Hurstville Public School

Strive for Success

Telephone02 9587 3963

Emailhurstville-p.school@det.nsw.edu.au

OC and Selective HS Information

To assist parents, students and carers in understanding the procedures followed at Hurstville Public School as part of the application for placement in an Opportunity Class or academically Selective High School, the following document has been developed:

HPS OC and SHS Procedures (pdf 387 KB)

As well, parents often have questions about OC and Selective High School, or receive information which is inaccurate and which causes them concern.  We have collected some of those questions which we feel may be commonly shared, and provided answers for your information. We will update these Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) as and when needed.

Frequently Asked Questions about OC and Selective High Schools Processes:

My friend at school XYZ said that their selective high school papers are easy but the teachers at HPS mark harder because there are so many smart kids. Is my child disadvantaged by coming to HPS?

Choosing a school for your child should be based on a range of factors, not just which school is more likely to get your child into Opportunity Class (OC) or an academically selective high school (SHS). At Hurstville Public School, we have many high achieving students in both our mainstream classes and in our OC. As we are also one of the largest primary schools in NSW, we have many more students applying for these specialist classes and schools than do most schools.

For the purpose of providing the High Performing Students Unit (HPSU) with rankings of our students who are applying for OC and SHS, we need to have challenging assessment tasks that will allow us to put our students in rank order in English and in Mathematics. The tests need to be hard enough to separate our many high performing students.

Schools that have a much smaller number of students and/or fewer gifted students, have a much easier task in placing them in rank order! Schools have to choose the most appropriate assessment tasks and methods for their particular circumstances.

Children at Hurstville Public School benefit from having classmates who are keen to learn and to do their best. They are motivated and extended by their peers and teachers. It is not the focus of our teachers, nor should it be, to get children into OC and SHS: rather, our focus is on educating our students and developing their skills and talents so that they can maximise their potential.

 

It's not fair because if my kid went to school XYZ they would do better but at HPS they get marked down because they are compared to a big group of smart kids. Am I right?

For many years, the HPSU has had processes in place to enable them to equate the school assessment scores of students from thousands of primary schools across the state. The processes they use are called "scaling" and "moderating". It is an involved process. However, the key element for parents to understand is that it is not possible – or helpful – to compare the marks of students from other schools, or even the marks of students who sat for OC and SHS at Hurstville Public School in previous years. Because of the scaling and moderating, a particular mark at school XYZ most likely will not equate to the same mark at Hurstville Public School.

The primary school gives English and mathematics school assessment scores to show each student's achievement on the school curriculum in Year 4 for OC and Year 5 for SHS. The scores are scaled (moderated) according to the performance in the respective Placement Tests of the candidates from the child's primary school.

This means the school assessment scores can be compared with those of all other applicants in NSW and gives them equal weighting with the English and mathematics test scores.

The HPSU has prepared an explanation of the scaling and moderating processes, which can be viewed here:

http://www.schools.nsw.edu.au/learning/k-6assessments/oc_markexplain.php

 

I've heard that teachers have discretion to adjust the marks how they want. If the teacher likes one student more than another, she will give that child higher marks. Is this true?

Our teachers are highly trained professionals who take their responsibilities most seriously. In addition, our procedures and processes require our teachers to have evidence for the marks that they give students who are applying for OC or Selective High School placement. Teachers sit together, under the leadership of executive, and look at the students' assessments. Marking guides are provided to ensure consistency in the way work is assessed. Tests may be marked twice, by different teachers, to ensure no mistakes have been made.

Where students have performed equally well on the assessment tasks, and have arrived at exactly the same marks after all the test results are calculated, teachers will, together, look at other work samples from the students until there is enough evidence to separate the students by the smallest of margins.

With these processes, and the professional integrity of the teachers, there is no opportunity for marks to be based on whim or the personal preferences of teachers. The Australian public education system is based on fairness and integrity and is not open to corruption or influence to change a student's results.

 

My child did a selective high school assessment today but some of the questions were really hard. Why is this?

The High Performing Students Unit requires schools to rank and separate students who are applying for OC and SHS. As we have a large number of students who perform very highly on the core curriculum, we need to provide challenging assessments that will test the skills and abilities of these students. As many students are working beyond their grade level in English and Maths, some of the content of the assessments will be beyond the level of the content covered by those children who are working at grade level in the classroom.

 

It seems like everyone is being coached for OC and Selective. I want my child to enjoy learning and have time to be a child and do a range of activities. Am I disadvantaging my child if I don't sign him up to a coaching college? Will he still get into OC and Selective?

The Department of Education does not endorse coaching for the Opportunity Class or Selective High School Placement Tests as they are designed as a measure of academic ability or potential.

Past test papers and a sample answer sheet are available here (OC) http://www.schools.nsw.edu.au/learning/k-6assessments/oc_sampletest.php and here (SHS)  http://www.schools.nsw.edu.au/learning/k-6assessments/shsplacement/ss_sampletest.php . If you want to give your child additional help, practice with the past test papers or with any type of multiple-choice questions will increase familiarity with the format and techniques. Students will also be given practice questions before the test begins.

It is up to parents to make informed decisions about what is the best learning environment for their child. However, caution should be used when undertaking intensive coaching over a long period of time. Many of our students find the pressure of additional coaching very difficult to manage and become anxious and despondent about what seems like a never-ending component of coaching work. They lose enjoyment of learning and of school and don't perform to their capacity.

Coaching colleges are businesses designed to make money for their owners. It is in their financial interests to make claims about their success rates in order to attract new customers. Many coaching colleges use parents' fears and anxiety in order to secure their business. It is natural that parents want to feel that they have done their very best to support their children's success, but there are many ways for students in Australia to be successful.

