Victorian Selective schools: Melbourne High, Mac.Robertson, Nossal & Suzanne Cory entry

Selective entry academic schools provide an educationally enriched environment for academically gifted students who are also high achievers.

There are four selective entry high schools in Victoria for students in Years 9 to 12:

Melbourne High and Mac.Robertson Girls' were Victoria's first two selective high schools and are recognised as two of the finest secondary schools in Victoria so it is worth considering the features which make them so outstanding. Similar standards from Nossal High, and Suzanne Cory High School are being achieved.

They have a selective intake.  All the students have reached a certain level of academic excellence and most would be in the top twenty percent of students at their year level.

Because of the equity considerations and the 5 % rule (see elsewhere) there is a mix of students from different socio-economic groups and a wide mix of ethnic backgrounds.  Thus the schools are a real experience of our multi-cultural society and this is wonderful preparation for working in Australia today.

These schools have a main year of entry at Year 9. They have an entrance exam where the Year 8 students’ aggregate scores are ranked. An acceptable standard in all sections of the exam is required.

Students who go through the selection process are almost always committed to working hard and to feeling proud of good school achievements.

The Education department uses a centralised selection process to admit students to all selective entry schools for the 2018 school year. The common entrance examination will be undertaken by eligible students probably in June 2017.

Eligible students must be in their second year of secondary school at government or non-government schools (usually Year 8), who are either Australian citizens or who have permanent resident status or an appropriate visa. When enrolling, you need to indicate your choice of schools, in order of preference.

If you are seeking to gain entry to these high schools you should start preparing now. Such preparation will certainly increase your chances of success in that exam but, of much greater importance, you will also start on the road of self-education and taking responsibility for your own learning.

Currently 85 per cent of the Year 9 enrolments are selected through the ‘examination’ process described above with no further information or interview required.

10 per cent of places are allocated according to rank, score and equity considerations.  Details of what is an equity consideration may be obtained from the Education Department website.

The remaining 5 per cent are selected through a ‘Principal’s discretionary selection category’.  They are asked to write a letter and present a portfolio of achievements. Consequently, some of these are invited for an interview before the selection is made.

Understanding the 5% rule 

The maximum number of students admitted to the four schools from any one school must not exceed 5% of that contributing school’s year 8 enrolment.  If there are 200 in year 8 at a school, then no more than a total of ten may be selected, even though more students may have reached the required academic standard.

An illustration makes this more easily understood.

XYZ Co-Educational Secondary School has 300 pupils in Year 8.  At 5% there will be fifteen places available.  Twenty-two students sat for the exam and seventeen were up to the standard.  Thus five students would be excluded because they were not up to the standard.  However, because there are only fifteen places available and there were seventeen students who had reached the required level a further two must be excluded.  The top fifteen would receive the places and others would be excluded because of the 5% rule.  They would, however, be asked to apply for a principal's discretionary place.

The balance between boys and girls would depend upon their marks.  The girls and boys are competing for the same fifteen places at any one of the four schools.  A student from a large secondary college from which there are very few candidates may have some advantage.  Every year students and parents say to us, "the 5% rule will not be a problem, he/she will probably be the only one sitting from the school."  On the day of the exam they are usually astounded to find a significant number of candidates from their school.

Do not presume that you will have no competition from the students within your school.

Students in schools with a very small year 8 enrolment may have reduced opportunities when compared with large schools.

The 5% rule is an example of social justice as it ensures that there are places available to students from a very wide spread of socio-economic and ethnic backgrounds.