What are selective high schools?

Selective high schools are specifically designed to provide optimal learning conditions that will make a difference in supporting the development of academic talent and the wellbeing of high potential and gifted students. 

These schools help students learn by grouping them with students of similar ability and by using specialised evidence-based teaching methods to allow students to move through the curriculum at a faster pace and explore concepts in greater depth and with greater complexity.

Research demonstrates that, in addition to providing academic benefits, grouping high potential and gifted students together is also good for students’ emotional wellbeing. Most students in selective high schools report higher levels of satisfaction from learning with, and being friends with, like-minded students.

Selective high schools are unzoned so parents can apply regardless of where they live.

VIDEO: What are opportunity classes and selective high schools?

Transcript of video animation: “What are opportunity classes and selective high schools?” (2 minutes 50 seconds)

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[Female narrator]

The NSW Department of Education is committed to supporting all students to achieve their educational potential.

We recognise that all students require support to optimise their growth and achievement, including high potential and gifted students. One offering that the Department provides for these students is opportunity classes and selective high schools.

So, what are opportunity classes and selective high schools?

Opportunity classes, often called OC classes, are located in government primary schools and cater for high potential and intellectually gifted Year 5 and Year 6 students. There are:

  • 77 opportunity classes across NSW, and
  • Aurora College, a virtual opportunity class for students living in rural and remote areas and are enrolled in authorised host schools.

Selective high schools are government schools for high potential and gifted students. There are:

  • 17 fully selective high schools - where all students attending the school are high potential or gifted
  • 26 partially selective high schools - where a school has a specialist class or classes for high potential or gifted students within a regular comprehensive high school
  • 4 agricultural selective high schools, some with boarding facilities for students from regional and remote areas, and
  • Aurora College, a virtual selective high school for high potential and gifted students who live in regional, rural or remote NSW and don’t have access to a selective high school in their local area.

Opportunity classes and selective high schools help students to learn by grouping them with students of similar ability and using specialised evidence-based teaching methods. These settings aim to meet the intellectual needs of the students by moving through curricula at a faster pace, and allowing students to explore concepts in more depth and with greater complexity.

Research demonstrates that grouping high potential and gifted students together has academic benefits and is also good for emotional wellbeing. The majority of students in opportunity classes or selective high schools report higher levels of satisfaction from learning with, and being friends with, like-minded students.

For further information please visit our website.

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The Selective Education Team administers Year 7 placement in a selective high school. This is a separate process from that for entry to specialist high schools such as performing arts or sports high schools. The Conservatorium High School is a specialist high school but applicants take the Selective High School Placement Test as part of their application to the Conservatorium High School.

Find out more about how gifted students are catered for in NSW schools, including the updated High Potential and Gifted Education Policy.

Types of selective high schools

There are fully selective, partially selective and agricultural high schools offering Year 7 placement throughout NSW.

Fully selective high schools

There are 17 fully selective high schools in NSW. In these schools all classes are academically selective.

Partially selective high schools

There are 27 partially selective high schools in NSW taking Year 7 students, where one or two classes are selective while other classes are non-selective for local students. The students in the selective classes participate in separate English, mathematics and science classes. They generally join the non-selective students for classes in other subjects.

Younger or older siblings of students placed in partially selective high schools are not guaranteed approval for an out-of-area placement there if it is not their local high school.

Richmond High School is a partially selective high school where students in the selective class must study agriculture.

Agricultural high schools

There are four fully selective agricultural high schools located throughout NSW. Agricultural high schools are selective high schools which emphasise the study of agriculture—they are a mix of boarding and day placement. Isolated students receive extra consideration for boarding places.

  • Farrer Memorial Agricultural High School — day and boarding places for boys only
  • Hurlstone Agricultural High School — day and boarding places for girls and boys
  • James Ruse Agricultural High School — day places only for boys and girls
  • Yanco Agricultural High School — boarding places only for boys and girls

Aurora College

Aurora College offers Years 7 to 10 rural and remote students an opportunity to participate in selective classes for English, mathematics and science through a virtual high school. Students must be intending to enrol in a rural or remote NSW high school (their host school) to be considered for entry to Aurora College. There is a separate application process for entry to Years 11 and 12.

Where are they located?

There are 47 selective high schools for Year 7 entry each year, including an online class, Aurora College, for rural and remote students.

  • 17 selective high schools
  • 25 partially selective high schools
  • 4 agricultural selective high schools (some offer boarding)
  • A virtual class, Aurora College, is available for rural and remote students in 182 authorised host schools.

See a list of all the selective high schools.

Or view on the map below.

Numbers of places

Find out how many places are available in selective high schools for placement in Year 7.

Help with choosing a selective high school

Watch the video below for advice on choosing a selective high school for your child.

VIDEO: Choosing a selective high school or an opportunity class

Transcript of video animation: “Choosing a selective high school or an opportunity class” (4 minutes 7 seconds)

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[Female narrator]

Choosing the best schooling option for your child is a big decision. And each NSW public school is unique, so please take the time to learn which is the best fit for your child.

Here are some important factors to take into account when considering an opportunity class or selective high school.

Curriculum
All NSW public schools offer a range of subjects which follow the NSW curriculum. Both opportunity classes and selective high schools follow the same curriculum as comprehensive schools, but the manner of delivery may be different. Some selective high schools may offer elective subjects that others do not. Some may also offer particular subjects using accelerated learning techniques. Additionally, some selective high schools are agricultural schools that require all students to take agriculture as a subject up until Year 10. Partially selective high schools are more likely to offer vocational education subjects.

Extracurricular activities
Extracurricular activities are an important part of school life. Selective schools typically offer a wide range of sporting, musical and creative activities. Therefore, it’s important to find out what’s available in each school beyond the standard curriculum.

The location of schools
There are many benefits to choosing a school that is located close to your home. A lengthy travel time can affect your child’s ability to take part in before and after school classes and extracurricular activities. Research tells us that excessive travel can impact on academic performance and student wellbeing.

There are a number of ways you can learn more about the schools you are considering. Ask around. Your family, friends and members of the local community can often be a valuable source of information.

Look online
Consulting a school’s website and social media accounts can help you learn more about the staff and students at a school, as well as the subjects and the extracurricular activities a school offers.

Talk with your child
Talk to your child about their schooling options. Together, consider your child’s interests and abilities, their academic and social-emotional needs, as well as any specialised support they may require. You should only choose schools for placement that your child wants to attend.

Visit the schools
This is the best way to learn about a school. It provides you with an opportunity to meet staff and see the schools’ facilities and students. If your child has a disability or medical conditions that require specific supports you can discuss this with staff at the school and learn about the ways the school can support you and your child. Most schools hold one or more open days or offer school tours. You should check the school’s website to find out when these are held.

And remember, the order of your school choices is important. Places in opportunity classes and selective high schools are primarily determined by a student’s performance in the placement test, but there are other factors that affect placement outcomes. You can learn about these in the next video.

School choice can be changed up until a week after the test, so you do have time to visit schools in the lead up to, and following, the placement test.

For more information, please visit our website.

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WEBINAR VIDEO: Understanding selective education in NSW

Student resource hub

Encourage your child to visit the Applying for a selective high school: Student resource hub.

Here students can:

  • find out about the benefits of selective high schools
  • learn more about whether a selective high school might be a good fit
  • take interactive quizzes
  • practice test items to help them prepare
  • and lots more.
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