Should I Put My Son into a Private or Public School?

Hi Ozbargainers,

I am a single father with a son who is about to start primary school in Sydney. I want to give him a good education and have been considering putting him into a private school.

Obviously being the only income earner it would mean the school fees would take up quite a bit of my savings. Therefore I'm debating on whether to put him in a private or public school. What do you guys think? Will he get the same education? Appreciate your thoughts and experience!

Poll Options expired

  • 138
    Put him in a private school if you can afford it.
  • 399
    Put him in a public school, it's not that different.


  • Loads of research says no difference between public and private. Just try and find a well regarded public school.

    • Sounds like limited research to me?

      Maybe merely in terms of 'grades' there might not be a whole lot of difference….depending on the schools compared but in terms of environment and care we found there are huge differences. I guess it comes down to if your want your kids raised by the government or raised along government guidelines with wiggle room for individuality and humanity? In the end we chose a not-to-expensive private Christian school for our kids and couldn't be happier the way they came out the other end.

      • Completely agree with a Christian school. I'm personally not religious, but having experienced both public and Christian schools for myself, I'd say Christian or Private all the way.

        There are life skills and networks that your kids will gain which will help later in life.

        Besides that, I found that with myself, my siblings, my own kids and nieces and nephews, Christian schools teach them better values and manners as well.

        If you want kids with good morals and strong values, the choice is simple.

        • Good morals and strong values come from good parenting, not the school you go to.

        • @scrambledeggs: exactly. Couldn’t have said it better myself

        • @scrambledeggs:very true. It does start at home but it helps when it's maintained at school. I have friends who instil good behaviour at home and the kids pick up bad habits at school.

          Personally, I don't want my kids going to school with children who's parents can't teach their kids how to be part of a society.

          I went to public school until year 9 and the difference of kids you mix with is massive.

          I also found that the teachers cared a lot more and the parents of the kids were more involved in schooling as well.

          In my case at least, all of my Christian school friends are successful in their careers and about half of my public school friends did ok (but not exactly successful). The rest are what I would call failures to a degree.

          There are studies that show that Christian and private schools produce more successful graduates.

          It is more expensive but if you can afford it, we'll worth it in my opinion.

        • +17 votes

          @scrambledeggs: That's only true to some extend. Your kids' peer and school will have much greater impact on how your kids behave because that's where they spend most of their time.

        • +28 votes

          Choosing a school is a part of that parenting.
          Good parenting recognises how the influence of a school can impact your kids.

        • -5 votes

          Interesting usage of "who's" and "we'll".

        • @Frugal Rock: autocorrect must interest you a fair bit then

        • @scrambledeggs: Im 19 and i just finished school two years ago and Ill quickly tell you from experience morals can change drastically depending on what you are taught. The school I went to (public) didnt do anything to instill good morals and teaching into the kids I went there with and some that were already dodgy went farther off the rails. I had a strong moral upbringing so yes I agree that is probably the deciding factor but I wholeheartedly disagree that the school you attend has no influence.

        • Does the Christian school teach all of the bible, including the parts about dashing babies heads against rocks, or just the few kind verses?

        • @lostn: I think the public system shows you that side in real life. The quality of teacher is better at a Christian school and it directly helped me to become an atheist instead of a clueless troll.

        • I agree with you, but not sure why your comment got +'s while those above with similar sentiments got negged.

        • @tragic: Because it's the internet. Those things are worthless, the points made in what people post is what's important and there's good arguments for both sides.

          It just seems there's more trolls on one side of the argument which kind of supports the other side.

        • @imurgod: in my experience the best teachers regard education for everyone as a keystone of their philosophy . As such some extremely dedicated teachers can be found in the public school system…not being a Christian I encountered three or four teachers who espoused a true Christian type ethos (whatever u think that is…but I guess Jesus complex, charity humility and giving come to mind)in the school I went to (a public school) . Also I would add that the public sector conducts more detailed checks on teachers…many cases in recent years of private sector teachers being outed for misconduct

        • @imurgod:
          Most likely if the parents are rich enough to put their kids through a private institutions then their children have higher expectations to meet along with better opportunities.

        • @biozet: Some fair points. Ironically, I became an atheist during school. My opinion is purely based on my own experience of schools.

        • Feel free to discuss opinions about the topic in question but please do not resort to insulting or attacking other users just because they have a different opinion.


          Where does imurgod's doxxing revelation above sit?

        • @Frugal Rock: if you have an issue with a comment, click the report link and we will assess.

        • @moocher: I completely agree. Thanks for stepping in and my apologies for sinking to that level.

