Understanding school performance: High School selection

School selection can be a nightmare for even the most informed parents. In this post we try to help share some of the ways in which SAILI chooses scholarship high schools.

The driving force behind SAILI’s success is getting the best “bang for buck” we can from the schools on offer. To make sure we give our funders the best “return on their investment” we scout for strong candidates and place them in the strong schools.

How we scout for candidates is a topic for another day but, how we identify strong schools is the topic of this post.

Strong schools typically cost more than average schools, so it is in our best interest to choose the lowest priced strong schools.  This enables us to place as many learners as possible.

Typically, we use the following approach – having already identified top students we look to see which schools serve their top students best. Here we first look at schools that where 60% of students get bachelors passes (these are required to apply to university and we expect our students to do this).

Looking at the graphic above one can see the schools on offer – with the pattern of performance correlating strongly with fees.

We use this kind of view to identify the schools that look interesting. Our intention is to hone in on high value schools not finalise selection with this kind of limited information.

Once we have school of interest – we can quickly check the helpful WCED Find A School  website to see the subject options available and a bunch of other useful information: here we want to see maths and physics presence as well as the drop out across the grades (we assume dropout if numbers are much lower in grade 12 than in grade 8 but, this could also be evidence of a school growing its enrolment in grade 8 over time although this is much less likely)

For a long time we have felt that parents ought to have the same insights in the system that we do – with this information they could make informed decisions about high school selection. This is our first attempt at making some of the information we have available to other stakeholders.

Of profound significance is that it is possible to get quality from cheaper state schools.  More expensive schools often are better – but not always.  In one of the most important decisions a parent will ever make, it pays to be informed.

The view above gives a perspective on school performance – but what is really interesting is the presence of outliers – cheap schools with good performance and expensive schools with poor. Clearly these schools buck the trend. Anyone with experience in education data will know that there is a whole lot more to school performance that just the bachelors pass metric.

BTW – Tableau does not seem to embed terribly well in our blog so it is easier to click on this link to take you directly to the analysis. We name  the schools who perform above 60% and those who score 10% higher than the trend for a given price.  We are interested in exposing schools that deliver good services for their price.  Try clicking on a school to see its performance.

To get a full view – you also need to take into account drop out, subjects on offer, subject performance etc. not represented here but certainly part of our decision making process.


5 replies
  1. Keegan
    Keegan says:

    Great to see data science being applied in such a useful way. Also I’m glad the school I attended was one of the named ones 🙂

    • Sam Christie
      Sam Christie says:

      Thanks for the feedback Keegan, keep an eye out for more posts along these lines.


  2. Sam Christie
    Sam Christie says:

    It is probably worth pointing out that the bachelors pass metric we used as our filter in this post is just one of many we could have used. In the fee band where bachelors pass rates are very low – it would make more sense to look for combined pass rate of bachelors and diploma (the next best pass type and one which allows entry to the second tier of tertiary). Equally, to make this more useful, we should also be looking to include a perspective on drop out rates.

    • Kath Morse
      Kath Morse says:

      Hi, You can apply to a tertiary institute for BCom Accounting. They will take into consideration your qualification.


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