Sydney school catchments fail to stop North West overcrowding

But while some schools are overcrowded, new figures are available herald show that more than 225 public schools are now less than 60 percent occupied. Hundreds of schools have seen a drop in enrollments since 2019.

In the local government areas of Waverley and Mosman, no public school exceeds its enrollment limit, while there are schools in Woollahra, Bayside, Randwick and Lane Cove that can accommodate 200 or more students each.

Public elementary schools in the eastern suburbs — including Rose Bay Public, Clovelly Public and Bondi Beach Public — have seen enrollments plummet by more than 20 percent since 2019 as more parents choose private education.

In Sydney’s inner south-west there are 13 schools with an enrollment rate of less than 60 per cent. Two are below 25 percent: JJ Cahill Memorial High School and Georges River College Hurstville Boys Campus. Hurstville’s decline was compounded by a policy change that allowed parents in that catchment area to enroll at a nearby co-ed campus.

Craig Petersen, chairman of the NSW Secondary Principals Council, said the restrictions on enrollments outside the region had not deterred parents from making school buys, which sees families moving homes and suburbs to secure a place at a coveted school.

“There needs to be more accurate demographic planning, which means we’re more likely to have an adequate number of schools in the right locations,” Petersen said. “We need students to go to their local school.”

Jordan Springs Public, which opened in 2021, already has more than 1000 students despite a cap of 624.

Jordan Springs Public, which opened in 2021, already has more than 1000 students despite a cap of 624.Credit: AAP

Introduced in 2019, student caps are based on a school’s permanent buildings and principals cannot accept out-of-region enrollments if they are over, at, or close to the cap. The measure also aims to prevent families from flocking to popular schools while other schools go unused.

Principals say parents can be attracted to large, high-performing schools – like Castle Hill High, Cherrybrook Technology High and Killara High, all with more than 1,500 students – which are assigned more teachers and which can offer a wider range of subjects.

A mother at Marsden Park’s bursting Northbourne Public school, Mariam Latifi, said her daughter was in one of eight first grade classes. Five years ago she moved to a nearby housing estate.


“School parking is a challenge and for working parents it’s very frustrating to have to leave work early to make sure you get a parking space – an hour before school closes.” You really feel that the school is overburdened especially at meetings or events when the classroom is full with just one grade and their parents,” Latifi said.

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Justin Scaccy

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