Max Rady College of Medicine

Concept: School Catchment Area

 Printer friendly

Concept Description

Last Updated: 2008-10-15


    School catchment area refers to the geographical area from which students are allowed to attend a specific school.


    Researchers at the Manitoba Centre for Health Policy attempted to investigate school catchment areas through obtaining data from Statistics Canada and Manitoba Education, Citizenship and Youth Research. Catchment area boundaries for all schools in Manitoba were identified from Geographic Information System files from Manitoba Education, which were developed by Statistics Canada. MCHP researchers took these boundaries and using georeferencing, placed all known postal codes into each one of these areas in Manitoba. The postal codes came from a Statistics Canada Postal Code Conversion File (PCCF) containing a longitude and latitude for each postal code known in Manitoba. This gave MCHP researchers linked postal code to school combinations, which were saved as SAS formats. Researchers then took the SAS formats and 2001/02 Enrollment data from Manitoba Education and compared each grade 1-4 student's "catchment school", the school they should be attending, with the school they were actually enrolled in to investigate what percentage of students were attending school in their designated catchment area.


    MCHP researchers found that for many school divisions a large proportion of elementary schools had fewer than 75% of their students attending from within the school's "catchment area". For example, in St. James-Assiniboine school division, 13 out of 15 elementary schools (85%) had fewer than 74% of their students from within what researchers identified as their catchment area. Furthermore, in the Winnipeg school division 100% of elementary schools had fewer than 27% to 72% of students attending from their catchment area. Further results are available on the comparison of actual school enrollment versus designated catchment area among schools with 2001/02 enrollment in grades 1-4 from Leonard MacWilliam.


    It is difficult to use data regarding school catchment areas in Manitoba as many students do not attend their assigned school. This is partly due to the Manitoba school board's policy of "schools of choice" for students who are resident within public school divisions in Manitoba. This policy states that students 4 to 20 years of age are permitted to attend the school of their choice within a division, provided that there is space available and that there is no additional cost to the division. The intent of this policy is to enhance the educational opportunities for students without additional costs accruing to resident taxpayers. There are also areas for different school divisions or types of schools that overlap with public school catchment areas, such as, French Immersion schools and Heritage Language Immersion schools, which makes it difficult to isolate and research characteristics of students residing within specific school catchment areas.


    We would like to acknowledge the following people for their assistance and feedback in developing this concept:
    • Richard Perrault - Statistical Analyst, Research and Planning Branch, Department of Education
    • Michael Wisener - Statistics Canada

Related concepts 

Related terms 


  • education
  • Educational Measurement

Request information in an accessible format

If you require access to our resources in a different format, please contact us:

We strive to provide accommodations upon request in a reasonable timeframe.

Contact us

Manitoba Centre for Health Policy
Community Health Sciences, Max Rady College of Medicine,
Rady Faculty of Health Sciences,
Room 408-727 McDermot Ave.
University of Manitoba
Winnipeg, MB R3E 3P5 Canada