parent opinion

Lying on forms and moving house: When school zones force parents to take drastic measures.

I still hear many people of my mum’s generation say: “In our day you just sent your child to the local neighbourhood school. It was as simple as that.”

And while this is still the case for many Australians, especially those in rural areas where there may only be one option, for others the decision is not “as simple as that.”

In fact it is a far more complex process which can generate immense pressure and even competitive tactics to ensure your child secures a position at the school you want them to attend.

Things have changed since we were in school. Post continues after video.

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From the decision of what type of school you would like your child to go to – private, independent or government – to the specific schools within these groups, the choices can be overwhelming and the enrolment policies and school zone stipulations can be strict, tedious and confusing.

Government schools are no exception to this. In some cases they are arguably more competitive, because the vast majority are zoned by a designated neighbourhood area, which means if your school of choice is outside your zone you are not guaranteed a spot.

The Victorian Government website states: “You have the choice to enrol your child at a school outside of your designated neighbourhood zone. The school may accept this enrolment as long as it has enough space. Once the school is full, it cannot accept enrolments from outside its neighbourhood zone.”

Essentially where you live matters the most for whether you can be accepted into a specific government school or not. If a school is high demand or within a growth area, this zone can be the end all of your enrolment application being accepted.

Take my daughter’s government primary school for example. Hers is one of the most popular and in-demand public primary schools within the regional city I live in.

As well as this popularity we also happen to live in an area with major growth, which makes these zones quite important as they are very strictly followed. For years now applicants outside the specified zone have been turned away because there is simply no room for them.

Luckily for us, our house falls within the school’s neighbourhood zone – but if our house was across the other side of our street, it wouldn’t.

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For us personally, if we did live on the other side of our road, we wouldn’t be happy with sending our children to the government primary school option zoned for us – which makes this invisible zone line even more imperative.

 

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Unfortunately, for many other families, being outside the zone of their school of choice is a common situation. This includes some of the families who are at the same school my children attend. For some of these parents, to ensure their placement at the school, they lied.

One mother I know put down a family member’s address who lived within the zone on their application. This mother lived one suburb away from the school and based on kilometres it was the closest to them, but because “the designated neighbourhood school is measured by a straight line from your permanent address,” their home was outside the school’s neighbourhood zone.

They were ultimately accepted.

Some parents go to even more drastic measures, like moving house to ensure they are considered a part of the specific school zone.

LISTEN: Hosts of our parenting podcast This Glorious Mess, Holly Wainwright and Andrew Daddo, discuss the expensive expectations of school today. Post continues below.

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Mel*, a mother of three, was in a similar position to myself, except her house was on the wrong side of the train tracks – literally. One side was a part of their local high school of choice’s catchment, the other side wasn’t.

Although this hadn’t been an issue for her previously when her two eldest children attended the school, due to the growth within the area, her youngest was denied acceptance because they lived outside the zoned area.

“I was really shocked and upset that although we had been a part of the school community previously with two other kids going through, just because we were mere metres on the wrong side of the zone boundary we were rejected,” Mel said.

Because Mel felt her options were limited, she made the decision to sell her house and purchase one streets away, on the right side of the railway tracks.

“I reapplied with the new address and my son was accepted. Although it was a huge upheaval and inconvenience, for me, it wasn’t really a choice. It was his education and this was the school that would provide him the best one,” she said.

Providing the best educational opportunities for our children is paramount for the majority of parents, and the lengths some will go to might seem convoluted or perhaps even extreme – but for them it unfortunately is necessary.

Shona Hendley, Mother of Goats, Cats and Humans is a freelance writer from Victoria. An ex secondary school teacher, Shona has a strong interest in education and is a passionate animal lover and advocate. You can follow her on Instagram.

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