What are Perth’s best public schools, and is moving to their zones worth the housing costs?

It is true that in a private school children run minimal risk of encountering people of a much lower social class than themselves.


Productivity Commission data shows almost 30 per cent of students in WA government schools are students with low socio-educational status (constructed from enrolment records related to parent occupation and education). For private schools it is 13 per cent.

In WA’s “top” private schools it is as little as 1 per cent.

You might feel there are advantages in your child learning to get on with a more varied set of people in a public school, that it is more like “real life” and it will make them more empathetic and practical, for example.

Or you would rather see your child, as one person put it to me, “playing cello, wearing a tunic and tie and living life with kids whose parents have careers and aspirations, and we don’t have to worry about bogans with mullets and bad behavior. ”

Different strokes for different folks.

Many parents opt for a practical middle of the road: moving to the catchment for a respected public school, for example, one of the top four: Willetton, Rossmoyne, Applecross or Shenton College.

Perth property commentator Gavin Hegney told me that while other desirable public schools changed over time, these were “timeless schools that were very sought after”.

“On a median price of $ 500,000 as an example, you can see a value difference of up to 10 per cent, which is $ 50,000,” he said.

“A similar price applies for higher values.

“This is for family homes, not for apartments. People weigh up the choice and that’s the value they place on good education. Also, the investment is protected as long as the school continues to perform.

“People will elect that the premium for the real estate is cheaper than school fees.”

The first non-selective public schools to make the top 50 list were Willetton and Rossmoyne senior highs (11 and 12, median ATARs roughly 89 each) and Shenton College and Applecross SHS (23 and 24, roughly 87 each).Credit:Composite image

Domain school catchment zone searches for 2021 show the median house price for Willetton is $ 644,000; the median for the Rossmoyne catchment (including, roughly, Riverton, Shelley, Bull Creek, Brentwood and Bateman), is $ 770,000; and for the Applecross catchment (including, roughly, Applecross, Mount Pleasant, Ardross, Alfred Cove, Booragoon, Myaree, Winthrop and Brentwood) is $ 1.03 million.

Domain has no median for the Shenton catchment specifically, but if we exclude the highest priced suburbs in it which range from $ 1.8 million to $ 4 million, the suburbs with the lowest medians in its catchment are Wembley ($ 1.3 million) and parts of Subiaco ($ 1.5 million). It’s safe to assume that if you want a house in the Shenton catchment, you will pay a million at least.

Unit prices are lower everywhere, but if your household contains two parents and you are thinking about everyone’s comfort during your child’s teenage years, Perth’s limited options for family-sized apartments mean I will assume you want a house.

Ray Jennings, a veteran real estate agent in Herdsman, agrees you are looking at minimum 10 per cent premiums on a home or $ 50,000- $ 70,000 on a block of land in a desired catchment.

In his patch that means Shenton, Wembley Primary and Churchlands Senior High. The latter, despite being much lower down the league tables than the top four and less consistent, he says is well established as a highly desirable school.

He also says homes in the newly established Bob Hawke College zone are attracting top dollars.

Ten per cent translates to possible premiums of:


  • $ 65,000 for Willetton
  • $ 75,000 for Rossmoyne
  • $ 100,000 for Applecross
  • $ 130,000 for Wembley
  • $ 150,000 for Subiaco or Churchlands

Edstart calculates median private school fees are much cheaper for Perth’s outer suburbs and much more expensive for Perth’s 10 most expensive schools, but the median for central Perth is $ 100,000 for one or $ 200,000 for two children.

For parents with one child, the premium to move to Willetton or Rossmoyne is likely easily cheaper than private fees.

Applecross or the western suburbs are harder to justify, with medians starting at $ 1 million and potential premiums starting from $ 100,000, but you might eventually make something back on your investment (other than possible reflected glory from your child’s glittering career), and thus consider a million-dollar house in Applecross or another “good” school catchment.

To spend more, potentially including a $ 130,000 or $ 150,000 premium when school fees might be closer to $ 100,000, is possibly not worth it, unless your personal aim is a million-dollar house in a premium suburb anyway and you’ve got two parents both willing to work potentially a substantial extra number of years or hours.

I, as previously detailed, have other plans.

If you live in central Perth or are planning two children, it seems to me that investing in even a million-dollar house in any of the previously mentioned suburbs or another near a school you find desirable might work out a better value proposition than $ 200,000 for private school fees.

Outer suburbs parents might pay closer to $ 60,000 per child in private school fees, which particularly if you have one child might be much less disruptive to your bottom line.


But what if you want to send your child to a “good” public school, but don’t want to have to buy a million-dollar house OR move to Shelley / Willetton / Churchlands? What if you already love where you live, it’s close to your family and friends and favorite parks and cafes, and it’s in a reasonable area… but despite all that, you’ve heard some dodgy things about your local senior high?

Stay tuned.

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