My oldest son is in Grade 6, so we are currently going through the rigmarole of choosing which school is best for him. He’s smart, in fact one of the most focused and dedicated kids in his class who has been in the maths accelerated learning class for the past three years. A scholarship is possible, but even though he loves his hockey, he’s not competitive therefore he isn’t an exception in his sport, the kind of thing private schools look for when they award scholarships. And I certainly can’t justify private school fees when they are heading north of $25,000 a year. We aren’t Catholic, so the semi-private catholic schools aren’t an option. So we are left with the state run high schools.
Since my day, when the state run high schools were being closed down left, right and centre because the government couldn’t justify having so many high schools in certain areas due to the high level of private school attendance, state run high schools have actually picked up their game. The one thing that really sets private schools and public schools apart is that in public schools (state schools) the teachers have a duty of care. You don’t need to pay a school tens of thousands of dollars to educate your children, because private schools don’t have a legal obligation to actually care about your child. Whereas at a public school, they do. They have to provide your child with an education that is suitable to their year level or learning capabilities.
The last week, we have had a good look at the high schools in our area. Each child is given a form from their primary school to indicate four preferences of which schools they would like to attend, and if they can’t get into one of their preferences, it is the state’s obligation to put them into the school zoned for their area.
Our first option, the one we’d dearly like to get into, is my first high school. Since I was there, the facilities are just world class, and even better than the private school I ended up with. They have music studios, a drama studio complete with lighting stage, a stadium the size of two basketball courts, a brand new (opening next term) science and arts technology lab which includes your standard physics, chemistry & biology labs, but also a robotics & electronics lab, 2 new lecture theatres, study pods, an amphitheatre where twice a week one of the seven school bands plays and entertains the kids at lunchtime (complete with lighting), an international language lab, a state of the art food technology lab, every student gets a netbook computer, championship hockey field (hmmm… wonder who would like that!?) and the list goes on. The only problem is, we can only get in if my son gets into the accelerated learning program, as we don’t live in the ‘zone.’ We have nominated it as our first preference, so if they fill the places with children who live in the area and there are more spots available, we may have a chance to get in from outside the zone, but it’s slim.
Our second option is the local high school. The people are lovely, but the facilities are just run down. The drama room is an old classroom with a closet for ‘dress ups,’ the library is two converted classrooms with a thoroughfare through the middle (not the ideal place for a quiet room to study), the hall seating is about forty years old with the leather sagging through, there are weeds growing through the basketball courts, and the staff seem completely disorganised, nice but disorganised. It’s very much an arts based school, so those who love to create, it’s perfect for them, but for my studious one, it may not be that great. It was heartbreaking to see that only a few kilometres away, with the same type of demographic within the suburbs, two schools could be so completely different. This is the school we would guarantee to get a place. They have just been given $6 million to do some upgrades, but the upgrades have to go across three different campuses. The first school spent $5 million on their new science and arts technology building. Really? How far did the government think $6 million would go? But even if I did send my son there, how long before the school actually spends the money to make an impact on my son’s education?
The good thing about me being a little bit flighty, is that we can always move to the zone and be accepted into the first school if we don’t get in any other way. It would make it hard for my little one in his last years of primary school, travelling a few extra kilometres (actually it will be hard on me, as I will be the one driving him there!) as he wants to stay at his current school. But it’s a waiting game… we will know for sure by mid August what his fate is for schooling next year. Hopefully it will be great news, but only time will tell.