Moving your family to Sydney but not sure which school to send your children to? We’ll give you a rundown of the best schools in New South Wales’ (NSW) capital to help you make that choice.

Moving to Sydney with your children to a new life in a new land is incredibly exciting, but can also be a little scary. How can you safeguard your children’s education in an unfamiliar country, and how do you know that your children will be able to settle into a new school?

Luckily Sydney has plenty of high quality schools, and Australia ranks among the best in the world for education standards. Whether you’re looking for private or public education, a single-sex or co-educational classroom, or a local or out-of-town school, Sydney has loads of great options.

We’ve put together a list of the top-rated schools in the Harbour City based on the all-important factor of academic performance, as well as factors such as the range of co-curricular activities on offer and the proximity to family neighbourhoods. Read on to find out which schools made our list!

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Best Schools in Sydney

The four best schools in Sydney are: James Ruse Agricultural High School, Cheltenham Girls High School, Sydney Grammar School and International Grammar School.

1James Ruse Agricultural High SchoolCarlingfordBest selective public school
2Cheltenham Girls High SchoolCheltenhamBest non-selective public school
3Sydney Grammar SchoolDarlinghurstBest independent school
4International Grammar SchoolUltimoBest international school

Understanding the different types of schools in Sydney

Public schools are government-operated free schools that offer places to children within their catchment area. Non-selective public schools enrol all children regardless of academic ability, whereas selective public schools only offer places to the brightest children, based on entrance exams.

Unlike public schools, independent and international schools are not operated by the government and require you to pay a yearly tuition fee. Prospective students often need to undertake an entrance exam and/or interview before they are offered a place.

James Ruse Agricultural High School

Best Selective Public School

James Ruse Agricultural High School

Look at all those smiling faces, excited about their education

Located in Carlingford on a five hectare farm, James Ruse Agricultural High School is a co-educational school that offers students the opportunity to study practical and theoretical agriculture as part of their secondary school education.

James Ruse is an academically selective public school which currently enrols around 840 students in years seven to 12. Of the student population, around 95% are from a non-English-speaking background, mainly Chinese, Korean and Indian. 

James Ruse has a history of academic excellence, being named the top school in NSW for 27 years in a row. The majority of its students go on to university to study vocations like law, medicine and engineering. The school also offers a wide range of co-curricular activities including music, dance, sports and the Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme.

Cheltenham Girls High School

Best Non-Selective Public School

Cheltenham Girls High School

CGHS takes STEM subjects seriously

Known for its distinctive uniform, Cheltenham Girls High School is a public school for girls situated in the north of Sydney. It operates a non-selective enrolment policy and currently caters for around 1,250 students from years seven to 12.

To enrol your daughter at Cheltenham Girls, you’ll need to live within its catchment area, although you won’t always be guaranteed a place. Only around 80% of applications are currently accepted, owing to its popularity.  

Cheltenham Girls High School consistently outperforms a number of selective public schools in the Higher School Certificate (HSC) – a credential awarded to year 12 students who have completed their high school studies. The school also encourages its students to participate in a wide range of extra-curricular activities, including debating and public speaking, performing arts, volunteering and gardening.

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Sydney Grammar School

Best Independent School

Sydney Grammar School

This child has a better chance of growing up to be Prime Minister than most

Sydney Grammar School, known as just ‘Grammar’ or SGS by Sydneysiders, is an independent secular day school for boys from kindergarten to year 12. The current fees are just over $35,000 AUD (£19,000), although the school does offer up to 25 scholarships every year for exceptionally talented boys.

The school has 3 campuses across Sydney. The secondary school (year seven to 12) is located in College Street in the city, while its two preparatory schools are in Edgecliff (kindergarten to year six) and St Ives (preschool to year six). College Street has around 1,100 students, while Edgecliff and St Ives have between 300 and 400 students.

Sydney Grammar School was ranked as the top independent school in NSW in 2019, and has educated the highest number of Australian Prime Ministers, Rhodes Scholars and High Court of Australia judges in the country. The school offers a liberal and broadly pre-vocational education that gears its students up for university. It also has a diverse range of co-curricular activities including sport, chess, public speaking and the Australian Air Force cadets.

