Loves going out and about, drinking coffee, eating chocolate, and writing about her adventures!
Published March 7th 2020
Be part of your local school community
When you're a parent/carer, your children are your world. Especially in this modern, prosperous Australian society we live in, we want our children to succeed, and we want to give them the best opportunities that life has to offer. That's why we take our children to swimming lessons and dance classes and language classes and soccer lessons and gymnastics classes and music lessons; that's why they do ballet and Zumba and play netball and learn to play the violin and attend academic-style early learning programs and school holiday Lego workshops and school holiday sports camps.
That's why their school education is so important.
I remember when my son was six months old and we had a playdate with a friend and his also six-month-old daughter. Now for those of you who have six-month-old infants or have had six-month-old infants, I'm very sure the thought of their future high school would be the furthest thing from your minds. Well, for me, high school was definitely the last thing I had on my mind when my son was six months old! But my friend was in a panic about his daughter's future high school. He didn't want her to go to the local primary school or the local high school because of their 'bad' reputation and the obviously 'bad' people she would be meeting in those places, and so he talked about putting her name down on the waiting lists for one of the top, fee-paying private schools in Canberra. I remember being flabbergasted and a little confused after our playdate. Should I even be thinking about high school now? I thought. I was a first-time mum and the thought of high school or school, in general, was something I hadn't really considered. I think I was more concerned that day about getting early tickets for an upcoming Wiggles concert instead!
More than five years have passed since that playdate and that conversation took place. But over the years, this conversation and many other similar ones I've had with other parents, got me thinking about our local schools. In the suburb of Canberra where I live, we have three schools within our local area: a public primary school, a Catholic primary school, and a public high school. Were these local schools really that awful as some of these parents claimed that they were? One mum definitely thought so. She was concerned about the "riff-raff" and "bogans" attending our local primary school. So she actually moved out of the suburb and bought a house in a "better" suburb with a "better" school. Another mum was concerned about our local public high school so she was absolutely thrilled when both of her children finally got into a top private school.
What is so wrong with some of our local schools in Canberra that some parents are prepared to move to higher-mortgaged suburbs so that their kids can get into the "right' public school? What is so wrong with some of our local public schools that some parents are prepared to pay thousands each year in school fees just so their children can go to a top private school?
No school in Canberra is perfect. Every school has problems, whether that school is a public school or a private one. And there are many reasons why parents choose particular schools for their children. This may be for religious reasons (I for one was educated at Catholic schools in Sydney because my background is Catholic); or because parents had gone to that particular school when they were children; or because parents see that a particular school has more opportunities for their children such as a whole school language immersion program or it offers the International Baccalaureate® or more music classes. Parents can also choose a particular school because they see the school's discipline policy as far more rigorous than the local public school's one.
However, I can only speak from my experience, and my experience is this: there is ABSOLUTELY NOTHING WRONG with my local public primary school! My son is now 5 years old and has just started Kindergarten there. And he is loving every moment.
If your children are starting school next year or moving to a new school next year, then here are my reasons why I think you should support your local school:
1. They are local.
They are part of your community. Their fetes, fairs, and other events bring the community together. By being part of your local school, you feel a sense of belonging with your community. And that's important!
2. You can walk/ride your bikes to school. For me, this is one of the best things about my son going to the local school. The school is only a short walk/bike ride away! And the great thing is, you'll meet many other local families and local children along the way.
3. You meet and get to know children and families who live in your local area. Last year my son went to a preschool in a different area, so we didn't really know any of the kids in our suburb. But since enrolling at our local school for Kindergarten, we've met so many kids and families from our local school who live in the houses around us.
4. Local schools also have active parent/citizen committees or councils that you can join.
I know our three local schools have active parent/community groups. I've joined our local school's one, and they're a great way for you to be involved in some way and contribute to your local school. They're also great ways of meeting other local parents/carers. When you have an issue or problem concerning the school, the parent/citizen group is a good forum to discuss these. And it's the parent/citizen committee or council that usually organises fundraising and community-wide events such as school fetes, fairs and BBQs.
5. Local schools are good schools, too!
They really are. Now, every school has problems, and local schools most definitely have their fair share of problems. But every school has problems, whether they're publicly funded or fee-paying.
We've only been at our local public school for less than a term, but I have to say that I am impressed with it and that I am very happy about my son being there. The teachers are professional educators who all love doing their job-and let's face it, teachers don't teach because of the money! I know, I was once a primary school teacher in another lifetime and I certainly didn't do it for the wages. The teachers at my son's school are all dedicated to the children they teach, and the mission of the school as a whole is to instil in each student a love of learning and care and responsibility for themselves, others and the world around them. Isn't that what school is really all about?
Parents/carers want the best for their children-that's perfectly understandable. And so we expect a lot from our schools to provide our children with the best learning outcomes and the best opportunities. For some parents, that school will be the local public or Catholic school. For other parents, that school will be another public school in another area, or one of the top fee-paying independent/private schools. Parents/carers will choose the schools that best suit their children and that fit their financial circumstances; every situation is unique.
However, for my family, our local public school is the best place for us. I love being in my community, and I love belonging to my community. And I support our local school. It's a perfectly good school with perfectly good teachers and perfectly good students in it. As for the "bogans" and "riff-raff" that so horrified the mum, I knew that she moved out of the suburb entirely because of them, I actually haven't seen any of them yet. But maybe that's because they've all left our suburb now, too?!