There are three tiers of high school in Sydney:
- Private schools. Nowhere near as expensive as Britain, because they are subsidised by the state, but even so, when you are earning Aussie dollars, they can certainly add up.
- Selective high schools. Each year, year 6 students can elect to take tests to see if they can get a place in a selective high school. About a quarter of those sitting the tests get offered a place. Don't assume that your "local" secondary school is operating on a catchment system. These schools are all fully selective:
Baulkham Hills High School · Caringbah High School · Fort Street High School · Girraween High School · Gosford High School · Hornsby Girls' High School · Merewether High School · Normanhurst Boys' High School · North Sydney Boys High School · North Sydney Girls High School · NBSC - Manly Selective Campus · Penrith High School · Smith's Hill High School · St. George Girls' High School · Sydney Boys High School · Sydney Girls High School · Sydney Technical High School
Some of the remaining ones, Chatswood High School on the north side and Ryde Secondary college, on the north west side come to mind, are partially selective, whatever that really means.
Comprehensive schools - these schools are like sinkhole schools, educating those who are either not bright enough (more like not good enough at sitting exams) to get into selective state schools or have parents who can't afford to send them to a private school.
Something else to think about with these schools - a large proportion of the students have a south east Asian background, so Chinese, Vietnamese, people from well off families, including Indian ones. There is some controversy at the moment about North Sydney Boys, for instance, where it is claimed over 70% of their students come from a non English speaking background.
Of all the cities to live in, in Australia, the one I liked the most was Sydney. But I wouldn't educate my children there. If you are not into the 11+, or into the kind of selective hell one goes through to get one's children into certain primary schools or secondary schools in some parts of England (Bradford comes to mind, and the Trafford part of Manchester, though not the much more egalitarian Manchester local education authority), and if you don't want your children to be in the minority if they are "fortunate" enough to get into a selective high school, then maybe it is better to look at areas other than Sydney for places to live.
The impact of selective high schools tends to mean that the neighbouring non selective comprehensive school is like a sink hole school. Basically, the selecitive high schools take the cream of the students, including from private schools. In Sydney, if you can afford to send your kid to a private school, first you would try to save the $15,000 to $25,000 a year fees by seeing if you can get them into a selective state school.
If you look at somewhere like Melbourne, in comparison, they have only 2 selective high schools and if you live in the catchment area for Balwyn High, (one of the best state schools in Victoria) you get to go to the school. In Brisbane, Brisbane High school is selective, but only partially so. Not sure about Adelaide high school - it is selective, but I am not sure if it also offers places to it's local catchment students.