Selecting the right school: ISQ CEO Christopher Mountford

Selecting the right school to bring out the best in a child has always been a big decision for families. Parental opinions and beliefs about education are influenced by a multitude of factors, including personal school experiences.

In 2020, many parents were given a rare, behind-the-scenes glimpse of contemporary schooling when learning moved from the classroom to the dining room during Queensland’s COVID-19 lockdown.

During this period, many parents also experienced the community of their school – the families, teachers and supporters who rally, comfort, inspire and support each other during times of adversity – in a way they may never have experienced before.

In 2020, there was no shortage of community spirit in Queensland’s independent schooling sector.  From virtual cross-country events involving entire school communities, to regular family wellbeing check-ins, virtual parent-teacher interviews, long-distance book pack deliveries, and community letter writing campaigns, every effort was made to keep students learning, school communities connected and spirits high.

What information do parents rely on to choose an independent school?

The personal school experience – traditionally gained through a school Open Day or school visit –  is one of the most valued sources of information parents rely on when choosing a school for their child. So too is the advice of family, friends and colleagues, according to parent insights captured in a long-running survey conducted by Independent Schools Queensland (ISQ) – the peak body representing the state’s more than 220 independent schools.

Parents have rated these two forms of school endorsement among the most influential factors in their school decision-making process since the first ISQ What Parents Want survey in 2006. This is despite the rise of contemporary information sources such as social media and the My School website.

However, there are differences between generations of parents. The most recent 2018 ISQ survey revealed that unsurprisingly, Generation Y parents in their early 30s and younger are more likely than older generations to find school social media very useful.

What role do children play in choosing their own school?

Children are also having a greater say in where they will attend school.

According to the ISQ survey findings 45 percent of parents of primary-aged students said their choice of school was “totally or highly influenced” by their child’s opinion. This rose to 60 percent of parents with secondary-aged students.

Parents of boarding students were more likely to be influenced by their child’s opinion with 75 percent of these families “totally or highly influenced”.

Why do parents choose independent schools?

The “why” of parental choice goes to the heart of a school’s culture, mission, education approach and offerings and how a parent believes this will bring out the best in their child.

The top reason parents choose independent schools is their belief that the school will help realise their child’s potential. This has remained unchanged over ISQ’s 12-year survey series.

However, compared to earlier years, families today are placing a greater emphasis on personalised learning and quality teaching.

They are looking beyond black and white test results and favouring schools that foster a broader range of capabilities, skills and character traits they believe will best develop their child’s confidence, independence and community responsibility to help prepare them for the future.

Queensland’s independent schooling sector offers families a diverse range of schooling options. There are schools that educate children from Prep to Year 12 and those that only cater for primary or secondary students. There are coeducational schools, single-sex schools, distance education schools and boarding schools. The majority of independent schools have a religious affiliation, while the remainder are guided by their individual school missions and educational philosophies.

Some independent schools have been operating for more than 150 years, which speaks volumes about the history, experience, value and contribution the sector has made and continues to make to the state through its talented and inspiring graduates.

Parental confidence in the sector continues to grow. Sector enrolments grew by 4.5 percent between August 2019 and 2020 and indicative data shows student numbers lifted again at the start of 2021 by about 5 percent compared to the start of the 2020 school year. The highest growth rate of any education sector.

Share your views in ISQ’s next What Parents Want survey

If your child is already enrolled at a Queensland independent school, keep an eye out for ISQ’s next What Parents Want survey. The survey will be going out to independent school parents this year with the report findings published in early 2022. 

Find an independent school

If you’re researching schools for your child, jump on the ISQ website and use our handy school finder to locate your nearest independent schools – https://www.isq.qld.edu.au/parents-community/find-an-independent-school/

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