        • I'd prefer my children learn that moral code has actual meaning, not be indoctrinated to believe morals need to come from a fictional book.

        • @stealthpaw: I agree with you. Although, I'd argue that meaningful morals are actually part of the Christian values taught.

          That said, it helps when those morals that you teach are reinforced at school and also that they mix with other kids who have strong morals.

          IMHO, Religion and fictitious books just isn't a reason to opt for a poorer quality education.

          I was smart enough to not buy into that garbage and my kids will learn that too.

          If you can't think for yourself and resort to following a sky ghost and getting upset at the the gay marriage equality vote, then you're probably doomed either way and which school you go to is the least of your worries.

        • @scrambledeggs:
          I would argue they come from good parenting AND a good school

      • Not sure why the negs, i agree with uou

        • It's ok. The negs don't bother me.

          I find that people quickly result to negs because they can't put forward a rational argument and it's the tiny amount of power they can actually have. It's a lot like people who resort to violence because they aren't capable of rational thought or to understand that others might not share their opinion.

          I don't claim to be right but I have experienced both types of education and draw my opinion from that experience.

          There's no question in my mind that Christian and private education is putting your child at a distinct advantage for life.

        • @imurgod:

          I want to Pm you and ask something privately but I can't, can you enable your inbox? Thanks.

      • My kids go to a Christian school and I am so glad we made that choice just from what we're been told from workmates and friends about what happens at public schools. Eg bullying, hardly any support for kid with learning difficulties, violence, smoking, drugs, rape.

        And this is in public primary schools.

        • As someone who went to a Christian school this happens there as well. Your post reeks of the typical christian brainwashing that believes non-christian world to be morally corrupt.

        • @wengerboy:
          Lol how does it reek of Christian brainwashing?

        • @wengerboy: This is a very legitimate point and one that I was worried about.
          Thankfully, the religious part of the school my kids go to isn't as cult-like as one would think and I talk to my kids about how they should be objective about religion. I know many other parents who do the same.

          I don't want my kids to be pushed into any religion since I'm a huge hypocrite and don't believe myself, but I do want the rest of what the school offers so I see it as a small sacrifice (no pun intended).

        • Lol. So many rape and drug allegations against all clergies in the world. Especially pedophilia.. You call that Moral?

        • I went to a christian school (primary and secondary), got bullied all the time and there was considerable smoking for the time. Not sure if drugs and rape were common at any school 20 to 30 years ago so cant comment on that (although being an all boy school rape would have been lower there anyway, if you exclude the priests [NOT speaking from experience there thankfully]).

          Probably the best thing i learnt at a christian primary school was that i was Athiest (now an Apatheist).

          In year 11 and 12, they want out of their way to restrict what classes i could take (had to pick a certain number of Category A classes), even though i knew i wanted to be in IT/software development since grade 2.

          They had special english, but not really sure it was all that good.

          Long story short, i went to a private school and i'm still pretty stupid. Be that as it may (or is it because im stupid) I plan to send my kids to a public school (primary and secondary), cause i sure as shit cant afford private so its a moot point.

          If the money doesn't matter all that much, you should be looking at a school by school basis, if you dont like the ones in your area, go private, otherwise pick the ones that suit your son the most.

        • @TrendyTim: I second this. Went to a Christian school from Grade 4 to Year 10. I was bullied to the point that I broke down in front of my parents to allow me to change schools. I was taught by these schools not to "Dob" as I would end up getting in just as much trouble for dobbing as I would for having done the dead. Usually putting me in an isolated room with the bully.

          I did get a fairly good education so there is that.

          Thankfully the following two years at a public school built up my confidence before joining the workforce.

        • @Moventura:

          The other problem with private schools, they are often not coed, and going coed christian school, to all boys high school, i mostly lost my ability to socialise/talk to girls because the only females at the school were teachers.

          With my bullying at least i was a large contributing factor in getting the main culprit (who also bullied me in primary school) expelled, so that is a little credit to them (though it took him spitting on the floor in the classroom to finally make it happen if i recall), public schools would probably have a tougher time expelling.

      • *not-too-expensive

    • +16 votes

      Loads of research says no difference between public and private. Just try and find a well regarded public school.

      This is just patently false.

      Loads of research shows students from private schools have a higher chance of successful careers. Usually this is down to them knowing other people who are also successful.

      You can still have a successful career after public schooling but let's not bury our heads in the sand.

      • More likely it is because the parents of private school children are more likely to have money and being better off financially means you'll do better at life. Correlation does not equal causation.

