Choosing the right school for your child is an important decision involving all kinds of factors. From the purely practical – like proximity or budget – to the deeply personal – like educational philosophies.
This isn’t helped by the many contradictory opinions found in the press, online or in conversation with other parents!
We’ve attempted to debunk 5 of the most common myths you're likely to hear about private education.
Private schools are only for the wealthy.
Private schooling in Australia is accessed by a wide cross section of the community. The fee structure of private schools varies between institutions, making a lot of schools more affordable than you might think. Most private schools offer different scholarship opportunities, particularly at secondary level that attract a cross-section of the community.
These days a private school education is a values-driven choice for each family and no longer only the domain of the wealthy.
Private school fees are exorbitant.
It’s always worth investigating the current fees for schools in your area before presuming they are sky high and of course checking School Places to see which schools in your area may be looking to fill unexpected vacancies by offering a short term discount. Most schools offer payment plans to assist families and some offer discounts for siblings attending the same school. When you’re looking at options, ask for a breakdown of any inclusions in the quoted school fees. If the fees include things like a book levy and all your child’s excursions, you may find the upfront payment actually saves you money down the track.
It's hard to get in; it’s all about ‘who you know’.
While it’s true that there are long wait lists for particular year levels at some schools, there are many others who welcome last minute applications or keep a certain number of places available for families in special circumstances.
With many families moving in and out of the local area, schools are occasionally left with last minute, unexpected vacancies to fill.
Acceptance is, of course, at the discretion of the school, but is generally based on a combination of availability, catchment areas and the interview process – not on ‘who you know’. Some schools may ask for a reference from your family priest or another respected community member, but this is really just about getting to know your family and how your values will align with the school community.
Private schools are only for students of a certain faith/religion.
There are lots of nondenominational private schools in Australia as well as independent schools with no religious affiliation, so private education is not reserved for students from religious families. Faith-based schools may be entitled to prioritise enrolments from within their faith community, but most also accept students from a range of backgrounds. If you do choose a faith-based school, it will be assumed that you are generally in support of the school’s ethos, but your child won’t necessarily be forced to participate in religious activities.
Private schools don’t prepare children for the "real world".
This argument is most frequently levelled at single sex schools, but education doesn’t happen in a vacuum. As parents, you will be invited to be part of the school community and work with teachers to help your child reach their academic and social potential. If your child’s private school offers an excellent academic program, extracurricular activities, dedicated teachers and sound social and moral guidance, you can be assured your child will be ready for the challenges of life beyond the school gate.