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'Absolute prize': Why selective schools are eclipsing private schools

"It reflects the ferocious competition to get into these schools," said co-author Christina Ho. "They are public schools, you wouldn't expect to see them at the top of these advantage lists. It doesn't seem possible for them to be eclipsing private schools.

"But among middle class families they have become the absolute education prize. Families begin planning years in advance. Tutoring begins in early primary school, costing thousands. If you don't start planning early, you jeopardise your chances.

"Those resources are not available to most families. That's how you end up with this concentration of [advantaged] families."

The socio-educational score of a school looks at the education and occupation of its students' parents.

The report also looked at selective schools' impact on suburban high schools by studying the opening of four partially selective schools in Sydney's south-west in 2010, namely Bonnyrigg, Prairiewood, Moorebank and Elizabeth Macarthur.