        • I was going to say this but didn't want to trigger any more rich private school kids

        • @scrambledeggs: Too late. Triggered

        • Not necessarily. My parents did it tough. My dad was a blue collar immigrant. I can clearly remember the hard times when my friends got to do things that I couldn't. My parents put 3 of us through good schools and we're all successful, not only in our careers but in life in general.

          We're a strong, tightly knit family who have strong morals and it shows in our children as well.

          I'm proud of what my parents did and I'll do the same for my kids because I care about how they grow up.

          I see the calibre of child that lazy parenting produces. I don't want that for my kids.

        • Except putting your child in private school means they'll get to rub shoulders with these people. Connections and networking is a huge part of long term career success, and not only will kids get an advantage immediately, they'll also develop the skills to socialize and interact with these kinds of people in the future also.

      • Yeah.. because their parents were successful.

        I wouldn't say there's no difference between public and private - but I'd say there's little difference between a 'well regarded' public school and a private school. For the most part, school is what the individual makes of it.

        That said, I wouldn't want to send my kids to a public school in a shitty area.

        • Poor demographic is the word my partner and the system tends to describe these areas with.

      • I've read the students from public school who go to tertiary are more likely to complete their degree and do better. Unfortunately I think this country is leaving behind a meritocratic type system in favour of a consumerist type 'pay your way into a high paid job' scenario

        • But less kids from public school actually make it to the best unis in the country in the first place. I give my kids the best opportunity which means private school over public school.

        • but why do you feel that way…isn't that what we are exploring ?

        • @biozet: I think he feels that way because "…less kids from public schools make it to the best unis int he country in the first place"

          I immigrated to Australia at a young age. My parents weren't rich but understood that academic success was important to career success, and that mental development was important to a fulfilling internal life. They kept me focused and pushed me to achieve my best. I felt very different to most of the other kids I encountered in public school. Most of them were not raised around books, weren't taught to read for pleasure. Most of the kids were more focussed on their hobbies like sports than they were on academic learning. Most of their parents were ready to interpret poor marks as a sign that their kids were just not good at that subject, rather than that they might not be trying hard enough or losing focus. Most parents had completely outsourced their kids education to the school and did not participate actively in their kids' education. The teachers were also doing the bare minimum, if my parents asked teachers to provide something more challenging for me they met with extreme resistance. Socially studying was looked down upon and being driven academically was likely to ostracize you.

          Towards the end of primary school I managed to get a full scholarship at an expensive private school. I found the attitudes of the kids and the teachers there completely different. Most of the teachers were passionate about their jobs, were happy to work with my parents, suggest additional material and create a program that worked with my parents' expectations, kept me challenged and worked with my strengths and weaknesses. Parents expected more of the other kids which, in turn, changed the culture of the school. Aiming for good marks wasn't looked down upon, the academic standards achieved by my classmates was higher and it felt a lot less strange to try your best at school.

          I managed to get into a law program at one of the top Unis in the country and I can tell you that almost every other student that got in was from a private school, with a handful that had gone to selective entry public schools.

          That's just my experience. I think if you have a kid who is quite cerebral and you feel they have the potential to achieve a lot academically, it's likely they'll find the student culture and teaching environment at a private or selective entry public school a lot more conducive to learning. Though this has to be paired with an attitude by the parents that they still own their child's education. They have to encourage them to read and learn to enjoy reading, when they're really young. They should sit with them and make sure they understand their maths homework. They have to talk to their teachers and make sure there's a common understanding about what the child's strengths and weaknesses are, and have a plan about how to work on the weaknesses, and consolidate the strengths in a way that's challenging and rewarding for the child.

    • Do they both teach gay sex in sexuality education class fromm year 1 now ? Just curious …

    • it depends what suburb you live in ….. in melbourne’s a few public schools get great results BUT they are in the expensive real estate belts and people typically pay $250 k more for a house to live there so their child gets into that school zone and you would be with like minded parents at that school …. valueing education is a cultural thing and sometimes that is reflected in post codes.

      hence naplan will show you what the schools are like academically, and why some public schools which perform poorly keep negging naplan …. no school that gets great naplan results says naplan is of no value.

      i didn’t live in one of those areas that had a great public school and was too expensive to move so i went with private ….. not cheap but much better than local options.

      also private can range from subsidised catholic schools through to non subsidised grammar schools .

  • +64 votes

    Education starts at home, private or public makes little difference, you need to make your child want to learn, otherwise it doesnt matter what you pay in tuition fees.

