The school environment

Schools in different sectors often have distinct styles and characteristics. On top of that, each sector includes a considerable array of different school environments. Below are some of the other factors you should consider as you try to navigate the list of schools in your sector/s of choice.

What year levels are available?

Most independent schools, and a handful of Catholic and government schools, run all the way from Prep to Year 12, although the primary students are usually in separate grounds from the secondary students. A small number of schools offer pre-prep education to Year 12. The majority of schools in Australia, including most government and Catholic schools, offer Years 7–12. There are a small number that offer Years 7–10 and some that are solely senior secondary colleges (Years 11 and 12 only).

How does the ‘ethos’ differ between schools?

‘Ethos’ is a catch-all word to describe factors that are hard to pin down but contribute to the character of a secondary school. Schools differ in the way teachers, students and others behave and treat each other. Many have up-front policies about behaviour and often comment on these in their charter and annual reports. Another clue to the school’s ethos lies in its effort to retain students through to Year 12. Schools that are good at this will offer a variety of pathways (not just university) and good teaching that results in everyone — rather than just a select group — gaining a solid education. Some of the best information about a school’s ethos will come from the community, parents and students who have come to know it well over time.

Co-ed or single-sex: which is better for my child?

All three sectors have girls-only and boys-only schools, although the majority of schools are co-ed. Some single-sex schools pair off with an opposite ‘brother’ or ‘sister’ school to share in co-curricular programs and activities, and sometimes classes. Researchers continue to examine the benefits and drawbacks of single-sex and co-ed schooling. Overall, there is no conclusive evidence to decide which environment is better and for whom. When choosing a school, it can be helpful to consider your own child's needs and how they would learn in a particular environment.

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