How does public school zoning work in Victoria?
School zones or catchment areas refer to the Department of Education and Training Victoria’s ‘lines’ on the map that tell schools where they must accept students from. Any student within a catchment area can attend the relevant public school.
School zones change regularly to help manage enrolment numbers, and changing school zones are always controversial when properties are ‘rezoned’ into different school catchment areas. If rezoned into a zone for a more desirable school, homeowners may receive windfall property value-adds. On the other hand, being rezoned could also mean that your assigned school is further away from your house.
It can be difficult to get your child enrolled in a school outside of your catchment area due to limited capacities, and growing demand for enrolment places at the state's best schools.
Take the desirable McKinnon Secondary College zone, in the suburb of McKinnon, 12 km south-east of Melbourne's CBD. To keep up with the number of households wanting to live within the school's zone, more medium-density housing was constructed. But the higher number of eligible students living within the area meant that McKinnon had to restrict its zone. In 2022, however, McKinnon’s zone expanded again because it opened a new campus. This allowed for parts of Murrumbeena inside South Oakleigh’s zone to be allowed into McKinnon.
How do school catchment areas affect property prices?
Kay & Burton Managing Director Ross Savas confirmed that school catchment areas can increase property prices. “People want to live near school catchment areas, so demand outweighs supply,” said Mr Savas. “Around the Boroondara area, we find a huge demand for the suburbs surrounding the leading schools."
Domain Group’s latest School Zones Report reveals that property prices in top-ranking public school zones have risen by between 20-40% over the 2020-1 period. The trend is set to continue, so if you have a preferred school for your children to attend, it may not pay to wait on purchasing a property in the relevant catchment area.
Some families lease out their own house, then rent within a desirable school zone until their children graduate. This is acceptable to schools, but these other tricks are unlawful:
Using the address of an investment property that you do not live in
Using the address of a property that you have rented but do not live in
Using the address of a friend or relative who you do not live with.
Schools may even conduct early morning address checks to remove families who have used false addresses to enrol in the school.