Public vs private school

February 21, 2013, 3:18 pmYahoo!7

Practical Parenting explores the public vs private school debate, speaking with two mums about their choice of school systems.

Public vs private school

Source: Getty Images


Mum of four, Ros, has two children about to start preschool, one at primary school and the eldest at high school – and they all are or will be in the public school system. Ros tells us why she's chosen public school over private:

"It’s not that we can’t send our kids to private school, it’s just that we prefer the public system.

I went to a private school as a boarder for two years and the rest of my education was public. I found that the schools were similar in many ways. There were some great teachers in both systems and some that weren’t so good. I made nice friends in all schools and there were people I didn’t get on with, too. However, I did find it harder to make friends at private school because my parents struggled financially to send me there, so when I was asked by friends to do extra-curricular activities I wasn’t allowed to go. Twenty years later I went to both school reunions and found many similarities in the people who had graduated: some very successful and a few that had come off the rails, but most were average people with families who were doing reasonably well with their careers and more or less enjoying life.

Our local primary school is wonderful, but not perfect. I don’t think any school is and I doubt my kids would get a better education if they were at a private school. I’m very involved in my children’s schooling. I help out in class, discuss problems with their teachers, pick them up and I’m with them after school. Because I’m at home, I’ve been able to help my older kids academically and be there for any problems they’ve faced or need to talk through. I’m also able to contribute more time to curricular and extra-curricular activities by sending my kids to a public school, as I’d need to work full-time in order to pay for private school fees! By not working as many hours I can be there to help my kids in ways no teacher can. If I do eventually return to full-time work, I’d rather save the money I earn to pay for extra tuition if it’s needed or to take an overseas family holiday, which would add to everyone’s education."

Source: Getty Images


Melissa tells how family tradition influenced the decision to send their children to a private school:

My husband, Ross, attended a private Catholic school, as did his father and grandfather before him, so family tradition is the main reason we’ve chosen a private school for our girls. Olivia and Ruby are enrolled at a private Catholic primary school and will go on to a private Catholic high school. Attending a Catholic primary school isn’t a pre-requisite to gain entry into a secondary school of the same ilk, but it is looked upon favourably.

The schools we have chosen have an excellent academic reputation and a caring environment that focuses on the overall health and wellbeing of the students. They cater for the interests of the students and offer a broad range of curricular and co-curricular activities. The level of commitment and support the girls’ future high school offers really appeals to me, too. When Olivia and Ruby are in their senior years, the school will offer career support and focus on what’s needed to get them where they want to go, be it university, studying a trade or heading into the workforce.

I went to public school and when Ross and I talk about our experiences, public seems to have a different culture to private. Private schools expect a lot from their students, in their behaviour as well as academically. My teachers were excellent but we just didn’t have those same expectations.

Private school fees can be expensive and we’re lucky ours won’t be out of reach. It will cost us around $1600 per child, per year at primary level, then $4000 per child, per year at secondary. I know other private school fees can be much more, with some elite schools costing more than $20,000 a year!

We hope the girls have a pleasant school experience and make lifelong friendships. If we were sending them to an elite private school we would worry that only mixing with children from wealthier backgrounds might have them complaining about what they don’t have and not appreciating the simpler things and what they do have. Catholic schools are a bit different – they don’t cost the earth and have a nice mix of kids."

Which camp are you in - public or private? Tell us below.

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  1. Stephen10:28pm Thursday 02nd May 2013 ESTReport Abuse

    It is very simple, you get DISCIPLINE and are taught a VALUE SYSTEM (commonly known as MANNERS) in Private schools, you get NEITHER in Public schools ... end of discussion

  2. John Smith08:26pm Thursday 02nd May 2013 ESTReport Abuse

    Low end private schools are not that much better than Public schools. It is only at elite private school level of $20,000+ your child gets a good specialised education with perks like, golf, country club, private tutors,yacht, rowing, croquet, etc.

  3. John06:27pm Thursday 02nd May 2013 ESTReport Abuse

    Why is this 'news' item still up here ? And why is anyone bothering to still comment on it ? As usual good old Yahoo7 dredges up an old and well used item and sticks it up as 'current news'. People, go back and have a look at the date of the first comments - 24th February ! Once again the laziness of Yahoo7 staff shows though. HOW PATHETIC.

