Selective High Schools: How are students chosen?

Is your child is aiming for a place in a Selective High school? This information about how students are chosen for Selective Schools from Sonja Walker, teacher and founder of Kids First Children’s Services in Sydney’s northern beaches, could help ..

How are students chosen for Selective Schools

If your child is achieving excellent academic results in Year 4, 5 or 6, you may be thinking about a Selective High School for your child. Before you apply, though, it’s important to know how the system works so that your child has the best chance of success.

What makes Selective High Schools different?
Selective high schools are a sought after educational option for many students in NSW schools. According to the NSW Department of Education & Communities, “Selective high schools cater for gifted and talented students who have superior to very superior academic ability which is matched by exceptionally high classroom performance. These schools can provide intellectual stimulation by grouping together gifted and talented students who may otherwise be isolated from a suitable peer group.”

Selection Committees
To give every candidate a fair and equal chance, the NSW Department of Education and Communities has a Selection Committee that oversees placements to Selective Schools. The Selection Committee is usually made up of the principal of the Selective high school, a parent or community representative, other school staff such as the school counsellor and representatives of the NSW Departments of Education and Communities.

Selection committees must consider the academic merit of all of the students who apply for a place in a Selective high school and to do this, they place them in rank order according to their ‘profile score’

Your child’s profile score will be a mark out of 300 that is a combination of your child’s school assessment scores and external test scores.

Why are school assessments and external test marks used?
According to the NSW Department of Education and Communities, students who benefit the most from a Selective School are usually those who are both gifted and talented.

These are typically kids who have a very high academic ability and who have demonstrated their ability to perform to a similarly high standard in class.

The two sets of assessments measure different things.

The scores your child achieves in the Selective Schools Placement Test are a measure of your child’s academic potential or giftedness.

The scores your child achieves in the school assessment are a measure of your child’s school performance and talent.

Together, these ratings offer very accurate predictors of your child’s chances of success in a Selective School or class.

What scores contribute to my child’s profile?
The scores that contribute to your child’s profile are made up of three components.

  • Maths 
  • English Writing 
  • General Ability 

To determine your child’s profile, each of these are marked out of 100

For the English component of your child’s score, 50% is derived from assessment scores determined by your child’s school. The other 50% comes from your child’s result in the Selective Schools Placement Test.  Two thirds’ weighting is given to reading and writing is allocated one thirds’ weighting.

Your child’s Maths component is also comprised of 50% school assessment scores and 50% Selective Schools Placement Test scores.

Your child’s General Ability scores are derived exclusively from the Selective Schools Placement Test.

When combined, they form a profile score out of 300.

How do schools derive their assessment scores?
When students from their school apply for the Selective Schools Placement Test, principals are asked to rank each of the students.

Each child is given a mark out of 100 for their schoolwork in English and 100 for their Maths. (Remember, 100% of your child’s General Ability scores will be determined by the external test)

Together, the scores serve to rank the students from the highest mark to the lowest mark in the group.

The marks also show the relative gaps between students and their performances. So for example, if the highest ranked child in the group is allocated a mark of 97 for English and the next most capable child is allocated a mark of 83, this demonstrates the relative gap in the two students’ abilities in English.

Selective Schools Placement Test
The Selective Skills Placement Test is specifically written for students seeking Year 7 entry to a Selective high school.

The test is marked by ACER (the Australian Council for Educational Research)

Your child will be allocated to a test centre, where they will sit multiple choice tests in Reading, Mathematics and General Ability. Your child will also complete a writing task.

The multiple choice tests take 40 minutes each and the writing task is allocated 20 minutes

The tests are designed to assess ability rather than classroom performance. In other words, this test is designed to not only show what your child knows, but also what your child can do and is capable of.

When and where will the test take place?

The Selective Schools Placement Test usually takes place in mid-March. Most children who sit for the exam are in Year 6.

All children from your child’s school who have applied for a place at a Selective School will be allocated the same testing centre. This is usually a government high school, but will not necessarily be the high school to which you would prefer to send your child or the one that is closest to your home.

The Selective Schools Placement Test takes place at exactly the same time and on the same day in every centre. It is a little like the HSC. The presiding officers will follow a script so that every candidate receives the same instructions and opportunities.

The test questions

Selective Schools Placement tests are demanding. You child will have less than one minute to answer most of the multiple choice questions testing Maths, English and General Ability skills, so it is a good idea to practice a little before the examination day.

The writing task is based on a stimulus that might include a picture or statement. Your child will be asked to write an unprepared work which demonstrates their creativity, as well as the quality and maturity of their structure and expression.

How are papers marked?
Your child’s exam papers will be marked by trained markers who will see only your child’s candidate number, not their name.

Your child’s paper will be marked separately by two different markers. A third marker may be called upon if there is a discrepancy of more than two points between the scores that have been awarded.

Your child’s creative writing must be original. If it resembles another candidate’s work or a piece that has been previously published in print or on-line, it will receive a mark of zero.

Similarly, if your child’s work is suspected to having been prepared beforehand or the writing bears no relation to the topic, it will be disqualified and no marks will be awarded.

How to prepare
The NSW Department of Education recommends that parents encourage their children to get familiar with the conventions of the Selective Schools Placement test before they sit for the placement exam.

The development of test-taking skills such as the ability to manage time and multiple choice questions can be very valuable preparation.

Special provisions
If your child has a disability, you can apply for special provisions in order to give your child an equal opportunity to perform to their potential. The kinds of special conditions that are sometimes granted include:

  • Permission to use an asthma puffer
  • Special seating near the front to enable a hearing impaired child access to instructions
  • Permission to eat if a child has a medical condition such as diabetes
  • Permission to take medication for a preexisting medical condition
  • Provision of large print papers for children with sight impairments
  • Provision of a scribe who can record the answers of a physically disabled child
  • Double desks that enable wheelchair access

When do applications open?
Applications for the Selective Schools Placement test open approximately in Term 4 of the year that your child is in Year 4.

Typically, applications open in Mid-October and close in mid-November.

If your child is entering Year 7 in 2016, applications close on November 17, 2014.

For an application form and more information about the Selective Schools Placement test, visit the NSW Department of Education and Communities website here

NSW Department of Education and Communities – Going to a Public School – Selective High Schools

© 2014 Kids First Children’s Services

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