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.
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.”
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 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 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
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.”
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 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.