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Moving to sydney - suburb/ school advise

(31 Posts)
MrsC09 Sat 27-Aug-16 18:41:59

My husband has been offered a new job in Sydney so we will be moving there in the new year. We have 2 children aged 4 & 6 who are going into reception / year 2 in the UK. I'm only just starting my research and finding it all a bit mind-boggling.

Please can someone help to find a suitable area for us to live in to help narrow down the research a bit?!

We currently live in SW London with lots of green space, shops/cafes, families, good state schools etc and would like to find a similar area in Sydney. I understand that Sydney is VERY expensive but we will have rental income form our London home that we can use towards the cost of living there.

Our list of criteria: good state schools (although from what I understand there are loads of them in Sydney?), close to beach/parks/outdoor space, VIEWS (i've spent 15 years in London looking at my neighbours brick wall), within a 45 min commute of central Sydney with public transport (I understand that traffic can be pretty awful during rush hour), a nice neighbourhood with a local village (cafes/shops etc). Generally the right balance of city living but with a bit more breathing space to enjoy the local nature.

We would choose to live smaller for the right area so assuming we have the budget what are the "nicest" areas of Sydney to live in? I'm thinking more along the lines of Battersea/East Dulwich equivalent rather than the Chelsea of Sydney.

I would also greatly appreciate some input on how the state school intake works as this would probably affect the decision as well. Is it like in the UK where you need to be at the local address at the time of application? Are the schools generally over-subscribed? Would we stand a chance of getting our 6 year old in if we moved there in Jan (I think he would be going into year 1 there if I've done my maths correctly?)

Sorry for the long post and any for of info is hugely appreciated!!

TheFirie Sat 27-Aug-16 22:30:43

We moved here two years ago. We are on the Northern Beaches which tick most of your requests.
My first question is on which visa are you coming here, because if you have a 457, like us, you have to pay the school, even the state school, $5000 per child per year. Being on a 457 means it is also up to the school to accept you or not, whereas on a permanent visa, if you live in the catchment they have to take you. You can find more details on the education new website In which year your son will go will depend on his birthday date, the cut off is 30th of June. Some school are more relaxed about the year you are put in, some very strict about it.

If I had children in primary age, I would consider Manly and enrol my kids in Manly West Manly has a European feeling with a pedestrian centre, cafes , restaurants, and with the Ferry you are in 30 min in the CBD. I wouldn't stay in the heart of Manly but there are plenty of nice streets there, so put it on your list. The bad point is there is no High School that fit MY requirements which mean no religious schools and no single sex. I am French and both these kind of school are very very very strange to us. There is a selective school but you cannot enrol on a 457. So we had to go somewhere else, but I am very close to Manly and go there very often.

On the Northern Beaches if not Manly you have to move inland to stay within the commute time. We are less than 30 minutes by bus and 10 minutes to the beaches. Public transport on the Norther beaches is very bad. Freshwater is very close to Manly and lovely but triples the commenting time to 1h30.

On the South Shore, Coogee and Maroubra may be what you are looking for, but not sure about commuting time from Maroubra.

This is if you want to stay near the beaches. On the North shore train line, I wouldn't go further than Roseville/Lindfield but skip Chatswood. You would still be in a 30 mins train commute but you are quite far from the beaches. But in these bigger suburbs, there isn't much of a community feeling. Not that there is that feeling in the smaller suburbs either to be honest. Most suburbs are just houses everywhere with a strip of shops and a library if you are lucky.

That's it for now, I will wait for your questions !

