Private Schools Melbourne, Sydney and Perth – Regent Consulting

This phrase is attributed to Alexander Pope( albeit slightly different to his original words) and it is funny how phrases you heard as  a child crystallize when you are an adult. An old university friend of mine is Vice Principal at a prestigious school in Hong Kong and he often uses this phrase.  On my last visit, he mused that “everyone” has been to school and therefore, in their minds, have a degree of expertise relating to schools, usually heavily skewed to their own experience. It was in the context of him having to deal with parents on a regular basis about various issues related to their children’s schooling.

I refer you to the link below , which is an article from The Age ( 6/6/14) and you will need to read it for the rest of the blog to make sense

Firstly, can I say that The Age is notorious for publishing anti-private school articles and opinion pieces( I have kept them all!). There is absolutely no balance in the views they publish and importantly, they always give the articles prominence. It was the first piece I saw when I opened the site this morning. Ironically, when I read it this morning, the article was flanked by ads for private schools and another one for The Age independent schools guide from which they make a fortune! Oh, the irony of The Age relentlessly criticising the product the private schools provide yet reap significant revenue from them at the same time.

So, to the article. The sad thing about this piece, is that the author actually makes some valid points which can get lost in her selective quoting and ‘chip on shoulder’ analysis of private schools. I tend to agree that private schools are not always the best preparation  for university life, which is far more independent. I also agree that some students in some of the schools she is referring to, have the sense of entitlement attitude the author talks about.  My issues are her “one size fits all” approach to her sweeping generalisations, the selective quoting and the author’s inability to separate her own poisonous experiences from what others may experience. Can I also add, she is not an education expert and I would like to know how much time she has spent in the private schools she is criticizing.

I would like to know what definition of “private school” the author is using?  She mentions “elite private schools” then quotes research which uses the term “private schools” then quotes further research which uses the term” independent schools”. So which is the author referring ?  Here is a definition I found after a google search for the term private school

“a school founded, conducted, and maintained by a private group rather than by the government, usually charging tuition and often following a particular philosophy, viewpoint, etc”


Notwithstanding  part government funding of private schools (and that is a topic for another day!) there are many schools which fit this criteria. For instance,  St John’s College in Dandenong , who have a low socio-economic parent base, is a private school  as it is “founded, conducted and maintained by a private group” and they charge annual  tution fees of around $3355 per year. Perhaps Katherine was referring to St Peter’s Cranbourne where the fees skyrocket to $4200 per year. There are literally another 50 examples of low fee paying schools which are defined as private schools by any reasonable definition. Are these schools included in the research the author is quoting? Is she saying these schools are failing morally as well?

To place these schools in the same category as say a St Catherine’s or Lauriston for example, is obviously ludicrous on a number of levels but the article doesn’t distinguish between ‘types’ of private schools. Even using the term “elite private schools” which is one of the many ways the schools are identified in the article, what is the criteria for being categorized “elite”? Who makes that call? Is St Kevin’s , a very  highly regarded APS school elite? It charges 17k as opposed to nearly 30k for several others in the same category, so is “elite” related to fees or something else? It staggers me that the author can extrapolate her own traumatic experience and bundle it up to stereotype “private” schools.

Several pieces of research are selectively quoted in the article. The author claims

“The biggest influences of academic performance are home and parental regimes, coupled with socio-economic background.”

Please allow me to do some quoting?

Auckland University professor of education, John Hattie conducted a 15-year study, drawing on results of 50,000 items of research on pupils’ performance around the world, came to the unsurprising conclusion that the quality of a teacher’s interaction with pupils, particularly the “feedback” they received for their efforts, was most important. Other variables such as class size, school type, homework, diet and exercise, came well down the list.”

So teacher quality is the most important thing? Well I’ll be dammed, here I was thinking it was just because all the kids were rich they did well. So school type is “well down the list”? It may be dubious as he did after all only conduct the research over 15 years!

The author claims that the school is guilty of false advertising of better educational outcomes? Really? I would be happy to walk her through many years of statistics to prove her wrong. It  may be  argued how they achieved those outcomes but to deny the outcomes  aren’t superior is just plain wrong. I could also make a very strong case about where the superior teaching quality is to be found, which according to the research, is the most important factor not socio economic factors.

Private schools also provide many other benefits which the author ignores. Perhaps she should ask a parent who has a child with a learning issue and see which system can better accommodate for their child. The extra -curricular activities provided in private schools are simply in a different stratosphere to those provided in a public school and all these factors contribute to the quality of educational experience.

It is  pity The Age once again, has given this such prominence and the author who I would like to bet has been in one school in her entire life, has made such  sweeping generalizations. I have my good friend from Hong Kong’s words ringing in my ears about everyone being an expert on schooling because they went to one. I have worked in schools from Preston to Bairnsdale to “elite”(whatever that means??) schools in Melbourne and now work in this space every day and I don’t present myself as an authority on engineering, finance or the arts. Education experts, are everywhere unfortunately… a little knowledge is a dangerous thing!