In June, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian announced a new selective school, drawing the ire of many who believe such schools are divisive and elitist.
Still, many parents opt to send their kids to these schools, which are meant to provide better opportunities for higher achievers, regardless of what social class they’re in.
However, a report released by the Centre for Independent Studies (CIS) shows that there are a number of other factors aside from just academic opportunity that parents also consider when choosing a school for their children.
After surveying 1,010 parents, the study found that majority (65%) of these respondents chose the schools that are actually closest to their home or workplace. Some 61% of these respondents also said that location is their priority when selecting a school.
The school’s facilities are also a higher concern for parents at 48% compared to the academic standards (47%) or discipline (32%) of the school. Further down the list were interests (28%), special needs (14%) and religion of the school (12%).
Whether the school is co-ed or single-sex was the least of the parents’ concerns at just 8%.
When seeking information on a school, the MySchool website proved to be the least popular go-to for parents at 24%, just behind the school staff at 32%. Instead, the majority of parents (53%) turn to family and friends when making a school choice. Otherwise, these parents would opt to do school visits (52%) or go to school websites (39%)
However, 66% of parents said that their choices are limited.
Those who have a government school option (81%) outpace those parents who only have an Independent school option (43%) and Catholic school option (42%).
The study also found that around 40% of the respondents held regrets after choosing a school to enrol their child in, saying that they would not choose the same school or are unsure if they would choose it again.
Parents who enrolled their children in Catholic schools were the most likely to say they would choose the same school again, followed by those who sent their kids to Independent schools.
Despite a considerable number of parents who expressed regret in their choices, 88% of these parents still think that their child’s school is at least adequately resourced, with 86% of these respondents having sent their kids to a government school.
However, at 70%, more parents whose children are in non-government schools are more confident in the way the school uses its resources than those parents whose children are attending government schools at 56%.
Surprisingly, parents believe that infrastructure and facilities should be the funding priority (29%), next to extra-curricular activities (24%). Only 15% of parents believe that school resources should be used to increase teachers’ pay while 18% consider hiring more support staff as a funding priority.
Only 14% believe that hiring more teachers should be a funding priority.
Takeaways for schools and policymakers
In its report, the CIS noted that schools must rethink how they spend their resources, which should be tied to investing in better facilities and learning activities than staffing decisions.
To increase parental confidence in their school of choice, the report also said that these schools should be more transparent in their spending decisions – especially if they’re a government school. Government schools should also seek out strategies to become more affordable, the report said.
Lastly, seeing that location is the top priority among parents, the report said state and territory governments should consider scrapping school location constraints such as restrictive zoning regulations to give parents more choices. It also suggested the government should do better in helping parents access information when selecting a school.