Thursday, June 17, 2010

Why my chidren have ended up at a private school

As promised I would like to explain that I don't perceive "brands" of schools and my way of valuing schools to send my children to has, if anything, an anti-brand bias. Having gone to public schools most of my life, and having found them adequate, but variable, I had no reason to suppose that I would pay more money to send my children to a private school. Annandale was a new public school when it first opened, was the closest public primary school, and had a "catchment area" that was quite well off. All factors that made for an easy choice of school for my first three children - a total of 18 child years. The closest public High school had been ruled out for consistent word of mouth criticism for lack of a suitable bullying policy. Not content with hearsay associated with these kind of criticisms, I counted as most reliable data points students and parents that I knew, that had direct experience. All of the data pointed to the principal being the key to the issue. Had the principal left before our eldest had finished grade 5 or 6 - we could well have changed our mind.

From that point, the primary motivation became a fear of our kids being zoned into an unacceptable school, or being in limbo on a waiting list not knowing until too close to the starting date. A second motivation came in the form of our 4th, who was due to start prep the year after our first moved to high school. We were scrambling to see which school had better programs for autistic children. A third motivation was the struggle of doing pickups and drop-offs to geographically distant schools. A fourth was being able to get our children into instrumental programs, which were free but oversubscribed in Annandale.

Private schools, especially Catholic ones, have early enrolment deadlines, which means early acceptance of a place there. Informal surveys of all the special needs childrens' parents that we knew noted that Annandale was not catering well for special needs children. Ryan Catholic has a large primary and high school close together which made pickups/dropoffs easier. Instrumental programs at Ryan were also a lot more accessible, although more expensive. A clinching factor for doing the entire switch was the catering for large families. Fees for four children at the school was less than double what it would be for a single child (which makes it about one fifth the price of the Grammar/Cathedral brands) AND the large catholic population of the school doesn't give you stares if you have any more than a couple of children.

So although we are spending a little more money than we would with public schools, the difference is much smaller than most people imagine.

I had a line-ball decision after grade eight and grade nine because my oldest wanted to change to Pimlico. The clincher was that the motivation was primarily to be with friends than any particular academic or otherwise benefit. I am really not sure if the decision was right, but the balance of various risks was better to stick with the school she had been in.


Chris Fellows said...

To tell the truth we did entertain moving to the dark side when we had problems but it worked out better staying within the public system.

I think in balance friends were the greatest asset I got out of high school but will not diss your decision re #1. I was the only member of my family not to go to Ryan. When I enrolled in Pimlico I lived in the catchment area and thought it had better computer resources and language programs than the other options.

Anonymous said...

To correct some of Marco's original post, our 4th started prep 2 years after our first started high school, and at the time when our first wanted to change to Pimlico we had other children attending Ryan, and I don't believe that when you encounter difficulties with some former friends, you should simply up and change schools. After forcing her to stay put, the situation was eventually resolved favourably and everyone involved is happy with the end result.
With regard to computer resources, Ryan's these days are fantastic and in terms of language programs, only the Catholic schools offer Italian as a choice, and both it and Japanese are taught from year 3 onwards. All other schools only offered French, German and an Asian language. Ryan also has the advantage of being Prep to year 12. This means that the transition from primary to high school is much less traumatic, as the kids move up with all their friends and the school goes to great lengths to insure the kids are well prepared for the transition. This is something that no state school offers, not in this area any way. Also because the years 5 to 7 are on the same campus as the high school they have access to all the facilities such as science labs, library books, and computer labs that the high school has access to. The discipline in the public system also leaves a lot to be desired, especially when compared to the Catholic system. In my opinion, whilst our kids did quite well in the public system during the earlier years, they have truly flourished since we have moved over to the Catholic system. Therefore I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it anyone who was looking at where to send their children. One other thing, Catholic school kids don't have the same snobbish sense of entitlement that kids going to the more expensive private schools have. Every family needs to make their own decision based on their own circumstances, and we did the best we could with what we were faced with.

Chris Fellows said...

The event of the last few days have made me think about a plausible Afghanistan exit strategy, which as someone who always considered Iraq the 'good' war and Afghanistan the 'bad' war I think is well overdue.

Here are some notes for a suggested speech for he-who-will-not-be-named:

1) Disclaim responsibility.
"Bush’s war. Not my idea. I've had time to thoroughly review all the intelligence in the last two years, and considering what a lame mafioso Karzai is and what crummy support we’re getting from the rest of the West, we’re outta here. Seeya."

2) Channel Nixon in Cambodia. "So... Pakistan: it’s your problem now. But we are willing to spend up to 25% of what we’ve been spending in Afghanistan on pilotless drones and other Kosovo-style operations in air support of whatever you need to do to stabilise the situation to your satisfaction. Hell, make it 30%. That’s a lot of bomb tonnage. Where you want it. We *can* make Afghanistan a flat country."

3) Channel Israel after Munich. "Hang on, before you start celebrating your ‘victory’, Taliban leaders... we’re keeping 2000, 3000 men in the field. They’re not there to take territory, they’re not there to win hearts and minds. They are black ops people there to decapitate your organisation, and keep on decapitating your organisation, for as long as we feel like going on. They won’t just operate in Afghanistan, but wherever they are needed- Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, London... Watch your backs."