smellsofelderberries Sun 28-Aug-16 13:36:43

We have just moved here form London and will be living in Rozelle, just over the border from Balmain. So so happy with our decision, Darling St is wonderful and people tell me the schools are excellent (not a concern for us yet, DC1 is due in 10 weeks). There are fab cafes, restaurants, some nice (though expensive!) shops to potter about in, good greengrocers. Most importantly for DH, excellent pubs which have made the adjustment to living here much smoother grin DH should be a 20 min bus ride into work, traffic permitting (he's in the city). There are some nice bike paths by the harbour and great parks. Birkenhead point has bigger supermarkets and a few more shops to potter about in.
For reference, we are renting a 2 bed, 2 bath flat (with 1 secure parking space) for $750 a week. It's very modern, two huge terraces, but no gym or swimming pool in the complex. It's expensive but I'll be walking distance to most things I need on a week-to-week basis and so we're hoping to get by without a car and use goget (zip car) or uber. We'll see how that works confused we were looking at a similar price point for simian things further around into the inner west/south (Surry Hills, Waterloo etc) but if felt much more remote down that way. To me Balmain doesn't feel too far like being on the Northcote Rd, but with lots of sunshine!

smellsofelderberries Sun 28-Aug-16 13:39:01

Sorry for all the typos, on phone. That last sentence should say 'to me Balmain doesn't feel too far removed from being on the Northcote Rd'.

MrsC09 Sun 28-Aug-16 16:35:13

Thank you both for your input! I'll look into the suggested areas.

StMary Fri 02-Sep-16 23:56:37

Paddington is very central and lovely but might be too pricey.

Balmain ticks a lot of boxes.

Rose Bay is nice too.

No idea on schools though.

StMary Fri 02-Sep-16 23:57:18 is v useful for checking out different suburbs.

ohtobeanonymous Sat 03-Sep-16 06:22:01

Have you considered the North Shore - great train links to the city, leafy suburbs, close to good shopping centres at Chatswood and lots of great schools. Lindfield, Roseville and the like remind me a lot of Wimbledon.
Definitely more the price range you're looking at.

Unless you absolutely need to be near a beach, Northern beaches can feel a bit isolated from 'city' living, although there is a fab cafe/pub culture in that part of the woods.

You will need a car moreso than in London though in most parts of Sydney - especially those without a decent train link.

As for schooling, your 4-year old may not be able to enrol in Kindergarten yet (depending on date of birth) and your 6-year old will either be in Kindy or possibly Year 1 due to having already been at school in the UK. Children don't tend to start school until after they turn 5, and sometimes later for boys. It's a lot more flexible than the UK.

FlorisApple Sat 03-Sep-16 06:43:54

I'm about to move to Sydney with two DC, one starting school next year (Jan). We are moving to the lower North Shore, very near a train station that is literally only a 10 minute journey over the bridge and into town. The general consensus is that North Shore is great for schools, but I actually think there are many many places in Sydney that look to have great schools. You can look at the website for information about each one. I try not to get too carried away by statistics though, as that is all they are. If I was you I would look at Waverton. It might be a bit quiet, and only has a small group of shops, but it's got lovely parks, great views of the harbour, and is very close to shops and cafes if you need them in North Sydney, Crows Nest etc. You will generally just get into the catchment school, which is the closest school to your house (we had two choices), but you will need proof of address to enrol. and both have details of the schools nearest the property.

Smellsofelderberries Balmain seemed great when I visited and I really wanted to live there, but decided against it just because of the public transport for DH's work. I'm a bit jealous of the lovely lifestyle you'll have being able to wander down Darling St.

Many, many people recommended the inner west to us, but we actually found it a bit pricier that the north shore, so be a bit open minded. DH wanted to live at Bondi Beach! Absolutely not!

TheForeignOffice Sat 03-Sep-16 06:54:22

Look at this: it gives detailed info on schools performance. gives you housing equivalent of rightmove.

If you're thinking of buying to get into catchment, be aware that GBP has fallen in value a frightening 20% versus AUD this year, from 2.2 to around 1.75.

Beach idea: seaforth primary
Forests idea: st Ives north primary

Both good areas and good schools. That said I know pupils that have been removed from both due to poor teaching standards.

If you are returning to the UK in future please be careful you put DC in UK curriculum-based year. This is a big deal for many expats who then move to put DC in British international system or simply move back to UK.

If you are living in catchment zone you have legal right to enter catchment school (with PP visa exception as previously stated).

Finally, be aware you are liable to income tax on your London property income unless temporary resident (double taxation treaty applies) and CGT based on exchange rates with valuation taken date of entry to Oz.

