MEREWETHER High students have relocated from as far away as Albury, Grafton and Narrabri to attend the school, which is the only fully selective offering between Newcastle and Queensland.
The 14,000 students who sat the Selective School Placement test on March 12 were told on July 3 whether they had been offered one of 4196 year seven places available at one of the state's selective schools for next year; placed on a waiting list for one or more schools; or unsuccessful in securing a place at a school or on the reserve list.
The Department of Education said 701 applicants put Merewether High first. The school has just 180 places in year seven.
A Newcastle Herald analysis of department data obtained under the Government Information (Public Access) Act 2009 shows recent students have relocated from across the state to attend the school, which principal Christine Rippon said was not unusual.
"We've had kids typically from the North Coast, the north-west, even western and yes, even sometimes down near the Riverina," Ms Rippon said.
"We'll have people who apply and when they get a place they relocate to the area in order for their kids to be able to come to the school. It's not a huge number that would happen, each year we might have a couple.
"Some would relocate just for the six years, but a lot of them are quite professional people who seem to be able to pick up jobs quite easily in the area.
"We've had some who have been retired people for whatever reason, but that's quite rare as well. I know we had one person who relocated from out west and worked casual for some time until they could pick up a permanent position.
"People are obviously looking for our type of school, whether it's us or they're applying for other selective schools.
"But there are only 21 fully selective schools in the state and so therefore people are probably just making that choice, which they do with private schools as well.
"It says a lot about the school...but I think it's also people looking and going 'You know, Newcastle is not a bad place to live'."
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Ms Rippon said families had more resources than ever before to research a school before they applied.
"In this day and age parents do a lot of background work, they do a lot of checking and they have access to a lot of information," she said.
"When it comes down to it, even just our website with our annual report, with your school plan, all of those things, those are the things people will look at. I think people are quite well informed, they do their background, they do their homework."
Some out-of-area families will also request to meet with her, either before applying - or before accepting an offer - to study at the school.
Ms Rippon said the school usually has students coming from up to 70 feeder schools and linked pupils on their own with peers and support.
The data is arranged in a list of the postcodes represented in each grade, which Ms Rippon said would reflect where the student was living when they applied.
The data does not indicate how many students in each grade are from each postcode.
It shows the students enrolled across all grades in 2019 came from 51 postcodes, including from Daceyville and Kingsford; Killara; and the area around Forster Tuncurry.
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Students enrolled in 2018 came from 53 postcodes, including postcodes aligned to the area around Narrabri; the area around Taree; the area around Grafton; Erskine Park and St Clair.
Students enrolled in 2017 came from 53 postcodes, including the area around Lake Cathie; the area around Albury and the area around Woonona.
Some out of area students joined in year seven, but some enrolled in higher grades. Some families would have relocated primarily for parents' work.
The majority of postcodes are in the Hunter and Central Coast. Ms Rippon said the furthest areas students travelled from daily included Tea Gardens "which is a big call", Singleton, Port Stephens and the Central Coast.
Most either do their homework or sleep on the commute and some will relocate when they reach year 11 and 12.
NSW has 17 fully selective, 25 partially selective, four agricultural and one virtual selective high schools.
A Department of Education spokesperson said parents may consider travelling times, transport arrangements, friendship groupings and school co-curricular areas of strength when submitting their choice of selective high school.
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