    • This. The hardest part is changing your kids mindset to actually be interested in learning

    • That's true.
      In fact most people don't even start learning until after they leave school. And then because they learn what they want to learn they do it at a much greater rate and for more benefit. I have heard of schools where the kids are treated as individual human beings who are encouraged to be inquisitive and creative instead of jammed into the classroom/office mould that the cookie-cutter western 'education' system offers. In the end though it is as you say, it all comes down to the awareness level of the child's parents.

    • Yes but once the kids have the mindset to strife, private school will give them the most opportunity to leverage their mindset. Plus being surrounded by like minded and successful parents or kids of those family means you are given a head start in life.

      Having said that I don't see much value in private vs public primary school. To be honest I don't remember learning much in primary school in this country

      • Most people don' is perceived in as a lower quality place. However many of the most important things you learn in life happen before you are 10. Everyone seems to think they learn how to read automatically but is actually parents and primary school teachers who impart this ability. Most people devalue the prowess of a primary teacher yet consider a university professor a complete genius. Iq scores (while problematic in themselves ) highlight a lack of difference in the cognitive abilities of both groups . Consider your ability to read and respond in this forum and possibility acknowledge the role primary teachers had in that despite not remembering the gifts they gave .

        • Quite the opposite actually, the reason why I don't see value in private primary is because I think the teachers at public primary schools are just as adequate to provide the same level of curriculum and teaching as private. I don't see much value in the 20k a year spent at primary school level compared to high school. By the way, my wife is a primary school teacher and so I hear a lot about the school, other teachers and parents in both private and public.

  • It totally depends on the school. Some public schools are fantastic. Visit schools in your area to see what they offer. Ask other sensible, responsible parents in your area their opinions. Ask for opinions in your local FB pages.

    • Yeah it depends on the area and individual school as much as whether it's public or private.

      Also note that you can look up school results online based on standardised tests (and the difference is large between academically "worst" and "best" schools).

    • +4 votes

      I'd be careful with the opinions of bratty mums that more often than not have nothing better to say about ANYTHING and only go to pass the blame because a) #can'tparent or b) their kid is an angel. Unbiased opinions are few and far between with the education system, even teachers give it a hard time and it's no wonder they're on a slippery slope.

      I feel for the education system. Needs to go back AT LEAST decade to times when the parent actually had faith/trust in their teachers and the education system and let it run its coarse.

      There are bad eggs in everything but the education system generally gets the short end of it more often than not.

      • -3 votes

        +1 for "run its coarse", Eliza Doolittle.

  • Obvisously you should never pay school fees from savings, they are an ongoing and increasing cost, so it should come from income. It is a statistical fact that putting your child through a public or private school for primary school makes no difference academically, but it is a different story for secondary school. Many parents put their child in private primary schools to guarantee a place in the senior school, but that’s a $120-200k place holder. I’d be willing to take the risk.

    • the intakes into the secondary system are smaller as time progresses and if you are in the primary for that school, you have a place lined up.

      one secondary school i looked at takes 100 kids in year 7, they get 200 applicants and they sit for an exam and interview for those 100 places.

      The ones from the primary stream already have their places reserved in year 7.

      year 9 intake was 30 places and year 11 and 12 no places at all.

  • I prefer private schools. Generally have better facilities, a better social network, kids with similar socio-economic backgrounds and you get to meet a lot of life long friends (kids and parents) who can help you find a job later in life.
    Sport is really important to me, so I want them to have a great sporting program. I also like how private schools don't give much homework. It's all about public speaking, sports, extra-curriculars and of course the state curriculum which is taught in school hours.

    • I went to a private school and got HAMMERED with homework… In year 6 I was sometimes up past 1am getting through the piles upon piles of homework…

      School were the worst years of my life. Only university study and real work experience mattered in the end.
      There are only two things that I was fond of at school. My life-long friends and perhaps 1 or 2 high-school teachers who made a difference in my life, but everything else sucked.

      I think it goes to say that private or public status alone shouldn't be the deciding factor for a school, but as others have mentioned, what reputation and community they have.

      End rant.

      • @xebozone do you think that the hardworking that you were made to do in school actually made university much easier(walk in the park)?

        • I wish I could say yes. University was just as difficult as late high school as far as studying went.

          Learning how to learn and study is a skill that unfortunately most schools don't teach.
          Different people study in different ways, and it took me years to discover how best to study.
          I actually failed a couple of units at university… not because I am stupid (I was a very good student at school), but because of the way that things are taught.

          I learned much faster when I took what needed to be learned, found different ways of representing it, and then studying things in my own way (essentially, the subjects I was best at involved me writing my own books, because the ones supplied just didn't work for me).

