When choosing the best school for your child, you will inevitably face the stumbling block: to face the selective test, or to pay fees and go private?
It’s important to first get your facts straight if you’re going to make an informed decision.
Where do other parents send their kids?
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, more than a third of schoolchildren in New South Wales attend private schools. This is even higher for Sydney, where 44% of children are at private schools.
Non-government schools are also increasingly popular with parents – from 1998 to 2009, enrolments grew 22%, while state schools grew only 1%.
What are the main factors I should consider?
As always, it’s a question of what priorities you have. Some of the main points to think about include:
Social environment – Studies show that this is overwhelmingly the most important factor for parents, regardless of whether they choose selective or private. This means it’s important for you to investigate individual schools first, before making a broader decision about selective versus private schooling. Do the school’s values align with yours? What types of parents and students are involved in the school community?
Academic results – If this is your number one priority, the best bet is the top selective schools, which regularly make up the majority of the Top 10 in the HSC rankings each year. But below the Top 10, the schools in the Top 50 are mostly private schools. Students from private schools also ‘punch above their weight’ in the all-round achievers and distinguished achievers lists.
Quality of teachers – There are great teachers in both systems, but parents tend to be more concerned about the possibility of poorly performing teachers. In private schools, they are more directly accountable to students, and can be dealt with more quickly. In public schools, the hands of principals tend to be tied – although this is changing, particularly with the NSW Government’s announcement of the ‘Local Schools, Local Decisions’ policy earlier this year, which gives each public school more authority and autonomy over the way they run.
Opportunities – Interestingly, studies show that access to better facilities and more extra-curricular opportunities does not form a large part of most parents’ assessment of individual schools. That said, private schools tend to have more programs in place to develop the individual attributes of their students, with overseas trips to broaden their experiences, greater engagement with technology, and leadership programs like the Duke of Edinburgh.
How will my choice affect my child?
It all depends on how engaged you are with your child’s education, and how much you make the most of their time in either the selective or private system. Research shows one of the main contributors to student success is parental engagement.
This means expanding their education beyond the classroom, and embracing opportunities to put them ahead of the pack – such as private tutoring. For parents of kids in selective schools, money may be well spent on tutors to keep pace with their competitive classmates. For parents of kids in private schools, the focus needs to be making sure they are up to the state-wide academic standard set by the top selective schools.
There are clear reasons for choosing both systems of schooling – it all depends on how you allow your child to get ahead, within their education and beyond.