Jane Caro is a writer on women, families & education, and is convenor of the Sydney public education advocacy group, Priority Public. She is the parent of two children in government schools.
10 reasons to send your child to a government school
1. Your child will get four more weeks of education every year. By the end of an average thirteen year education, children in government schools have received an entire year of extra education, for free. Think about it, not only do the non-government schools charge you anything up to $12,000p.a. for the privilege of 4 weeks a year less education, but you then have to shell out even more for camp or school holiday care, to keep the kids occupied while they're on all those extra holidays.
2. You will never have to keep a straight face while lecturing your child about their boater, summer versus winter blazer, hat, skirt length, hair length, behaviour in the train, chapel, or lack of school spirit on compulsory Saturday sports days. You will not have to manufacture ersatz school spirit on said hellishly inconvenient, cold and mind numbingly dull school sports days. You may also be able to go away for the odd weekend without feeling guilty.
3. You will not have to pretend you hold values you don't hold practice a religion you don't practice, do things you don't do (or don't do things you do do) to get your child accepted into one of these schools.
4. Your child will learn the true meaning of certain words. Words like "battler" which doesn't mean someone on $80,000 with a company car. Lets be clear, anyone who can battle to find $12000 (even $6000) after tax, on top of all their other expenses is, by definition, not a battler, no matter what postcode they live in. And words like "choice" , something the middle class has, but battlers don't
5. Your hairstyle will never be more fashionable than your teenager's.
6. You can spend far less on school uniforms. Most government school uniforms are simple and inexpensive. Some government schools (Mosman High for example) recognise that adolescents will quickly develop their own uniform if left alone, and have a school population dressed entirely in jeans and T-shirts.
7. You can use all the money you save (on fees, uniforms, school holiday care etc) in far more useful ways, state of the art computers, educational trips and holidays, exchange student programs. You may even, given the cumulative cost of $12,000 a year (more if you have more than one child) save enough for a small investment unit or hobby farm. Better yet, an annual overseas holiday for two, right away from the kids.
8. Your children will get used to mixing with all sorts of people from all sorts of backgrounds. They will learn it is possible to be happy and productive even if you don't earn six figures and live in a tastefully restored, much extended Federation bungalow on the leafy North Shore. A useful lesson for anyone to learn particularly if you don't want to be expected to subsidise their lifestyle for the rest of yours.
9. Your child will receive an excellent, inclusive, modern, realistic, rough and tumble, non-elitist education. Your involvement in the school, particularly as a middle class parent, will not only benefit your own child, but every other child there. Your child will also most likely get the same UAI as they would have done at any other school, at no extra cost.
10. Your child will be valuable to the school even if they are not academically brilliant, musical or good at sport. Your child will not be used as a selling tool, expected to drive up the school's average UAI to help it attract new, fee paying students
So, when it comes to deciding on a school for your child, it may pay to remember that a better education is not something you can buy.