Keith Wheeler’s Wheeler’s Wisdom | OPINION

THE Sunday papers a week ago were headlining that some Sydney parents were falsifying their addresses to enrol their children at particular schools.

The Domain advertisement across the bottom of pages in The DA asks, “Is it in the right school zone?”

Where you buy your house could therefore have a lifelong impact on your children.

Real estate values can reflect the school zone in which the house is located.

The Domain “School Zones” feature tells the prospective buyer in which “school catchment” area a listing falls.

There was a time when parents were encouraged to choose the school for their children.

Today, the reality is less clear.

Go to education.nsw.gov.au and you will read that “Every child is entitled to be enrolled at the government school that is designated for the intake area within which the child’s home is situated.” 

So you can enrol locally, but not necessarily at the school of your choice. Parents can try to enrol in a school they have heard is “the best” but may be told that there are no vacancies.

When we moved to Wagga we wanted a home in the Tatton catchment. Tatton was a “temporary” school near Caloola Court.

In those days, with little Plumpton Road traffic, children could be collected by parents without danger, school buses loaded and unloaded off the street, there was plenty of playground area, and most importantly, the children came from supportive families.

When you are choosing anything for your own children you want the best. Home values in the Tatton catchment reflected the school’s popularity.

Other schools in Wagga held in high regard at that time also had dearer real estate nearby. In other words, every homeowner has a stake in their local school’s reputation, because it affects their home’s value.

As principal I was transferred from Lockhart to Kooringal Public School. Members of the school’s P&C invited me to a meeting during the Christmas holidays.

They knew my children went to Tatton. They knew Tatton was slated for closure. They knew Tatton parents were campaigning politically to be allowed to by-pass Kooringal for a school of their choice.

“We have a good school,” the Kooringal P&C members told me.

“We want everyone to know we have a good school,” the conversation went on.

It was true. The scruffy buildings at that time hid some very good features. Within a couple of years the school had a concert band, senior students were bringing home academic prizes and the P&C had paid to air-cool their school.

In the early 1990s Education Minister, Terry Metherell, was actually encouraging parents to “shop around”!

An enthusiastic Kooringal school community plus enthusiastic teachers (and can I modestly add, an enthusiastic principal) took advantage of Metherell’s policy, which saw the school grow from 400 students to “school full” at 560 in a very short time. 

Kooringal became a very desirable school, and I know it still is, because one of my grand-daughters is a student there!

In other words, what I am saying is that everyone in the local community, and every homeowner, has a stake in ensuring that “their” school is seen as the “best” school.

I contacted the local Education office to ask for a comment about out-of-zone enrolment in Wagga.

The call was not returned.

KEITH WHEELER