Friday, 10 January 2014

Private Schools in Australia: is it worth it?

Whether you are moving to Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth or anywhere else in Australia, if you have children you will be wondering about the education system in Australia. One of your questions may be ‘Is it worth putting my children in a private school?’ It is a big investment. Some elite private schools can cost over $30,000 a year for some grades. You want to do the best you can for your children and when you see results tables, facilities, a who’s who of success stories who went through the school you may think that this is a must have option. But is it?

Some parents forget that not all schools suit all children and knowing what is the best school for your child is not always a case of throwing a lot of money at it. Private schools usually, but not always, have smaller classes, usually but not always have better facilities and usually but not always have really good teachers. The four main things to decide are whether a school suits your child intellectually, socially, emotionally and physically.  If your child is not at all academic, for example, but an amazing sportsperson they may feel crushed by a private school on a tiny campus that is driven by academic results. There may be a state school in the same area which runs terrific sports programs, has great sports fields and would allow your child to thrive in an environment where there are lots of sporty children enjoying great camaraderie. Not all private schools will tick off all the boxes for your child.

While all schools follow the same curriculum set down by the state, teaching styles can be wildly different and this too is a factor. Check this carefully. Also do not assume that every child who goes to private school will get fantastic marks as universities are full of students who did not go to private school and yet received great final scores. Make sure you have a good look at the school in action, look at how the teachers address the students and the relationship the students have with the teachers. Also take note of how the students treat each other, how they care for the environment they are in, what is up on the walls, what clubs and after school activities they offer and whether they are encouraged to give back to the community. Is this a community which encourages parental involvement or not. How are international students treat? Would you like your child to turn out like the children you see at the school? Are the students happy?

Before deciding on the private school environment also check what opportunities your child will have to use the wonderful facilities. Very often the sports and music facilities will only be used when the child gets into secondary school and so your fee is also paying for something which your child has no access to. Make a point of finding out about the state schools in the area where you would like to live and ask the same questions. Even though the building might not look so beautiful you may find that they run amazing programs which would suit your child’s needs really well. Your child will also be making friends with children who are local to your home whereas private schools have children who are coming to school from a much wider area.

Australia has some amazing private schools which stand up against the world’s best but it also has some amazing state schools which also stand up to the world’s best. Bottom line: do your homework!

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