From the Principal

Results, Aspirations and Expectations

As a parent who sends their child/children to an independent school, some media reports must make you wonder if it is worth the effort and cost.

Educational statistics, like all statistics, can be interpreted in different ways.

One of the most common interpretations of school results in Australia goes like this:

  • The difference in academic performance of students at public and private schools is negligible. (S. Larsen, UNE)
  • There is little overall value added from a non-government education once students’ backgrounds, including socioeconomic status, were accounted for. (G. Fahey, Centre for Independent Studies).

Are you feeling silly yet?

Nil desperandum: There is another interpretation of Australia’s educational “facts.” According to Garry Marks, (Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research):

  • There were some tangible benefits in terms of ATAR scores for students who attend a private school. Top ATAR students often come from private schools, and they tend to get into university more, which makes a big difference to employment and lifetime income.
  • Research in Victoria found that students who went to a private school achieved an ATAR rank five or six points higher than those who went to a public school. This was  attributed to standards of teaching, discipline and a subculture of strong academic performance in independent schools.
  • There is an incremental benefit, beyond that of socioeconomic status, of going to a private school, to an independent school, followed by Catholic schools, followed by government schools.
  • Independent schools tend to teach at a higher standard and pitch the lessons at a higher standard so that kids are expected to reach them and therefore do.
  • There is more of a subculture of doing well at independent schools.
  • Independent school students tended to experience less unemployment, earn higher incomes and hold higher status jobs.
  • Private schools can also benefit students in terms of a “peer effect.”

In the end…….

  • In Australia there are great independent schools, great Catholic schools and great public schools, all staffed by hard working professional educators.
  • No school or school system in this country seems able to meet the needs of every student.
  • What is a great school according to some families is totally inappropriate in practice and culture to other families.
  • We hope parents select the school that best suits their child’s needs and meets their expectations of what constitutes a great education.
  • As an independent school, if we do not “meet the market” and reflect the educational aspirations of the families in our area, we will diminish and eventually cease to exist.

So, perhaps our enrolment numbers are the statistic that tells us that we are doing something right.

Want to share your thoughts on this story, or do you have something you’d like to add? Email me at

Related posts
From the Principal

Who is teaching what?

From the Principal

Think before you attack

From the Principal

Educating for the future

From the Principal

Principal's Blog