Good luck.

sixandoot Sat 03-Sep-16 07:19:56

The Inner West is lovely, eg
-Newtown, Stanmore, Petersham and Summer Hill on the Inner West Line
-Annandale, Leichhardt and Haberfield on bus routes or tram line or walk to Inner West Train Line
-Glebe and Forest Lodge to walk, bus or cycle
-Balmain and Rozelle on ferry or bus or cycle
Actually all of these are a quick and easy bike ride from the city.
All have great food, charity shops and some independent movie theatres.
All have lovely public primary schools.

NSW Dep't of Education, in line with the newish/evolving National Curriculum, generally works on children steadying Kindergarten in the calendar year in which they turn six. It's possible to enrol in Kindergarten a year younger than that if the child turns five on or before 31st July, but for all sorts of reasons (resilience, tiredness, educational outcomes, social outcomes, etc) it's generally discouraged.
So if your oldest child has turned six this year calendar year (before 31st December) they'd probably go into Year 1 in 2017, and if they're going to turn seven this calendar year then they'd probably go into Year 2 in 2017.
If your four year old will turn five this calendar year (before 31st December 2016) then they'd start Kindergarten in 2017. Otherwise your four year old if you're working outside the home could go to pre-school (possibly very flexible, eg 5 days/week for 6 hours, or 3 days a week for 6 hours, or 3 days a week for 3 hours, depending what works for you) or long daycare, or if you're at home could stay home with you.

mono3 Sat 03-Sep-16 08:12:49

I agree with sixandoot that the inner west is lovely. We used to live in the Drummmoyne/Five Dock area and loved it. Close enough to the city, lots of lovely little bays and parks around and lots of little restaurants. Very close to Balmain and Darling St as mentioned above but not quite as expensive as Balmain for living costs. My DS started school there and I was impressed with the education he received. We were on a 457 visa and the local school were really helpful in explaining the system to us and advised us to look at other schools as well before deciding. The local council can give you a list of preschools and daycare centres for your little one.
Good luck - I would love to go back again!

smellsofelderberries Sat 03-Sep-16 08:16:17

Another thing to think about (which we only just found out), your DH will have to pay into a superannuation account (a pension) and if he takes that back to the UK it will be taxed at 38%. You can leave it here until retirement but people without permanent residency are not allowed to earn interest on those accounts. So if you leave $5000 in a super account here for the next 20 years after you move back, you will only have $5000 in 20 years when you draw it down. Bloody sucks (and one main reason we will probably fork out the $7k for DH's spousal visa at some point).

(That's how DH has explained it to me so might not be exactly the case!)

TheForeignOffice Sat 03-Sep-16 08:30:36

^^ for PR a.d citizens it's compulsory to leave super/pension in oz until pensionable age (possibly 55 iirc) then a drawdown system applies. Not taxed in Oz because tax prepaid on inputs. Taxed in UK because this works the opposite way round from just about everywhere else in the world. No double taxation agreement applicable hmm

smells I think temp residents generally notify super fund when they are leaving, get money credited back to oz bank account then after that go back to UK under split year treatment so it's discounted for HMRC purposes.

sentia Sat 03-Sep-16 08:48:00

There is an express bus from Belrose into the CBD that goes via East Roseville etc (Forest Coach Lines), which could be a good option. It's more leafy suburbs that inner city trendy though.

If you want restaurants and markets and cafes and so on, the inner West is great - Balmain is lovely with a real village feel although astonishingly expensive, as is Glebe. Rozelle is close by and more affordable, so is Lilyfield. Annandale or Leichhardt are also good options that feel slightly less suburban sprawly.

The train from Bondi Junction into the city is quick (although rammed), so anywhere a short bus trip from there would be feasible. Centennial Park is lovely, and the suburbs around it like Paddington are nice. I'd avoid Bondi Junction itself. The harbour foreshore suburbs between Rushcutters Bay and Watsons Bay are also very nice, I particularly like Rose Bay.