 

I want so much for my child to have a successful future. What happens if they don't get into the OC or Selective that I want – can they still go to university?

It is not only students who go to SHS who enter universities; many students in comprehensive high schools achieve excellent results and go on to rewarding careers. Looking at the yearly HSC High Achievers List, and students who came first in their subjects, it is clear that academically successful students come from a wide range of schools: small, large, selective, comprehensive, rural, urban single sex, co-educational, private, public. There are many pathways to university. The main thing is to have a student who is physically and mentally well; engaged in their learning; and working to their potential. If these things are in place, opportunities will follow for them to study beyond school.

 

My child is getting anxious about tests. She knows it is important to us that she does well but I think she won't do her best if she is nervous and tired. What can I do to help her do well at school and in tests?

Children feel very keenly the pressure of our expectations. If they are anxious, they will do less well than if they are relaxed, rested and able to think clearly. Anxiety is a growing problem in children and can seriously harm their wellbeing and certainly their performance.

Some ways we can reduce anxiety include:

  • being less anxious ourselves. Children can pick up very easily the signs of our anxiety about their performance. Stay calm; don't always focus on their achievements; give positive feedback about the effort they make, rather than the results they achieve;
  • not comparing them to other children. Talking about marks and scores with other parents can heighten their anxiety and make them feel that they are a disappointment to you;
  • ensuring that their lives have a healthy balance of activities, rest, play and work;
  • keeping a sense of proportion about tests, schools and achievements. Some children feel that they will lose their parents' love if they don't achieve the required marks or gain entry to particular schools.

Anxiety can seriously affect a child's mental health and wellbeing and stop them achieving their best. It is important for parents and teachers to be aware of this and seek help to reduce children's stress levels.

 

What do the assessments at school look like and where do they come from? Why can't I see them?

The assessments may vary from year to year. In general, we include multiple choice questions to ensure consistency in marking across a large candidature and to give students practice in completing such tests in a timed environment. The English tests will cover reading comprehension, writing and grammar and spelling. The Maths tests will cover number and algebra, problem solving, measurement and geometry, statistics and probability.

Our teachers and executive prepare the assessment tasks using a variety of sources. This is to ensure they are relevant to our students and so they can't be found online, in books, at coaching colleges or in other ways that could allow them to be practiced before they are administered at school.

Primary schools are asked to provide school assessment scores out of 100 in each of English and mathematics, based on students' performance in Years 4 (OC) and 5 (SHS). In English, the assessment score must include a component for writing.

These scores must rank the candidates in order of merit, showing the relative gaps between students. Seeing your child's assessments in isolation will not give you information about their ranking in this process. 

As well, the assessments that are included in deriving the school marks for OC and SHS placement are confidential as they form part of the application process. They may be used in other years and the integrity of the assessment materials must be maintained so that there is no unfair advantage to any student or family.

 

The school values 21st Century Learning. Are these skills included in the school assessment scores?

We certainly do value 21st Century Learning and report on these skills in our student reports. At this stage, we are still developing our capacity to assess the 4Cs accurately and consistently across the grades. Until we are sure that we are able to do this reliably, objectively and with clear evidence, we feel it would be unfair to include marks for these skills in these assessments. However, research indicates that students with well-developed 21st Century Learning skills of creativity, collaboration, critical thinking and communication perform better in the classroom and, most importantly, in real-life situations beyond school.

 

Will the school tell me when the tests will be held?

We do not wish to heighten the anxiety of students by giving undue focus to the assessments that will be considered for the OC and SHS school marks. Therefore, we will not specify the dates on which particular tests will be done. We also need the flexibility to adjust dates in consideration of other events or contingencies at school.

 

How does my child's school report relate to the school assessment score for OC or Selective?

The school report assesses your child against stage syllabus outcomes in the Learning Areas, not against other children in the grade.

The school assessment scores for OC and Selective rank students against those students from the grade who are applying for placement.

Therefore, they are very different sets of information, for two very different audiences and purposes.

The school report has broad bands of achievement, ranging from Outstanding to Limited. All children are placed in one of these five bands, so they are grouped together. The OC and SHS marks are required to separate, not group, the children. Where possible, the HPSU requests that students not be given the same mark. Students can be separated by as little as one hundredth of a mark.

 

My child didn't get into OC this year. Does this mean she won't get into a selective high school?

Not necessarily. There are more than twice as many Y7 places available in Selective High Schools than there are in Y5 Opportunity Classes, so many children who were not offered a position in OC are offered academically selective classes in Year 7.

The entry requirements for Opportunity Classes and Selective High School placement can vary quite significantly. Moreover, there is scope for improvement in the performance of students over the time since they applied for Opportunity Class placement. Conversely, not all students from opportunity classes are successful for Selective High School entry.

 

Does it matter which selective high school I select on the application form?

Choose the school which is most suitable for your child. You might consider travel time; whether you prefer a single sex or co-educational school; ease of transport etc. All selective high schools will provide an excellent education for your child and prepare them well for university or other post-school learning.

If you nominate more than one school, be sure to put your first choice first, as this is the order in which places will be offered, if your child qualifies for placement.

 

How can I find out more about OC and Selective High School procedures?

The Department of Education has information on these procedures, including some translated documents, on their website.

Opportunity Class:

http://www.schools.nsw.edu.au/learning/k-6assessments/ocplacement.php

Selective High School:

http://www.schools.nsw.edu.au/learning/k-6assessments/shsplacement/index.php

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