Q&A with Executive Director of ISQ

Independent Schools Queensland (ISQ) represents over 200 schools across the state. David Robertson talks to WhichSchool? Magazine about the role of the organisation and the benefits of choosing an independent school.

What is the role of ISQ?
ISQ is the peak body representing Queensland’s independent schooling sector which comprises over 200 schools operating across more than 240 campuses.

These not-for-profit schools are a vital part of Queensland’s education system, educating more than 120,000 students, or 15 per cent of Queensland’s school-age population. For more than 50 years ISQ has been a tireless advocate for the interests and needs of Queensland independent schools, their staff, students and families and a vocal promoter of school choice and diversity.

What services and support does ISQ provide its member schools and how are they funded?
Over its history, ISQ has supported new school start-ups, the expansion of existing schools and the ongoing provision of high-quality education services at member schools.

ISQ is a trusted source of specialist advice and professional learning across all areas of school operations and teaching and learning. The organisation offers a range of professional support to schools across four flagship programs: school governance; quality teaching and school leadership; school improvement; and sector-based research and policy leadership.

All ISQ program areas and services seek to enhance the knowledge, skills, strategies and practices of schools and empower them to confidently shape their school’s future; build board, principal and teaching capability and capacity; and improve outcomes for students at every achievement level. These programs are funded through a mix of membership and government contributions.

What does the independent school landscape look like in Queensland?
The appeal of the independent sector for parents is the extensive range of education options on offer. There’s a school for every child to thrive.

The sector is comprised of a wide variety of faith-based schools, including Anglican, Christian and Lutheran. There are also schools founded on a particular educational philosophy such as Steiner or Montessori. There are all-boy and all-girl schools as well as co-educational schools. Some parents love the family feel that comes from a Prep to Year 12 school where a student can complete their entire school journey in one school, while others want a stand-alone primary or secondary education for their child. As the largest provider of boarding services in the state, independent schools are also a second home for thousands of young Queenslanders each year.

Some of the sector’s oldest schools have been educating students for more than 150 years. Their legacies are their distinguished alumni who have gone on to become leaders in all areas of society, from business to politics, sports, the arts and social services.

Why should parents consider an independent school for their child?
Parents have entrusted the education of their children to Queensland independent schools for generations. Independent schools are well known for supporting students to reach their full potential in a wide range of academic, cultural and sporting pursuits, while also fostering positive wellbeing. When I visit our member schools, I am always struck by the welcoming community feel of our independent schools. Independent schools work very hard to welcome and engage parents and carers in the life of their school and in the education of their children. In ISQ’s ‘What Parents Want’ survey the top five reasons why parents choose independent schools are: they prepare students to fulfil their potential in later life, high quality of teachers, individualised attention, good discipline, and the school’s teaching approach.

Many independent schools have developed progressive partnerships with businesses, innovation mentors, research institutes and universities. Others are leading education innovation and have been recognised nationally and internationally for their cutting-edge approach to 21st century learning. These schools are supporting students to become CEOs of their own start-up companies before they’ve even left school. They’re not just preparing their students for the jobs of the future, they’re equipping them with the skills, creativity and vision to create them. These collaborative, creative and problem-solving skills are the ones we know will hold students in good stead in an uncertain future world.

What advice would you give to parents when it comes to choosing a school that is right for their child?
I would encourage parents to start researching schools early. Take time to review a range of school websites to get some initial information about schools close to home and also schools that are recommended to them.

The next step is to attend an Open Day or take a school tour. We know from ISQ’s survey that parents value these personal visits the most because they get that all important feel for a school and its culture. They also value the personal contact they have with future members of a school community at those visits. According to the survey, independent school parents most value meeting classroom teachers and the principal.

An interesting finding that emerged from the 2018 survey is the influence children are having on their parent’s choice of school. According to the survey one in two parents said their decision was totally or highly influenced by their child’s opinion. Clearly engaging children in the school decision-making process is something more parents are doing to find the right school for their child.

What are ISQ’s major priorities going forward?
Locally ISQ hosted its biennial State Forum for member schools on 29 May 2019. This year the theme was ‘Think Next’ and the event boasted a line-up of high-profile speakers including futurist Bernard Salt AM, and environmental scientist and technology expert Dr Catherine Ball. Schools were challenged to consider what our education future looks like.

At a state and national level, ISQ maintains a vigilant eye on education issues and policy changes. It robustly engages in topical debates and discussions by drawing on its 51-year knowledge of the sector. Working with Australia’s next Commonwealth Government will be of critical importance to the sector which receives the majority of its public funding from the Australian Government.

At the national level the sector’s priorities include:

  • Implementing the 2019-2023 National School Reform Agreement and Queensland Bilateral Agreement.
  • Rigorous analysis and testing of the new Direct Income Measure which will be used to determine future federal funding for independent and Catholic schools from as early as 2020.
  • Contributing to National School Resourcing Board reviews examining the funding loading for students with disability and the distribution models used by school systems to allocate federal funding.
  • Ongoing implementation of the Nationally Consistent Collection of Data on School Students with Disability.

At a state level, ISQ will continue its strong working partnership with the Queensland Government and add its voice to current key state issues while also implementing recommendations from past reviews into NAPLAN and cyberbullying.

Parents can find their local independent schools on the ISQ website at www.isq.qld.edu.au.

 

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