The level of public school education, along with the facilities available to students, often varies with the suburb in which the schools are located. Schools in upper class districts like Constantia and Rondebosch have massive facilities for sporting and academic pursuits, while schools in poorer neighborhoods (Woodstock) or those in areas where space is scarce and expensive (the CBD) may have more basic offerings. Often such schools share facilities, like football fields and tennis courts, with neighboring institutions.
The best public schools in Cape Town are on a par academically with the best private schools, which in turn are easily a match for the local international schools. The difference often lies in the fees. Good public schools charge anywhere from R6000 to R25000 per annum (e.g. Wynberg Boys), whereas the best private schools (e.g. Bishop) can charge as much as R65000.
While there’s no widespread consensus on the topic, the following schools are consistently ranked amongst the top academic schools in the country.
- Herzlia Primary and High School (http://www.herzlia.com)
- Wynberg Boys High School (http://www.wbhs.co.za) and Junior School (http://www.wbjs.co.za).
- Wynberg Girls High School (http://www.wynghs.co.za) and Junior School (http://www.wynberggirlsprimary.co.za).
- SACS (the South African College Schools) (http://www.sacollege.org.za/)
For a list of schools in the central parts of Cape Town, visit http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Schools_in_Cape_Town.
The following private institutions are also considered to be in the top echelon of South African schools.
- Constantia Waldorf High School (http://www.waldorfconstantia.org.za)
- Bishops Diocesan College (http://www.bishops.org.za)
- St. Cyprians Girls School (http://www.stcyprians.co.za)
- Rhenish Girls High School (http://www.rhenish.co.za)
- Westerford High School (http://www.westerford.co.za)
For a full listing of private schools in the Western Cape, visit http://bit.ly/ljDpym.
Public schools in South Africa operate on a feeder zone system. This obliges schools to accept children from their surrounding area. Following this, they work on a first-come, first-served basis. Nevertheless, the provincial department of education is required to see that every learner finds a place in a local school.
Typically, public schools require the following in order to enroll a child:
- The child’s birth certificate.
- An immunization card, proving that the child has been vaccinated.
- If the child has been to another school, a transfer card or last school report.
- A non-refundable registration fee (usually a few hundred rand) to be put on their waiting list.
Note that, unless your child has South African citizenship, they’ll also require a study permit (see ‘Visas’), along with a certified copy of their passport (certification should be available at your local consulate) and two ID-type photographs.
Once your child has been offered a place in the school, you may also have to pay a placement fee, which can vary from a few hundred to a few thousand rand.
Ideally, you should enroll your child before the school year begins, though many schools do accept late admissions. Nonetheless, be aware that it is not uncommon for the good schools to have waiting lists of a year or more. Apply as early as possible to avoid disappointment.
English is the medium of instruction in virtually every public school in the country (some have dual-language instruction, with English alongside Afrikaans or another African language). Foreign children are accepted into most schools, provided they can prove that their English is good enough for them to benefit from instruction. They may have to do this by providing a handwritten letter or essay, written under controlled conditions in the school.
Keep in mind that, if language does present an obstacle, Cape Town has several good foreign language schools (see ‘International Schools’).