Elizabeth, my young daughter, breaks up from school at the end of the week for the winter break.
Elizabeth has had three full years at school now, although the first one was her “prep” year, which is voluntary. So she has completed year two and is now halfway through year three.
And what starts in year three? NAPLAN!
If you don’t know what NAPLAN is, then check out my post called Schools in Australia and NAPLAN.
Anyway, the NAPLAN tests are taken quite seriously here and they take place on the same days across all of Australia. If any student is not able to attend on those days, there is a “catch up” day where the children are given another opportunity to take the tests.
It can even be arranged for your child to take the test in a different school in a different state if, during the week of the tests, you are away from home for any reason.
Elizabeth’s track record for school attendance is almost exemplary, but as Murphy’s Law dictated, on the week of the NAPLAN tests, she had managed to pick up some kind of viral infection that left her with water on the hip.
Poor Elizabeth could hardly walk.
So she missed the first day of the tests, went in for day two and day three, but only specifically for the tests, and then caught up with the tests that she missed, on catch up day.
At the end of this week, we will be getting her first report since those tests; it’ll be interesting to see how they go. Elizabeth will be just as keen as we are to see good results; she is on a small financial incentive to get as many A’s as possible.
Anyway, enough about Elizabeth, what’s this post really about?
Researching the best schools in Australia.
There is a newish website, or rather a page on the Courier Mail site, that helps you research information about schools in Queensland.
What you will find there is staff information, student information and financial information about schools gathered from various public websites and put all into one simple system.
Update January 2016: Unfortunately, for some reason the Courier Mail have taken down that page which is why I no longer have a link to it, but I have found another page on The Australian that may help, it’s called Your School.
Prominently displayed next to the details of each school is the Index of Community Socio-Educational Advantage (ICSEA, pronounced ‘ikseeya’) score, as it is quite important. It’s what the Myschool website uses to compare like schools together. There is a four page PDF that explains ICSEA scores, but you may prefer a one sentence explanation:
The higher the ICSEA score, the better the school is likely to do in the NAPLAN tests.
ICSEA scores, NAPLAN tests! Quite complex isn’t it? I’m sure schools were not like this in my day.
Anyway, the average ICSEA score is 1000, the highest score in Queensland is about 1200.
If you are looking for a school anywhere in Australia you may well find my page about schools of interest.
State school or private school?
That’s a question many parents face, should I pay out for private education or are the state schools just as good?
This is by no means a thorough investigation, more of a cursory glance. Here’s what I did. Using my house as a central point in all of Australia, I took the two closest state run primary schools and compared them to the nearest private school that also caters for primary students.
Those three schools are:
- Moggill State School
- Pullenvale State School
- Ipswich Girls Grammar School
You can get all sorts of information comparing these three schools from the Courier Mail website; you can compare between years 3, 5 and 7; see results for years 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011; and compare each different category in the NAPLAN tests, which are:
- Grammar and Punctuation
But I am going to show you just one screenshot from all the comparisons I looked at, and that is for “Overall Student Performance” 2011 for students in Years 3, 5 and 7. You can click the image to enlarge it…
Please note: only the Ipswich school caters for year 9 (secondary school) students, hence no data for the other two schools.
As you can see for yourselves, there’s really not much between the three schools is there?
The two state schools are free, apart from a few small contributions towards books and sports equipment, for example, whereas the private school will cost you, at today’s rates:
- Prep – Yr 5 = $7,420 Per Annum
- Years 6 & 7 = $7,738 Per Annum
I’m not going to make any irrational conclusions from this tiny experiment. If anything can be taken from it though, it’s surely ‘do your research,’ rather than automatically assume that private schools must be much better than state schools.
But maybe I’m missing something. Am I?