  4. BecT04:25pm Thursday 02nd May 2013 ESTReport Abuse

    My children who are 8 and 5 attend an independent private catholic school and the classes have no more than 20 kids. The school in total has 150 students and this includes high school as well. They are thriving with their teachers and my 8 year old is learning Latin with ease. The cost for the 2 of them per term is a little over $1000 and worth every cent. We are a one income family and at no time have i ever thought of sending them through the public system where our local school has a minimum 1000 students. The friendships are close and all the families know one another. It is a beautiful little community and my children's education is everything to me as well as their happiness. You don't have to spend 10's of thousands of dollars to send your children to a private school.

  5. Terry04:08pm Thursday 02nd May 2013 ESTReport Abuse

    Being a principal in the public system, I can say without hesitation that the standard of teaching and the commitment of teachers, in the majority, cannot be equalled. We cannot be selective about who attends our schools - nor would we want to be. A very significant number of our students come to school with significant personal needs across an incredible range including, psychological, physical, emotional, neglect, early literacy and numeracy knowledge and skills etc. Our teachers must effectively move these students forward as well as those who are more fortunate. We do it with minimal funding because we don't have fees to support our annual grants. I was a housemaster in a private school for several years and all I saw was high levels of advantage financially and students who were being brought up by the school, not the parents (not the majority, but a significant minority). I heard their conversations. I saw their interactions. I knew of the dope being grown on the river bank by some staff. BUT the 'culture' prevents any disclosures because of the school's reputation - and I was told this firmly. Bastardry and buggery seemed to be not isolated. I quit. This was back in the 70's when things were hush hush- never mentioned to senior staff etc. As far as academic prowess was concerned, I could see no appreciable difference between my secondary public education and that being received by the boys at that school. Yes, it is a completely personal preference, but do not make the mistake of believing that Private Schools offer increased safety and morals. I could cite many like examples I know of in other prestiges private schools where cover-ups compare to the clergy debacle being continuously uncovered. Be careful of your boys. They generally won't divulge anything. With girls' schools, I have no idea.

  6. Jeff03:02pm Thursday 02nd May 2013 ESTReport Abuse

    Tough subject hey ........... My 5 year old girl and 4 year old boy now attend a private, non-catholice, school. Now we are not rich in any way shape or form but we found that our children became the best of friends when they started to share the same campus. I myself went to a Privat Catholic school and, in its time, it was good and then two years after I graduated there was a stabbing death at the catholic school and a few years later the school was closed. My point is that you never know really what the future holds for your children and how the path of a chosenb school will end up. You just need to be comfortable with your choices. We have also just made the tough decision to down size our home in an effort to be able to afford the many years of school before us. You can only do what you think is best and be prepared to be involved in your childs schooling as school and support go hand in hand.

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  7. Andy10:07am Sunday 10th March 2013 ESTReport Abuse

    Why does everyone only think that all private schools are Catholic!.... We are NOT rich, NOT driving around in some big flash car, and NOT sitting on our arses getting a weekly wage popped into our bank accounts. But we choose to send our daughter to a Christian private school because her Kindy class only has 16 students in it. The local public school had 60 kids apply & they have had to split it into 2 classes of 30! My daughter will learn respect for others, discipline, work ethics, compassion etc from being in a small focused class where the teacher knows all of their names, all of their quirks, and can help each & every one on a daily basis. Don't lump all private schools into the one "Catholic/problem" basket based on what you see in the media.

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  8. Amy08:56am Saturday 02nd March 2013 ESTReport Abuse

    I don't care about the pay rates - I'd gladly take a pay cut to reduce class sizes to 20 and increase my preparation time! The union it trying to do this, but the media only talks about pay.

  9. James B.10:47pm Monday 25th February 2013 ESTReport Abuse

    We have a system of school funding entrenched by the Howard government where it is class warfare to take away a tennis court from a rich private school to give the funding to a remedial reading class in a school in a disadvantaged area.

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  10. James B.01:31pm Monday 25th February 2013 ESTReport Abuse

    Under funding government public schools is all part of the plan to ensure the rich get richer and the poor remain poor. The inadequate education provided by public education is leading to more and more unemployable and welfare dependent degenerates.

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