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International Grammar School

Best International School

International Grammar School

These kids are delighted with their independent, secular schooling

International Grammar School (IGS) is an independent secular day school for boys and girls situated in the inner city suburb of Ultimo, near the Central Business District (CBD). It currently caters for around 1,200 students from preschool to year 12, and places the learning of languages and respect for diversity at the centre of its curriculum.

Alongside traditional subjects, studying a second language is compulsory for all students at International Grammar School from preschool to year 10. Languages students can study include Chinese, Italian and French, and the school provides students with an exchange program to its overseas sister schools in Italy, France, Germany and Japan. 

Tuition fees range from $9,000 to $25,000 AUD (£4,900 to £13,500) depending on the school year of your child. If you send two or more of your children to International Grammar School, it offers discounts of up to 20% on tuition fees. The school does offer a limited number of scholarships to students entering into year seven, but competition is tough.

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Best Schools in Sydney: The Verdict

If you’re looking to move your family to the vibrant city of Sydney, then you’re really spoilt for choice when it comes to choosing where to send your children to school. Whether you’re looking for a top-rated public school in your desired neighbourhood, or want to continue your children’s education at a renowned independent school, you’ll find the perfect school for your little ones in the Harbour City.

Now that you know more about the best schools in the city, take a look at our Sydney neighbourhood guide to find the area that best suits your family’s needs.

Healthcare in Sydney

Before your big move to Sydney, it’s wise to think about medical cover for when you’re out there.

That’s why we’ve partnered with Cigna for private medical insurance in Sydney. With four levels of annual cover to choose from and extra modules for more flexibility, Cigna will sort you out with a plan that suits your needs.

Start building a customised plan with a free quote to protect your most important assets – you and your family.


How many schools are there in Sydney?

There are roughly 1,488 schools in Sydney – so there’s plenty of choice! Around 950 are public schools, while the rest are made up of independent and international schools.

Here are some other top schools in Sydney that we recommend.

Selective public:

  • Baulkham Hills High School, Baulkham Hills
  • North Sydney Boys High School, Crows Nest
  • Sydney Girls High School, Surry Hills

Non-selective public:

  • Parramatta Marist High School, Westmead
  • Willoughby Girls High School, Willoughby
  • Cherrybrook Technology High School, Cherrybrook


  • Ascham School, Edgecliff
  • Abbotsleigh, Wahroonga
  • Moriah College, Queens Park


  • Redlands, Neutral Bay
  • Cranbrook School, Bellevue Hill and Rose Bay
  • Australian International Academy, Strathfield

When are the school holidays in Sydney?

Schools in Sydney have four terms of nine to ten weeks each, with a two-week break between each term. The summer holidays fall over Christmas and New Year, lasting around six to seven weeks from mid-December to late January.

What is the school system like in Australia?

School education in Australia is compulsory between the ages of six and 16 (although rules differ slightly in Tasmania), but most children continue their education until the age of 17. Children will pass through 12 year groups:

  • Preschool: years 1 to 2
  • Primary school: years 3 to 6
  • Junior secondary school: years 7 to 10
  • Senior secondary school: years 11 to 12

What are the school hours in Australia?

The typical school hours in Australia are 9.30am to 3.30pm for primary schools and 9.00am to 3.30pm for high schools. Kids normally have a 15 minute mid-morning recess and a 60 minute midday lunch.

Is schooling free in Australia?

Yes. Public schools are free to attend for Australian citizens and permanent residents. Things like textbooks, uniforms and stationary are not covered by government funding, however, so you’ll have to buy them yourself. It’s estimated that the additional cost for schooling is around $315 AUD (£317) per child, per year.

Independent and international schools do charge fees for schooling. These schools charge anywhere from about $15,000 AUD to $30,000 AUD (£8,050 to £16,000) per year, depending if your child is a day student or a boarder, and what year group they are in.

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