Public vs private school

We explore the public vs private school debate.

April 05 2023

Mum of four, Ros, has two children about to start preschool, one at primary school and the eldest at high school – and they all are or will be in the public school system. Ros tells us why she's chosen public school over private: 

"It’s not that we can’t send our kids to private school, it’s just that we prefer the public system.

I went to a private school as a boarder for two years and the rest of my education was public. I found that the schools were similar in many ways. There were some great teachers in both systems and some that weren’t so good. I made nice friends in all schools and there were people I didn’t get on with, too. However, I did find it harder to make friends at private school because my parents struggled financially to send me there, so when I was asked by friends to do extra-curricular activities I wasn’t allowed to go. Twenty years later I went to both school reunions and found many similarities in the people who had graduated: some very successful and a few that had come off the rails, but most were average people with families who were doing reasonably well with their careers and more or less enjoying life.

Our local primary school is wonderful, but not perfect. I don’t think any school is and I doubt my kids would get a better education if they were at a private school. I’m very involved in my children’s schooling. I help out in class, discuss problems with their teachers, pick them up and I’m with them after school. Because I’m at home, I’ve been able to help my older kids academically and be there for any problems they’ve faced or need to talk through. I’m also able to contribute more time to curricular and extra-curricular activities by sending my kids to a public school, as I’d need to work full-time in order to pay for private school fees! By not working as many hours I can be there to help my kids in ways no teacher can. If I do eventually return to full-time work, I’d rather save the money I earn to pay for extra tuition if it’s needed or to take an overseas family holiday, which would add to everyone’s education."


Melissa tells how family tradition influenced the decision to send their children to a private school:

My husband, Ross, attended a private Catholic school, as did his father and grandfather before him, so family tradition is the main reason we’ve chosen a private school for our girls. Olivia and Ruby are enrolled at a private Catholic primary school and will go on to a private Catholic high school. Attending a Catholic primary school isn’t a pre-requisite to gain entry into a secondary school of the same ilk, but it is looked upon favourably.

The schools we have chosen have an excellent academic reputation and a caring environment that focuses on the overall health and wellbeing of the students. They cater for the interests of the students and offer a broad range of curricular and co-curricular activities. The level of commitment and support the girls’ future high school offers really appeals to me, too. When Olivia and Ruby are in their senior years, the school will offer career support and focus on what’s needed to get them where they want to go, be it university, studying a trade or heading into the workforce.

I went to public school and when Ross and I talk about our experiences, public seems to have a different culture to private. Private schools expect a lot from their students, in their behaviour as well as academically. My teachers were excellent but we just didn’t have those same expectations.

Private school fees can be expensive and we’re lucky ours won’t be out of reach. It will cost us around $1600 per child, per year at primary level, then $4000 per child, per year at secondary. I know other private school fees can be much more, with some elite schools costing more than $20,000 a year!

We hope the girls have a pleasant school experience and make lifelong friendships. If we were sending them to an elite private school we would worry that only mixing with children from wealthier backgrounds might have them complaining about what they don’t have and not appreciating the simpler things and what they do have. Catholic schools are a bit different – they don’t cost the earth and have a nice mix of kids."