Merewether High low on diversity

The Hunter’s only academically selective high school has the lowest cultural diversity of any school of its kind in the state.

At Merewether High, just 7.8per cent of students in 2011 came from a language background other than English.

The figures from 2011 are in sharp contrast to Sydney-based selective schools where, that year, up to 83per cent of students come from non-English speaking backgrounds.

Even Gosford High on the Central Coast had twice as many students from such a background (16.1per cent).

Merewether High’s proportion of students in 2011 was a drop compared to previous years, when as many as 13.8per cent were from another background.

A NSW Education Department spokesman said students’ backgrounds had no part in the selection process for Merewether High.

Statistically, cultural diversity across all Hunter and Central Coast region schools was low, with just 6.2per cent of students coming from a different background compared to almost two-thirds of students in south-western Sydney.

‘‘The school’s enrolment reflects its catchment’s demographic profile,’’ he said.

It comes as year 6 students in the region find out at this time of year whether they have been accepted into the high-performing school for 2013.

Students are considered to come from a language background other than English if they, or one of their parents, speak another language at home.

NSW Education Department figures show that entrance scores for the high-performing school were mediocre in NSW in 2011, with the region coming 21st out of 44 academically selective schools, and schools with selective classes, in the state.

The two languages most commonly spoken at home in NSW are Chinese, followed by Arabic.

Monash University Centre for Population and Urban Research co-director Bob Birrell said the successful non-English background students largely came from cultures who put a heavy emphasis on education and professional achievement.

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