          The educational system as it is, does not favor everyone… just a special kind of person. The kind of person who learns well using books. I'm sure one day there will be better ways to learn, but that kind of change is going to take generations.

          End rant #2

    • What's wrong with your kids being exposed to a diverse socio economic group

      • What's wrong with your kids being exposed to a diverse socio economic group

        Nothing really. They'll be exposed to it when they start working and after school.

        I find that kids with similar upbringing and financial situation tend to be more relatable with each other. I have seen the potty mouth of some kids in public schools and it just makes me furious. I'm sure it goes on in private schools too, but my local private school employs holds discipline to a very high regard. There is also a less chance that your kids will meet the wrong sort of kids and throw their life away.

        • Oh no, kids using swear words…. definitely the most important thing to make sure they don't use those bad, bad words

        • @Pacify:

          Using swear words can be indicative of a larger problem. Some things are just more important to others. For example, conservative values and discipline is important to me. Something that is probably lost to you.

          Let me guess, public school?

        • Using swear words can be indicative of a larger problem.


          conservative values

          Perhaps rethink your values, its not the 1950s anymore

        • @Pacify:

          Absolutely not. Someone has to be the grown up


          Very likely.

        • @smuggler: Not really likely. Hell, it's not just the students, some teachers openly swear in class as well. Even the books you have to study in English have a few here and there.

        • @smuggler:

          Are you even Australian? You sound more like a Yank, they are more obsessed with swearing

        • You shouldn't let it make you furious . What about the private school kids doings lines of coke and hiring hookers at schoolies?

        • @biozet:

          What about the private school kids doings lines of coke and hiring hookers at schoolies?

          Never seen that before even when I was at school. Must be a lucky few…;)

        • @smuggler: ha. Good response .

      • some socio economic groups value education more than others and its good when all the kids value school because their parents do. I recall when i was at school, some kids were very disruptive as they intended to drop out and “ get a job “ after form 4 ( year 10) ….. when i got to year 11 and 12 and the disrupters were gone from the class room we learned more.

        without stereotyping , jewish people, asians and indians value education highly and you can see that they are over represented academically compared to their percentage of the population.

      • Exactly that, exposure, kids are more impressionable when they're finding themselves.

  • I agree with @scrambledeggs - find a well regarded school, do a tour and then make your call. In my experience, it’s the school community and the staff that are important. Depending on your work circumstances, finding one with a good after school hours care program might be a factor.

    Personally I would also think distance from home would also come into it as playing at mates places after school is always fun and I know parents who hate how far they need to drive when they are.

    • How do you get into a good public school? Doesn't the school choose you based on where you live?

      • If they have an accelerated program, or are just a selective school then you can take an entrance exam. Do well and they take you regardless of where you live.

        • selective is for secondary school, melbourne high for boys and mac robertson’s for girls, exams are in year 10, so your child needs to amongst the best to get into those.

          my son does accelerated at his primary school got top 15% in naplan , it’s private and they invest in the accelerated program , not all primary schools have accelerated programs.

          my nephews was moved from primary school to secondary school for maths classes at his private school , few public schools would do that.

        • @garage sale: Woops forgot it was about primary schools. Btw the exams for those two schools are in year 8

      • To some extent word of mouth will tell you of good schools (bearing in mind that some schools will fit you and your family circumstances better than others.

        Some public schools are at capacity in terms of intake. These are zoned (taking students from a given area) but still taking a percentage of students outside their zone. Others are not zoned. Zoning can happen due to lack of options in the area (e.g. high density living) vs # of students or due to a perception of The school.

        You always have a degree of choice.

  • A good public school is a lot better than a private school that is no good. If you are lucky you have a good school in zone, we are lucky and have two. Personally I've been happy with our kids going to public school. They teach the same stuff and the kids get to mix with a broader range of students, not just the ones with money.

    The biggest thing you can do to improve your sons education is be involved. Be supportive, he him with homework etc and as much as possible be a known parent at the school. Turn up, get to know the teachers, join in events etc.

    • +5 votes

      Absolutely agree, parents need to get involved with child's education and school. I don't think you can just put the child in a school and expect the private school or selective school to do every thing for your child. Whether your child is in a selective or academically private, you need to monitor your child's progress, if your child is not trying best, you need to support your child.

    • All the good public school in Melbourne you will have a hard time trying to buy a house in those zones. Or you can rent, but that's a different can of worm. The money I save from buying outside of those zoning is enough for me to send a kid to 6 years private high school easily.

      • same for me, the cost of moving to to a school zone with top schools e.g balwyn, is the same as sending him to a private school for 12 years, if you have 2 or 3 kids it’s a different cost structure,