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Independent Schools Do State Schools A Favour

Private school might cost our family holidays and cars, but we don’t care.

01/06/2016 7:39 AM AEST | Updated 15/07/2016 12:53 PM AEST
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"What is important is our child learns and is happy in the process."

This week Jean Flynn said private schools should be expelled from the education system. That's like saying that people who own a Mercedes should pay more in registration. Or they shouldn't be allowed on the road. So I wanted to tell my personal story about education to show that independent schools actually do state school students a favour.

Recently, I changed my child from a good local state school which was close, convenient and free to a good independent school which isn't as close or convenient and it's certainly not free. I did this because the gap between my child and the other students was getting bigger and bigger.

My husband and I have spent a fortune on outside help for my child -- occupational therapy to learn to write, speech therapy to learn to speak and physiotherapy, again to learn to write.

But we saw no results from the classroom.

And for this I blame the teachers' unions, the education specialists and every person who has said "they should teach lifesaving/swimming/religion/manners/cooking/race relations/first aid/CPR/driving/safe drinking/no cowards punching" and any other extraneous topic which pushes out time spent on reading, writing and maths.

I blame the teachers who teach teachers and the unions because they dominate the education debate, despite not being in actual classrooms. They present the theory and the policy but how often do they knock their heads on the dangling pictures and mobiles swaying in the P&C-funded air-conditioning? They create complex subject acronyms like LOTE, SOSE and HPE and tell us geography is old fashioned and French is not a useful language to learn, despite it being a UN language.

They've taken a fairly simple task and made it convoluted, complex and jargon-filled, and they've ruined education for the rest of us.

The unions have to take a fair share of blame, too, for letting teachers have greater rights at work than the students have to a consistent teaching presence in the classroom.

My child's class was given a teacher last year who took leave during the Christmas holidays which extended two weeks into the first term. I was assured by the principal this was for health reasons and that this teacher would return to the classroom in week three. The teacher extended their leave and the substitute teacher was scheduled to have surgery, so the class had another teacher for the remainder of the term.

At the beginning of term two, the original teacher had come back part-time and the second substitute teacher was job sharing. That's three teachers by term two. These are year two students i.e. seven-year-olds.

At what point can a public school principal say to a teacher: you've forfeited your right to your class and it's going to another permanent teacher? I'm afraid never. So 24 children get to experience three teaching styles, three discipline styles and a job-share arrangement which depends on both teachers being like-minded and good communicators.

When a child has learning difficulties such as poor motor planning or a weak pencil grip or a disability such as dyslexia, the sort of chop and change my child experienced this year can be destabilising and confusing.

I watched as my child went from being a relaxed and happy little individual, to silent and inward focused. More time was spent watching the iPad than imaginative play.

In the public system (in Queensland), the curriculum is taken from the national shelf and put straight into the classroom. Teachers are given 20 modules they have to teach in 10 weeks and the timeline doesn't leave them room for their own creativity and processes. This is great if you have a lazy teacher who doesn't lesson plan, but terrible for the genuine teachers who want to adapt and change the curriculum to the students' needs.

So some might say the independent schools should be kicked out of the system, but I think it's not just a haven for parents like me who want a guaranteed standard of teaching, but for teachers who want to teach rather than deliver a 'pedagogical framework to a strict timetable to set deliverables', not to mention a code of conduct they can count on to keep the class in control.

So now my child attends a school and is in a class with 16 other students. The discipline is there. The teacher is passionate and engaged.

And I'm seeing results. Not just in spelling and adding, but in smiles and creative play.

It might cost our family holidays and cars, but we don't care. What is important is our child learns and is happy in the process.

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