Public vs private school debate – settled once and for all

When I dropped my daughter off to school today, her teacher was nowhere to be seen. First bell came and went, then second bell, then the third ‘seriously guys, class has started’ bell sounded, without her teacher making an appearance.

This was unusual, as he’s always early.

The teacher next door then popped over and said, “Mr R is sick with the flu! A replacement is coming in shortly, but until then, let’s get started with some reading.”


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A few of us parents hung around so we didn’t leave the next-door teacher to deal with 50 youngsters on her own, and before long the vice principal bounded in.

Twenty-five grade one students suddenly sat up straighter and fixed their attention on Miss G, the way kids do when someone Important enters the room.

Charming, bright and warm, Miss G is lovely and the kids light up when she’s around. My daughter smiled at me when Miss G announced she would guide them through some reading while they waited for the substitute teacher to dash to school.

And so I left. On my way out of the gates, I saw another teacher sitting with a student who was obviously having some trouble settling in that day. Then I spied some parents chatting with the music teacher, whom my daughter declares is “so cool” for playing them a Trolls song during music class.

I left, thinking, “I’m so glad we chose this school.”

You see, we agonised about this decision. We read every article known to man about private and public school. We looked up ratings and NAPLAN results, and we wondered whether we were selfish to prioritise holidays and weekend takeaways over private school fees (because budget-wise, we knew it was one or the other).

In the end, we chose our local public school and we could not be happier with our choice.

It costs $8,700 per student to get an education at this school, but because it’s public the government foots the tab, and we pay a few hundred dollars per year for uniform, books and excursions.

And do you know what I’ve come to realise?

There are brilliant teachers and principals at public schools, and there are brilliant teachers and principals at private schools. Some private schools have seriously ordinary bullying policies; others excel in this area. Some public schools have very limited foods available in the tuckshop; others have inspiring cooking programs. Most private schools have incredible facilities when it comes to music and drama and science. Many public schools need air-conditioning.

Every school is different, but ‘public’ doesn’t necessarily mean ‘worse’. And no matter whether you choose public or private for your kids, I hope you reach a moment where you think: “I’m so glad we chose this school.”