the hottest property in town sits within the catchment area.

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