Around one in five secondary school children are educated in the private system, according to new research by the National Australia Bank. But what do Australians see as the advantages of a private education?
One of the biggest questions parents face when considering schooling is: should we pay for our child’s education?
National Australia Bank decided to speak to 1,000 parents and grandparents (who sent or are planning to send their children/grandchildren to a private school) about what shaped their choices. The answers are quite revealing.
The top reason some Australians prefer the private system is due to the quality of facilities, with 41% of respondents to the NAB Education Insight Report highlighting that as their key deciding factor.
This was followed by quality of teachers (39%), level of discipline (38%), better academic results (36%), smaller class sizes (30%), level of individual attention (29%), level of resources (28%), shared religious or value systems (27%), safer environment (26%), with happiness and wellbeing of their children (22%) and better life skills (22%).
However, interestingly, the age of the respondent shaped the answer.
Australians over 60 prefer a private school education because of the quality of teachers, level of discipline and academic results. However, people aged 18 to 29 are more focussed on a school’s educational philosophy, open days, school ranking tables, website and social media. Move to people aged 30-39 and childcare facilities onsite or next to the school became the priority.
“I think what we’re seeing here is the evolution of societal attitudes,” says Head of Wesley College, Mr Ross Barron. “Parents and grandparents consistently value the high-quality facilities that private schools can offer, but modern, busy families often have both partners working and need easy access to childcare facilities for younger children.”
When should a child start at private school?
The question of when a child should begin a private education was a topic of debate too. At the moment, according to ABS data, just over 4 million students are enrolled in Australian schools (according to the most recent 2020 figures). Catholic and Independent schools account for 19.4% and 15% of enrolments, respectively.
The majority of NAB’s respondents started (or are considering starting) their children at private school early – 13% will start in Pre-school, 23% in Prep/Kindergarten, 26% in Primary School and 27% at the start of High School in Year 7.
Of course, results varied by income. Most noticeable was the much larger number in the highest income group who started their children in Pre-school (19%), the $100-150,000 p.a. group in Prep or Kindergarten (29%), the $150-200,000 p.a.in Year 7 (34%) and those earning below $50,000 p.a. (12%) and $50-100,000 p.a. (10%) commencing in Year 8.
“The cost of school fees will always be the biggest barrier when it comes to entry to private schools,” says Mr Barron. “But at schools like Wesley College, there’s a wide range of bursaries and scholarships designed to help. We have always wanted to offer a world-class education to anyone with a passion for being here and will look at every possibility to help students join us.”
What do Australians value most in a private school?
Interestingly, Only 1 in 10 said entrepreneurial spirit, passion and skills to own or run a business (10%), and the share of students that go on to attend a top tier university (11%) were important.
The most common desire was for the student to finish their education with self-confidence and resilience (47%). This was followed by happiness and personal wellbeing (40%), good study habits, self-discipline and preparation for university and higher education (40%), critical thinking skills and the ability to think for themselves (36%), and sense of community responsibility, ethics and moral code of conduct (34%).
“The need for students to be self-confident and resilient has always been an essential element of the Wesley way of educating. Possibly even more so in the 21st Century, now we live in an age with people being so frank with their opinions on social media,” says Mr Barron. “However, the key for us has always been to focus on a quiet confidence. We want students to be assured, not arrogant.
“NAB’s findings have been fascinating to read. It’s pleasing to see that Australians can see benefits in a private education. We believe that the public system can be excellent, but the advantage of paying fees is reflected in cutting-edge facilities, comprehensive co-curricular programs beyond the classroom, and innovations designed to give every student the best possible chance to succeed.”
To find out more about Wesley College, visit our website, download a prospectus, or take a virtual tour.
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