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Enrolments at selective schools up for review
04-Jul-2013 | 11:10 AM

By Josephine Tovey, Education Editor

Sydney Morning Herald 29 June 2013

A request from Sydney Boys High School to vary its enrolment criteria and set a quota of places for local students will be considered as part of a broader review of year 7 entry to selective schools.

Last month the principal of Sydney Boys High, Kim Jaggar, reignited a familiar debate when he called for the prestigious school to be allowed to deviate from the present selective school system and set aside a certain number of places for local students on the basis of academic, sporting or civic merit.

Education Minister Adrian Piccoli said he would consider the proposal but has now asked the department to include it in a broader review.

In a letter to Sydney MP Alex Greenwich, a supporter of the Sydney Boys' proposal, Mr Piccoli wrote ''the decision to vary the criteria for one selective high school has the potential to impact on all selective high schools'', and that he had asked the department to include it in ''a consideration of the Year Seven entry to selective schools''.

A spokesman for Mr Piccoli said ''information about how the review is proposed to occur will be provided by the department to the minister next month'' and more detail on the review's scope would be available then.

Competition for year 7 places in the state's 17 fully selective schools is increasingly fierce and is determined by an exam and the child's academic performance at their primary school, measures some critics claim are too narrow.

The Sydney Boys proposal called for 30 of the 180 year 7 places to be reserved for students who live within five kilometres of the school, who would be admitted on the basis of their academic record as well as other factors.

News of a review has been welcomed by supporters of the Sydney Boys High call and by Tony Vinson, who led an inquiry into public education in 2002 that recommended sweeping changes to the selective school system.

Professor Vinson said reform along the lines of the Sydney Boys' proposal would be an improvement but did not go as far as his inquiry, which recommended many of the state's fully selective schools become only partially selective and that all comprehensive schools offer academic extension programs for gifted students. "It sounds to me like a good initiative but it's tinkering somewhat when you compare it with what we did ultimately recommend," he said. "But obviously it would do no harm, it would be good … an improvement for sure."

Mr Greenwich, who is campaigning for more public high school places in inner Sydney, also welcomed a broader review but called on the minister to allow a trial of the Sydney Boys' proposal at the school. ''I hope Sydney Boys doesn't have to wait for a statewide review,'' he said.

But several selective school students Fairfax Media spoke to were against any statewide change that gave preference to local students. "It's an issue of fairness; it's not what selective schools stand for," said Brendan Ma, a year 10 student at James Ruse High School.

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