Montysaurus Sat 03-Sep-16 08:55:07

I'm another inner westie (in the Summer Hill, Dulwich Hill, Marrickville area) and love it here, but if beach is important you'd be better off in the eastern suburbs or Manly. Having said that, if you like East Dulwich and that part of London in general the inner west is likely more your scene. There's a bit of a divide between north of the harbour and this side. The north side is more expensive for the most part and generally more conservative (sweeping generalisation!!) but imo there's less interesting stuff going on. I think you really need to think about how important the beach is. It's a 30 minute drive to the eastern suburb beaches from our place so we tend to go once a week in summer but go to the local pool after school if it's hot. I'd also think about whether you want a house with a pool. Most areas have decent schools. A few have quite a few demountable classrooms but I don't know of any that are terrible.

JC23 Sat 03-Sep-16 09:16:02

We're also in Manly on the northern beaches. It's an amazing place to live, I think the only downside is the summertime crowds as it's basically a holiday resort town. You can get the bus to the city or the ferry but there are no train lines on the northern beaches. The local schools are all good and they have to take your child if you are in their catchment. We are permanent residents so I don't know so much about the situation for temporary visa holders.
Living in Manly you have about seven different beaches within walking distance and plenty of national parks. It really is beautiful. My husband is a country/beach/surfer person and I am more of a city type but we are both covered here.

TheFirie Sat 03-Sep-16 21:52:12

The Belrose-CBD line a PP was talking about is actually 4 buses going into the city 270 271 274 and L70, so very frequent. I would stay in Davidson, Belrose, Forestville, Frenchs Forest to have both the direct line to the city and the beach very near. Don't go further down towards Beacon Hill or Narraweena because the commute time to the city will turn crazy.
Between Manly and the city via road, you have Mosman and Balgowlah. We visited both before deciding, but again Balgowlah is a single sex boy high school and Mosman is living in a city, even if a very nice and expensive city.

Just one word about all the school rating sites. Have a look at the James Ruse high school for example , the number one in NSW if not Australia. 97% of the student are foreigners, mostly Asian. One of my DS2's best friend is Chinese and we can never have him at home for a playdate because 3 times per week he goes - and has been since we have known him back in Y2 - to math tutor classes from 4pm to 7 pm, so 9 hours extra math per week + Opportunity Class preparation on the other two days for 2 hours each time. This is a little boy in Year 4. He will perform well in whatever school he is, because he studies so much. DS2's teacher has little to do with the grades this Chines boy gets at school. What school ratings tell you very often is how good the students are not how good the teacher are.IF you look at the school progression over several years, then yes you can see the true performance but it is tricky. OF course between a school in the 40 rank and the 400 rank there is a difference, but rankings are not always transparent. For example my children didn't speak English. The year they arrived they had the NAPLAN test (used for the rankings). As they were not from English speaking country/background they could have skipped it, but the school told us to go for it and try, so the next NAplan test they would know what it was about. Of course with only a few months of English, the test results would be very poor, but the school didn't care about the school performance or result, but cared about them. In many schools, poor students are invited to take a leave on the days of the NAPLAN test in order not to affect the school ranking and sometimes poor performing students are invited to leave full stop.

What I am trying to say is school rankings need to be interpreted as PPs have already said, I was giving you examples about WHY.

One last work about the Northern Beaches, without a car, your life will be a misery. It can be done, I did it for nearly a year as somehow I was petrified (ridiculous I know) of driving but it is a misery to go to soccer practice, playdates, school carnivals, ...... so living at walking distance of school/shops is not enough.

LadyCassandra Sat 03-Sep-16 22:05:45

We're in Manly. Manly Village School is good, as are all the schools on the Northern Beaches. You don't need a car in Manly but once you start thinking about the nearby suburbs you definitely do.
The only downside to Manly (in my opinion) is that it is so overwhelmingly white. Lots if internationals but all English, South African, Canadian and Scandinavian. Its not a bad thing but it's very weird.

katemess12 Thu 08-Sep-16 01:54:18

The Lower North Shore or Eastern Suburbs fit your criteria, if you can afford those areas. They are outrageously expensive.

I personally don't rate the Northern Beaches, not because they aren't a beautiful, or relaxed area, because they are. But because there is really only one road in and out, and traffic can be foul if there are any incidents on those roads. The public transport in that area is shocking as well.

