Shopping Around For The Right Edulocation

Found this article in the local paper today about an Adelaide phenomenon (although probably not restricted to my city) where parents of school age children are positioning themselves for access to zoned (read popular) public schools by purchasing or renting housing within the school zones. As noted in the comments, the post reads a bit like a plug for local real estate agents but does highlight some of the thinking or perceptions by families in suburban Adelaide.

Brock Harcourt's chief executive Greg Moulton said homes in sought-after primary school zones had become particularly popular in the months since the effects of the global financial downturn became pronounced.

"I think people have started to re-evaluate their finances and they're looking for value for the dollar in every aspect of their lives," he said.

"Children's education remains an extremely high priority and they're trying to do the right thing by their kids."

Toop & Toop managing director Anthony Toop said interest from younger families wanting to buy in popular primary school zones had increased dramatically this month.

Now, I teach at one of these "popular" primary schools and from observation, I think that many of these decisions aren't actually based on educational standards. I'm not saying that this is the thinking of all parents but it seemed for some, merely the impression that a place is desirable or hard to get into (courtesy of zones¹) has some figuring that popularity equals quality. Sometimes it's because of the neighbourhood which has some parents thinking that there will be less bad influences in the school yard. It's what my previous principal called "parents with middle class aspirations for their children." A quality curriculum and quality teaching seem more a bonus rather than characteristics actively sought from a school.

Of course, the newspaper editorial doesn't quite see things my way. From an outsider's, journalistic point of view, this is what's actually happening:

FAMILIES moving house to ensure entry to particular public primary schools should be good news for the State Government. It is proof that if schools provide high academic standards, good outcomes for their students and involve the community, then parents will embrace public education.

This alone should remind the Government of the benefits of properly funding schools and the public education system. At the same time, governments should ensure that those schools are accountable to parents in a transparent way.

If this means more open school reports, rewards for better-performing teachers and better resources for schools, then state and federal governments should not shy away.

The long-term benefits to society of a strong, rigorous and quality public education system are immeasurable.

Australia has a public education system of which it is justifiably proud.

Those responsible for managing and implementing our system of public schooling should have nothing to fear from fair, accurate and balanced measurement of educational standards.

My view from the inside is a little different. Does anyone else have something similar happening in their neck of the woods?

¹ Zones are artificial borders drawn around a school to define an intake area from where students are guaranteed enrolment. Students from beyond those borders are denied or given enrolement at the discretion of the school, although I've been told that this isn't really legally enforceable.
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7 thoughts on “Shopping Around For The Right Edulocation

  1. Russel Montgomery

    Hi Graham

    Sure do. Not so much for Primary schools that I know of, but certainly for Secondary schools.

    Being in the right school zone can add plenty to the value of a property (rental or purchase).

    Such school also market themselves by providing scholarships for “out of zone” kids. My son benefits from one such scholarship.

    I live in Perth West Oz.

  2. sylvia martinez

    This is also very common in the USA. It’s also a favorite of real estate agents – since our local newspapers publish test scores for each school in the area. Agents use those lists to steer families to purchase homes in areas with high scoring schools, and prices go up.

    Maybe real estate agents should pay for some of costs of testing?

  3. Graham Wegner

    @Russel The secondary school scenario happens a lot here and has for many years but moving house for specific primary schools is a newer occurrence. At least in the high school scenario you are looking at things like subject choices and special programs that will be specific to your child.

    @Sylvia Our primary school test scores (which only happen bi-annually from Year 3) are not available for public comparison (although some politicians are working hard to change that) so I have heard reasons around my community that are just merely things like “I hear it’s a good school”, “I’ve heard you have good kids”, “Your school looks nice when I drive past” or “They’ve got interactive whiteboards and a nice gym” as reasons for wanting their child to attend. Teaching methods and curriculum are almost never mentioned. I won’t go into the reasons some friends of ours chose Catholic schools instead but rest assured the academic program was not one of them!

  4. Russel Montgomery


    Actually, We get the informal stuff here around primary schools. For example, Lathlain is considered better than Carlisle on suburb away. Its all sorts of things like you mention.


    For Secondary we have published score tables as well. They are controversial still but have become established practice.

    I like your idea about Real Estate agents paying for them. It really is a free ride for them.

  5. Pam Thompson

    This evolution of relocation doesn’t surprise me too much Graham.As you’re probably aware the school I’ve just left is zoned and has a very good reputation, but I would say mainly based on perceptions. I think at primary level the ‘feel’ of the school has a lot to do with it, and the interactions the parents may have had with the staff. Heaven forbid that we end up with league tables for primary schools!

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  7. Isaak Kwok

    Well, in Singapore, relocation for the sake of the primary school your child goes to is a very big thing. Once they have children, the parents will start to look at relocating within one kilometer of the ‘good’ schools.

    My sister-in-law is in the process of selling her place to move to a more expensive location so that her daughters can go to the school that she wants. And she needs to shift now as she needs to be staying in the new location for at least a year.

    By the way, in Singapore, there is a yearly publication ranking both primary and secondary schools. And I guess it also affects the property market in the areas where the top-ranked schools are located.


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