To help you find the right school for your child, we spoke to Dr Geoff Newcombe in early 2017, Chief Executive for the Association of Independent Schools of NSW.
What can you tell me about the Association of Independent Schools of NSW (AISNSW)?
The Association was established in 1967 by a group of independent schools who felt it was important to work together on the many issues they had in common. As the peak body for independent schools in NSW, the Association’s main functions include the provision of high quality support and services to its members, the development of staff and advocating for independent schooling in its dealings with the government and the community. It also works closely with the government and Catholic school sectors on a wide variety of issues.
What services does AISNSW provide and how are these funded?
AISNSW provides a wide range of services including professional learning for teachers and school leaders, advice and assistance in employment relations, compliance, governance, child protection, work health and safety, teacher accreditation services, assistance for schools and teachers educating students with special needs, and many other areas. These services are funded largely through member subscriptions and fees for certain services.
What does the independent school landscape look like in NSW?
There are more than 460 independent schools reflecting the full diversity of the NSW community and they currently enrol more than 195,000 students. These schools cater for many different faith backgrounds and educational philosophies, serve low to high socio-economic communities and range greatly in size from very small country schools to large metropolitan schools. Almost 50 per cent of NSW independent schools enrol fewer than 200 students and around 67 per cent serve lower socio-economic communities. Overall, independent school students perform well as the schools have a strong focus on academic achievement as well as pastoral care which provides an environment where students are given the opportunity to achieve their potential.
Why do people tend to choose independent schools when considering their options?
School choice surveys regularly show that parents are looking for a school that provides a good level of behavioural and academic discipline, offers high quality teaching and learning and is a good fit for their child in terms of academic ability and interests. The range of extra-curricular activities available such as sport, music or arts can also be a strong factor, as well as the school’s values reflecting those that are important to the family and a strong pastoral care focus.
If a new parent asked you for advice on choosing the best school for their child, how would you respond to them?
Every child is different so the most important thing is that the school is able to meet the child’s individual needs. Parents should do their research and identify the possible options, taking into account things such as the school size, location, cost and how well the values match those of the family. Parents should then arrange to visit the schools they are considering – ask to meet the principal, attend an open day and speak to other parents with children at the school.
Are there any significant events coming in the year ahead for AISNSW?
We have a number of exciting research-based projects currently under way that have been made possible with a range of funding sources, from the Australian and NSW governments as well as through partnerships with business. One of these is our Early Literacy Pilot Project where we have partnered with Dymocks Books and NGS Super to address the literacy needs of K-2 students from disadvantaged backgrounds. The project includes the development of an ‘app’ which assists teachers to conduct a literacy screening of a student in less than five minutes. The results of these projects will be shared widely across the education community.
You can learn more about independent schools in NSW at www.aisnsw.edu.au.