Should I send my child to a public or private school?

The decision to send your child to a public or private school is one that many parents worry about.  Understandably so, as there are heaps of choices that can make things confusing.  For example:

  • Public education with selective, SEAL, SEALP, non-selective, and
  • Private education with catholic schools, independent schools that are non-denominational or denominational (religious/secular).

Here’s an infographic we created to help you to make the choice of schools an easier task.  The infographic talks about the pros (benefits) and cons (disadvantages) and interesting information about schools.  Don’t want to look at the infographic?  Then just scroll past the infographic and we’ve summarised it in text below.

Now…I’ll explain the infographic below and cover the following areas:

  • Types of Public and Private Schools
  • Pros and Cons based on cost, experience and Year 12 ATAR scores.
  • School choice is not the deciding factor of your child’s success.

Types of Public and Private Schools

In 2013, there were 6,661 public schools and 1,732 private schools (ABS 2013).

Types of public schools are:

  • Non-selective schools – local schools that accept all children if they reside in the local area.
  • Fully-selective schools – schools where a child must sit an entrance examination in order to attend.  There are 4 selective schools in Victoria, 17 selective schools in NSW, 1 in Western Australia and 1 in Queensland.
  • Non-selective schools with selective programs like SEAL (Selective Entrance Accelerated Learning) – students have special classes with their selective group and focus on moving more quickly through the curriculum.

Types of private schools are:

  • Catholic schools – schools that teach Catholic education alongside the mandatory national curriculum.
  • Independent schools – schools that are private that are not catholic.  They can be other religions or non-religious and schools that follow a particular method of teaching.  For example:
    • Islamic schools
    • Jewish schools
    • Anglican schools
    • Grammar schools
    • Montessori schools – use ‘self-directed’ learning.
    • Steiner schools – have a teaching philosophy that focuses on the whole development of the child — spiritual, physical, moral and academic.  Their curriculum includes eurhythmy which is like dancing.


Pros and Cons of Schools

  • Public
    • Pros
      • Low cost.  Usually free and sometimes there may be a voluntary school levy in place.
      • Diversity of students as they accept all students within the local area.
      • In selective schools and SEAL programs especially, the ATAR scores achieved by students are very high as an overall group.  There is huge competition to obtain a selective school spot as around 13,000 students sit the NSW high school placement test in NSW in March while around 3,000 sit the Victorian Selective High School entrance exam in June each year.
    • Cons
      • Variable teaching quality.  Teachers aren’t accountable in public schools as they are in private.  A poor performing teacher is unable to be removed from the school, whereas in a private setting they are more accountable for their performance.
      • Discipline – A generalization is that that children in public schools aren’t disciplined like there are in private schools.


  • Private
    • Pros
      • A school catered to a parent/child’s value systems or beliefs e.g. a particular faith/religious or a teaching methodology.
      • Usually the most expensive schools have great facilities – lush sporting grounds and modern computer rooms.
      • At the most exclusive private schools, the past students network is quite strong and that can assist in later life.
      • The Year 9 NAPLAN Score State Average for private schools is higher than public schools by a 6% difference.
    • Cons
      • Very expensive and can go up to $30,000+ a year for school tuition fees for prestigious schools.  Catholic schools in general are around $3,000 are year.  Scholarships may offer financial relief for parents unable to afford the school fees, although it is very competitive to get a scholarship.  Scholarship can range from 25% - 90% reduction in school fees and there are various scholarship categories such as:
        • Music
        • Sport
        • Academic.

School choice is not the deciding factor of your child’s success.

While every parent wants to give their child the best education possible, it is important to think of things in perspective as children, regardless of the school they go to, can achieve success in life.  Let’s look at some examples.

  • Julia Gillard – 1st female prime minister of Australia.  Went to a public school – Unley High School in South Australia.
  • Tony Abbott – current Australian Prime Minister went to a catholic school – St Ignatius’ College Riverview in New South Wales.
  • Ruslan Kogan – 9th richest Australian in the 2011 BRW Rich 200.  He owns, an online retailer.  Went to a public selective school – Melbourne High in Victoria.
  • Julie Bishop – current Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs.  Went to St Peter’s Collegiate Girls’ School in South Australia.



Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2013, Schools, viewed 26 December 2014,

Herald Sun, 2014, Struggle to Make it into Top High Schools Now Tougher than Ever,

Julia Gillard, viewed 26 December 2014,

Julie Bishop, viewed 26 December 2014,

Ruslan Kogan, viewed 26 December 2014,

Sydney Morning Herald, 2013, Testing Times are Big Business, viewed 26 December 2014,

The Age, 2014, Naplan Results Show Public Versus Private Gulf, viewed 26 December 2014,

Tony Abbott, viewed 26 December 2014,


Next: What’s in the Perth Modern School Test?


Nathan Johnson April 15, 2016

Thanks for going over the pros and cons of sending kids to private or public schools. I have previously been a supporter of public school (mostly because I am a product of the public school system), but now I have to decide for my own children. The public elementary school that we are zoned is ranked poorly. Should I even worry about school rankings? Anyway, thank you for all this info!

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