Selective entry schools provide an alternative to mainstream schooling for academically gifted students. There are four government sector selective entry high schools in Victoria, each enrolling students in Years 9 to 12.
- The Mac. Robertson Girls' High School (girls only) in Melbourne
- Melbourne High School (boys only) in South Yarra
- Nossal High School (coeducational) in Berwick
- Suzanne Cory High School (coeducational) in Werribee
If you are considering selective schooling for your child, read on as we explain what you need to know.
Is my child eligible for entry into a selective school?
Selective entry schools enrol students based on performance in an entry examination. Unlike most government schools, they are not required to enrol students from the local area. These schools only accept the best and academically brightest students, which makes entry very competitive. Students from government and non-government schools are eligible to sit the entry exam, with most students applying in Year 8 for entry at Year 9 level. Limited places are also available for Year 10, 11 and 12 entrants.
How does the application process work?
There is one central examination for all selective school applicants. Applications are completed online, opening in February and closing in May, with the examination held in mid-June. To gain entry to one of the schools, students are required to submit preferences. This is similar to the tertiary application process, with applicants choosing preferences based on the school they would most like to attend, second most like to attend and so on. A maximum of three preferences may be submitted. Although zoning restrictions do not apply, preferences are likely to be based on the gender of the school, subjects available and the environment best suits your child's needs. Proximity to your home is also very important, particularly if your child will be responsible for making their way to and from school. Consider travel time and public transport availability, bearing in mind that they may have study sessions or social activities planned after school or over the weekend.
What is the structure of the entrance examination?
The entrance examination focuses on academic potential and reasoning skills rather than knowledge of curriculum, allowing students to demonstrate their intellectual capacity and ability to succeed in an academically demanding environment. It takes three hours to complete and comprises six tests in total, which cover both ability and achievement. Ability tests include verbal and numerical reasoning, while achievement tests include reading comprehension, mathematics, creative writing and persuasive writing. Practice examination papers are available on the Department of Education and Early Childhood Education (DEED) website and provide an opportunity for your child to get familiar with the exam structure and level of difficulty. It's best to conduct these practice tests in real time, giving your child an indication of what it's like to sit a long exam under pressure.
What are the advantages of selective entry schools?
One of the biggest advantages of selective entry high schools is their academic focus, which means that students learn surrounded by equally bright, ambitious and like-minded students. The schools aim to simulate an adult learning environment by encouraging self-directed learning, ultimately preparing students for tertiary study. The cost of schooling is another clear advantage. As government schools, selective entry schools charge voluntary contributions rather than tuition fees, representing excellent return on investment given their consistently strong academic performance. There are few disadvantages, although the competitive, high-pressure environment may be not be suitable for all students, and most are capable of achieving exceptional results in a non-selective school.
Is it all about academics?
The short answer is no. As a parent, you can rest assured that your child will still receive a balanced, well-rounded education. Like non-selective schools, selective entry schools have rich extracurricular programs that offer students the chance to take part in a multitude of non-academic activities from leadership opportunities and social service to students clubs, sport, camps and overseas exchanges.
For more information about Victorian selective schools, consult each of the school's profiles listed above, visit their websites and look out for information sessions and school tours held before the examination. These sessions give you an opportunity to see the school in action, giving your child some insight into what it will be like to study in an academically competitive environment.
You will also find plenty of information on the Victorian Department of Education and Early Childhood website: