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Choosing where to send your child to school is a big decision – so how do you make the right choice for your family? Claire Armstrong investigates the educational options.

School days make up an enormous part of a child’s life, so you want to set them on the right path with a productive and supportive learning environment.

There are many wonderful schools which can make things confusing for parents, so finding the right school for your family involves research and careful consideration.

Offspring takes a look at the schooling options to help make your planning a little easier.

Government/Public

The local primary school is the natural choice for many parents, with some choosing their residence with a school’s proximity in mind.

A school close to home can have the key advantage of having friends in the neighborhood, a guaranteed enrollment acceptance and the ability to walk or ride.

“In 2018 at a primary school level, 70 per cent of all Australian students attend government schools,” Australian Bureau of Statistics Director Michelle Ducat says.

If you wish to put your child’s name down at a government school outside of your local catchment area (for example one close to your workplace), a place is not guaranteed.

You must also consider enrolling subsequent children and hoping for a place, as well as shuttling children to and from school.

Most government schools have minimal fees, while encouraged, these are usually voluntary ranging from $50-$300.

For Amanda Taylor the decision to send her children, Chase (11), Kobe (8) and Emerson (5) to the local public school was an easy one because they live in a great school district.

“Before we went to the school, parent feedback helped us know that the school community was positive and want the kids to strive to do their best in all areas.”

“I think knowing that their academic and sporting needs are being met is important and I have confidence in the teacher’s ability to extend the kids if needed.”

“We plan to send the kids onto the local high school, which is a great school with lots of quality programs and also the same school I attended.”

Independent/Private

If you’re interested in independent or private education, which covers a range of religious and community schools including Steiner and Montessori, it is vital to start looking early as there are often waiting lists and fees to consider.

For parents, the wide range of independent schools means they have more say on the type of education they want for their child.

The Independent Schools Council of Australia (ISCA) currently has 1,123 member schools in Australia (as per 2018 ABS data). The median price of an Australian independent school per student is $5,330 per year.

ISCA Executive Director Barry Wallett says independent schools represent 14.7 per cent of all Australian school enrollments and is continuing to grow.

”Independent schools have been Australia’s fastest growing school sector over the last decade,” he says.

“In 2018 there was a net increase of independent student numbers by over 12,000. These numbers show that parents have strong confidence in independent schools.”

For information on independent schools, visit the Independent Schools Council of Australia website, www.isca.edu.au

Montessori

Montessori education is growing steadily in Australia.

Its philosophy, based around Dr Maria Montessori’s approach, emphasises independence by providing an environment for children to learn at their own pace.

Children are free to choose activities within a prepared environment.

This allows children think for themselves and help them to develop confidence, concentration, creativity and inner discipline. Classes are grouped in a three year age range.

For more information visit www.montessori.org.au

Steiner

Steiner or Waldorf education is based on the methods of Rudolf Steiner aiming to educate artistically and holistically.

A unique feature of Steiner education is the same teacher stays with the class throughout their primary years aimed at creating strong relationships between teacher, student and the student’s family.

The use of electronic media is strongly discouraged and all toys are made from natural materials.

While there are fewer Steiner schools than Montessori, they are gaining popularity.

For information on Steiner schools visit www.steinereducation.edu.au

Religious

The majority of religious schools in Australia are Catholic, with the latest ABS data showing one in five Australian students are educated in Catholic schools.

However, there are a number of other major religions represented including Anglican, Baptist, Greek Orthodox, Islamic, Jewish, Lutheran, Seventh Day Adventist, Uniting Church and Presbyterian.

If you want to enroll in a religious school, you must contact the individual school to put in an application and usually pay a small fee.

Some schools do not require you to be of the faith to attend.

However, you will be asked to attend an interview and then a preference scheme is in place with first round offers given to students of the religion within the parish.

Libby Oteri chose a two stream Catholic co-educational school to send Frank (8) and Sofia (7).

“We wanted a school that offered pastoral care and a strong sense of community. We also wanted the choice to select the school that felt right for our family.”

“After meeting with the principal we knew the school was the right ‘fit’ for us.”

“We will also make the decision for secondary school on what feels right for Frank and Sofia individually.”

Community/Alternative/Open Learning

Another option is community schools, sometimes called alternative or open learning education.

The schools act independently and form their own curriculum and ethos and are often small, co-educational, multi-cultural and non-denominational.

Home-School

Home based education is another alternative option and not just for people in remote locations.

Other factors such as disability, behavioral issues, gifted children, bullying, cultural or religious beliefs, or lack of confidence in mainstream schooling system can lead families to opt for home schooling.

Home schooling is a growing community in Australia with lots of support available for parents wanting to take the plunge.

Each state and territory in Australia has its own set of legal requirements for registering to home school, some stricter than others.

Some parents choose not to register, however this can impact government payments and benefits.

Things to think about when doing your research

Visit the school and meet the staff. If you can, speak with parents already attending the school.

Check out the special programs such as music or STEM and find out the school policies on homework, religious practices and bullying.

Think about travel and the facilities for before and after school care if required, and look at the overall costs including fees, uniform, stationary and camps and know your budget.

 

Visit the MySchool website, www.myschool.edu.au to get a profiles of schools, as well as performance indicators.

How do you choose the best school for your child? We look at the options so you can make an informed choice.

 

Choosing a school for your child is a big decision. After all, your child will be spending a large amount of their time there, so you want to ensure you choose an environment where your child will not only be happy but will be supported to reach their full potential.

Government/public education
Choosing public education is a very popular option in Australia and for good reason – the schools offer a high standard of education, and chances are, your local public school might be as close as across the road or just down the street.

If you choose a Government education, chances are you will not get to choose which Government school your child attends, as most Government schools have a set ‘enrolment zone’ so your eligibility will be determined by which zone your address falls into. Check with your local school about their enrolment requirements.

There are also independent public schools, which are Government schools that have increased autonomy to make decisions at a local level.

Independent schools
There is a wide range of schools within the Independent school sector, which includes Christian, non-denominational Christian, Jewish, Steiner, Montessori, Islamic and Community schools.

According to the Independent Schools Council of Australia, independent schools have a reputation as providers of quality education.

The schools are not-for-profit entities and have their own boards or management committees. Many independent schools are religious-affiliated. School fees vary within the Independent school sector.

According to the Independent Schools Council of Australia, independent schools have a reputation as providers of quality education.

Catholic Education
Ray Collins, acting executive director of the National Catholic Education Commission, says Catholic schools are faith-based schools that offer parents the choice to send their children to a school that aligns with their values and beliefs. He adds Catholic schools offer the same curriculum as Government schools, plus a wide selection of electives, sporting and creative arts programs.

“An important difference is that Catholic schools provide their curriculum through a Catholic perspective and also provide the opportunity for students to learn more about the Catholic faith through Religious Education, and to experience their faith through regular prayer, special liturgies and the celebration of the sacraments,” Mr Collins says.

“Catholic schools are known for the quality of their teaching and pastoral care programs, which means students are not only challenged in their learning but are equally supported in their social and emotional development.”

Mr Collins says the majority of Catholic schools belong to a system of schools and charge lower fees to make them as affordable and accessible to families as possible. He says Catholic schools also provide a range of scholarships and fee assistance to support families in financial hardship.

Home education
Myfanwy Dibben, committee member for the Home Education Association, says many parents decide to home school their children before their children reach compulsory school age.

“Some find they need to withdraw their child from school because the child’s educational and developmental needs are not being met in the classroom,” she adds. “Among these, special needs feature largely, both for children that are accelerated in their learning and those who struggle to learn using the methods and resources used by their teachers. Anxiety and depression, often associated with unresolved bullying at school, are increasingly being cited by parents inquiring about home education.”

Ms Dibben says in addition to the Home Education Association, there are state-based associations, as well as hundreds of online home education support groups to help parents find resources and information to help their children learn at home.

Ms Dibben says in addition to the Home Education Association, there are state-based associations, as well as hundreds of online home education support groups to help parents find resources and information to help their children learn at home.

Steiner education
Virginia Moller, CEO of Steiner Education Australia, explains that based on a holistic and integrated approach, a Steiner education aims to nurture and develop the unique qualities and capabilities of each child. “It seeks to lead students towards healthy sea-knowledge, as well as deep understanding of the world they live in, so they can be positive, creative and resilient citizens who can envision a future which they believe they can help create,” she says. “This is achieved through balancing academic, artistic and practical life experiences throughout the Steiner curriculum, which is designed to bring thinking to life through imaginative teaching.”

Ms Moller says some of the advantages of sending a child to a Steiner school include:

>High standards, but less pressure

>Integrated approach with focus on teaching through the arts

>Sense of connectedness to self, to the environment, to the past, present and future.

Montessori education
Victoria Marshall-Cerins, Chief Operating Officer of Montessori Australia Foundation says Montessori is a wider approach to human development.

Their education program, which focusses on independence, has an individualised learning approach, where children (who are in multi-age classrooms) are provided with education materials, which they explore at their own pace.

“The educator’s role is to provide the children with the materials and observe the children’s own insights and capability,” she says. “The materials given to the younger children (three to six years) enable children to learn how to do things for themselves – for example, wiping a table.”

“However, they are also learning how to follow a sequence of steps, how to concentrate on a task and to complete the task. They start with something simple and as their ability grows, more activities are introduced to fit those needs.”

Ms Marshall-Cerins  advises that parents ensure when they are considering a school or centre
they look for one that it is ‘Montessori Registered’ through the Montessori Quality Assurance Programme (MQAP).”