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Calm down parents! There's no such thing as the perfect school for your child

Ruth Devine | April 27, 2016

If you’re going around in circles wondering which school to send your child to, you’re not alone. Social commentator, writer, board member of the NSW Public Education Foundation and mum of two, Jane Caro, explains why choosing schools is such agony for parents.

At the last count, there were over 3.75 million kids enrolled in Australian schools, according to theAustralian Bureau of Statistics (ABS). That’s an awful lot of parents making an awful lot of choices about the schools their child will attend from kindy, right through to when compulsory full-time education ends at the age of between 15 and 17 (depending on state and date of birth).

With those choices comes an even greater amount of soul-searching, hand-wringing and worrying that, as parents, we’ve made the best decision for our child. And, just as with every other parenting decision we make, we don’t think we always get it right. For example, A UK survey found that one in four parents regretted the choice of school they’d made for their kids. I’m one of those parents.

I’ve got three kids and this is the first year in 12 years experience of educating my cherubs that I’ve ever had two in the same school at the same time. It’s quite a revelation, let me tell you, but while I don’t regret for one moment the years of three different uniforms, three different principals and three different Kiss and Drops (the kids got used to commando rolls out of the car), I do regret not hoiking one of my sons out of a school when he was so obviously and utterly miserable there. That was a big fail on my part and it’s made me all too aware of what can happen when choosing a school for your child goes pear-shaped.

Choosing the right school for YOUR child
Journalist, social commentator and mum of two daughters in their 20s, Jane Caro, knows all too well what it’s like to agonise over school choices.

“Where you’re sending your children for high school is a hot topic from Year 4 of primary school onwards,” says Jane. “The look of horror when we said that we were sending our girls to public, instead of private, school meant we might as well have just announced we had put their names down at a juvenile detention centre.

“Choosing what’s seen as the ‘right’ school for your child is just another stick that’s been created for parents to beat themselves up with. The idea of a perfect school is a myth. The idea that private schools are better than public is also a myth but, of course, if you’re  spending $15K a year or more on private education, you’re going to justify that cost to yourself by insisting that you’re doing what’s best for your child. Otherwise you’d be an idiot.”

Private vs public education: what does it really mean for our kids?
With 30-40 percent of Aussie kids attending private high schools, the pressure on parents to do the same is, in some areas, immense. My eldest was an anomaly in his class being the only child to go to a public high school and yes, the only conversation at the school gates for what seemed an interminable time was at which private school we had his name down. And yes, the recoil at the news that we didn’t was both tiresome and amusing in equal parts.

“The idea that being a good parent means sending your child to a private school is wrong,” says Jane. “Look in the mirror to see how well your child will do. Do you have books on your bookshelves? Do you value education? Do you have an academic mindset? If so, then stop worrying. Your child will be just fine wherever you send them.

“There’s plenty of evidence to support this view, too. Kids who’ve gone to comprehensive public high schools have been shown to do better at university than those who attended private or selective schools. What’s more, I know that firms are looking to hire employees who went to public school and did well as it’s obvious they are motivated and self-starters.”

What parents should be considering when choosing a school
Jane think that parents should think about the following when deciding where to send their children to school:

“Is the school convenient? Ask yourself if you’ll have to be driving your kids halfway across town just so they can meet up with their friends. Is the principal the sort of person you could rock up to have a chat with? Ask current pupils if they’re happy there. Whatever you do, don’t worry about how much homework they’ll get or what the academic results are like. What you need to focus on is developing a well-rounded child.

“Parents need to calm down. All this choice just breeds anxiety. It’s not HSC results which determine how well your child will do in life, it’s their social skills and a mixed community at school is where they’ll learn those.”

Jane Caro is a keynote speaker at Down the Rabbit Hole: a Festival of Bold Childhood Ideas on Friday, 29 April 2016. Find more information at

This article was first published on Kidspot