I grew up in Killara (one suburb over from Lindfield), and it's lovely. Gorgeous tree-lined streets, big houses, good schools (selective public high school too), public transport etc. However, it's still a distance from the beach.

The Eastern Suburbs (Rose Bay etc) are lovely, but they do seem to attract a certain kind of person. Lots of people in activewear, sitting in cafes drinking matcha tea with their French bulldogs by their side, in the middle of the day, in the middle of the week.

The North Shore is more family-oriented. I don't like anywhere from Chatswood up, and the Princes Highway is an absolute cow of a road to get to/from the CBD, but the Lower suburbs (Mosman, Neutral Bay, Cammeray, North Sydney etc) are closer to beaches, have pretty good public transport, have nice views, quaint coffee shops, good schools etc. The trade off is that it's substantially more expensive.

bunnygirl80 Thu 08-Sep-16 02:46:21

I've been in the inner west since we moved here 7 years ago. Started out in Balmain, but now in Leichhardt. It's an easy commute to the city from both, and plenty of cafes, open space and water. Pretty easy to get out to the beaches from here when you need to too.

If you have pr you're guaranteed a place at your catchment school. If you have temporary residency as pph have said you'll have to pay for schooling and aren't legally entitled to a place if they're full. Most schools in the inner west are pretty much at capacity. I've not heard of any schools local to me that aren't great.

There are lots of British ex pats in the inner west and the northern beaches. Eastern suburbs fits your list but attracts a certain type of person, and it's not necessarily a positive thing to be considered an Eastern suburbs type!!

OttoTheOnly Fri 09-Sep-16 05:34:40

I'm another in the Inner West, currently in Newtown. I love the area, and it's brilliant for families. There is a lot going on, and King Street reminds me a little of Stoke Newington. Erskineville (a five minute walk away) reminds me more of East Dulwich.
The schools here are great - and have built in wrap around care on site, which is a bonus.
The transport links are the most important thing for us, as I am a consultant and work all over the city. (Am currently out in Liverpool, which is a long journey each day.) If your husband isn't city based I'd look very carefully at the transport links for any location. I'd love to be in Balmain or Rozelle, but it's not feasible when I have to travel so much and am reliant on the train unfortunately.

intheBondiBubble Fri 09-Sep-16 06:12:59

I am living in the eastern suburbs, and I have to defend my position here as although there are cheaper places to live I want to live by the beach, my apartment overlooks the park and there are lots of expats in the area which makes for a great support network of families who are here without family.
It depends on what you plan to do with your days, my son is in daycare which we walk to and I drop him off and walk to the station for work, we walk home together and will go to the beach after for a quick swim or to play and watch the skate park riders. You don't need two cars, or even one if you don't want the expense, I know all my neighbours, it's a 10 min train to the CBD, the buses are awesome and every few minutes, the coffee is amazing with heaps of kid friendly places, it's beautiful here and I'm grateful everyday for the lifestyle we can lead. I have other friends who live a bit further out who never go to the beach because the traffic is so horrendous, we shall be starting nippers next summer when the boy turns five which is the kids surf life saving team.
The schools are all fantastic here because it's a more affluent area, same as the UK, we have a choice of state, Catholic, Montessori and private all walking distance from home.
Good luck in your decision, I'm happy to answer any Qs by PM.
It may also be worth looking on
It's the main property website and also has a bit of a synopsis of areas. Property is the biggest expense by far, but probably comparable to London in parts.
There are also a few Facebook groups for expat Mums in sydney which I will dig out if you have any questions the girls are quite helpful and have all done the same move.

sofato5miles Fri 09-Sep-16 06:29:37

Surry Hills is one of my favourite places on earth. Cheaper than Paddington ( just) and two great primary schools. My friends ( dr and banker) have their kids at bourke st primary and are very happy. It's really central and you can get anywhere relatively easily ( Centennial Park is 15 minutes walk away).

MrsC09 Sun 18-Sep-16 16:50:07

Thank you so much everyone!! We have a lot to think about!

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