For some families, choosing a school is as simple as enrolling at the nearest place to home, while for others it will mean a lengthy debate of the pros and cons of different educational systems, especially the merits of private vs public education.
In Australia, attending a private school means paying tuition fees in addition to book levies, uniform purchases and other expenses, but some families feel it’s worth the extra expense.
Here are five key reasons why some families choose private schools.
Most private schools in Australia have a religious affiliation. This may mean the school follows specific Catholic, Lutheran or Jewish traditions, for example, or it may be a non-denominational school with a Christian ethos. Families who wish to make religious life a part of their child’s education may choose a private school for this reason.
Other private schools include independent schools with unique educational philosophies, like Steiner or Montessori schools. These may appeal to families dissatisfied with ‘mainstream’ education.
Many private schools are able to offer smaller class sizes and lower overall enrolment numbers without compromising on subject offerings. This can be appealing if your nearest state school is particularly large, especially if you have a child who thrives best in small groups. No one likes the idea of their child being ‘lost’ in an overwhelming playground.
Children with anxiety issues, food allergies or behavioural challenges may also benefit from learning within a smaller school community where teachers, students and parents alike are more likely to get to know each other well.
Another key reason Queensland families choose private schools is to continue a family tradition of attendance. If all men in the family attended a particular private boys’ school, for example, parents may want to continue this affiliation with the new generation. This can imbue kids with a great sense of pride and belonging, as well as being encouraging of parental involvement in sports coaching, the school board or P & C.
If your child is gifted in a particular area or has clear career objectives, it makes sense to seek out a school that can nurture this. Similarly, some schools offer tailored programs for children with learning difficulties and may offer more one-on-one tuition than other schools.
The way such speciality subjects and programs are offered varies considerably around the country. In Queensland, there are many state schools running ‘excellence’ programs in sport, science or the arts, for example. For some families, though, private schooling will be the only way to support the particular needs of their child.
Word of mouth is a powerful tool when it comes to our choices as parents. Hearing people’s ‘real world’ experiences of a particular school can provide invaluable insights that parents won’t find in a school’s handbook. But, it’s worth keeping in mind that what works for one family may not work for every family. Some parents choose private education simply because of external pressure or a perception of prestige without exploring the many options that might be available in their region. It’s always worth attending open days or interviews at a range of schools before settling on the school your friends recommend.
Choosing the right school for your children is one of the biggest decisions you’ll make as a parent. Private and public schools both have benefits to offer. The most important thing is that your child is well supported and enjoys their learning experience.
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