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Private to public: should my son change schools?

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#1 daviesjv

Posted 11 January 2010 - 02:21 PM

Our oldest (of three) started school last year (prep). We sent him to a small private school which is fairly local to where we live. The school grounds and facilities are great, the teachers are pleasant (most of them) and the kids and parents seem nice, but our son really hated being there. He didn’t seem to make many friends, didn’t seem to click with his teacher and every morning didn’t want to go to school.

There’s only three weeks now until school goes back for grade one and as it gets closer he is panicking. He’s crying, saying he doesn’t want to go back, that he hates it and why can’t he go to the local school? (Some of our neighbours who he plays with are at the local state school). He’s even wet the bed a couple of times, which he does when he’s stressed. I don’t know what to do.

DH reckons that’s fine, that if he wants to go to the public school he can, but I’m resisting the idea. Not that the state school is bad, but I think that he’d get a better education at the private school. And just because he had one bad year doesn’t mean that he wouldn’t enjoy this year. We’ve already paid our deposit for this year, bought the books, etc. And then I worry about the other two and whether it will ruin their chances of going private if we pull our oldest son out.

I want him to be happy, but I don’t want to react too quickly. Is it worth persevering with the private school that I really like –but which he doesn’t?  Any advice would be appreciated.

Worried Mum

Hi WM. It’s tricky, isn’t it, because we hate seeing our kids upset. To help you out I have asked Dr John Irvine  who is a child psychologist, print and TV regular and author of books including “Thriving at School” , for some advice.

“There are a number of issues to consider here,” he says. “If we were talking about a preschooler being unhappy in their care situation then I would be recommending that they move to another centre. However it is not so easy with a school-age child. For a school-age child, changing schools should really be seen as a last resort. It may be better to stay and work through the issues that that child has, otherwise you may simply be moving the problems from one school to another.”

And Dr Irvine emphasises the importance of understanding what the problem actually is. Is it a bullying issue? Or a separation anxiety issue? Is your son having trouble keeping up academically with the class, or did he have trouble understanding what his teacher was asking of him? Or something else entirely? Any of these things can affect your son’s confidence, self esteem and enjoyment of the school year. But unless you can pinpoint what is causing your son’s anxiety it will be difficult for you to help your son overcome the issue.

“I would be suggesting that the parents take a “new year – new class” approach with their son,” says Dr Irvine. “Perhaps make a visit to the doctor between now and the start of school for a medical check up in case there are any sight, hearing or other problems than need to be investigated. If the problem is purely social then perhaps write a nice little card to this year’s teacher, mentioning the social issues that their son had last year and his reluctance to return and ask the teacher to observe their son for the first few weeks and follow up with them on any areas where they (the parents) could provide support. The teacher may also be able to implement some strategies, such as a buddy system, if you make her aware of the issue.”

WM, Dr Irvine also stressed that one of the most important things that parents can do is to be involved with the school: tuckshop, reading, helping at sport days and so forth. You didn’t mention what level of involvement you have with your son’s school, and I know that it can be difficult with two younger ones to find the time to volunteer in the classroom, but it would most certainly be a worthwhile thing to do. And whatever decision you end up making, best of luck!

EB Members: What is your advice for “Worried Mum”?


#2 Abigailz

Posted 13 January 2010 - 12:12 PM

I would make a deal. Tell him to try the private school for the first half of the year and if things have still not improved then you will look at sending him to the state school. This will stop him from being stressed and he may relax enough to enjoy school again? Private or State- at Primary level it really doesn't matter in the end. Your child's emotional well being is far more important. He can always go private for secondary.

#3 twotofour

Posted 13 January 2010 - 12:17 PM

Hi Our story is similar to yours .Our son started prep at a private school as we believed it would be the best option for him.We noticed he was not happy right from the start .He is a very happy friendly child that normally makes friends easily yet he was struggling to click with anyone.The teacher was lovely but also didn't seem  to make my child happy even though she was highly sought after .I was seeing a rapid down turn in my sons enthusiasm for school and his placid behaviour was rapidly changing.We made ,as a family tha hardest descision to change schools mid term,this is what our son wanted even though he realised he would know no one at his new school.We made the change and on the first day as DS was being taken into class he started to well up and two boys came to him and said "do you want to come and play with us?" it was a turning point for my boy and has never looked back.He has done well in all areas of his prep year and cant wait to start grade one.I believe playing an active role in a childs education to be very important but I now also rate their happiness with their environment of the same importance.We love our local State School and all of our children will hopefully be as happy there as DS.

#4 Ducky*Fuzz

Posted 13 January 2010 - 12:22 PM

Let him go to public school.  He will get just as good an education from there as your private school.  

My friend was like this, sacrificed everything - including decent food to afford the fees.  She wanted the "prestige" of sending her child to a private school - not that it was exclusive or anything.

When her son changed school and went to a public school (to get away from a bad child), he absolutely flourished.  He made some new friends and did really well academically.

#5 PeterR

Posted 13 January 2010 - 01:51 PM

"Small private school" is code for religious school.  It's probably poorly funded, has limited curriculum and resources, and lacking in non academic programmes such as sport and music.

I wonder what your aversion to a public school really is. I've been through this recently in my family and suspect you won't easily be swayed. You should think carefully about why you think a small private school is going to be a better education than a public school. Private schools don't have some magic knowledge that is lacking in public schools. The larger number of children at a public school means your son can make friends naturally with children he feels comfortable with and the extra programmes available means he can discover what it is he enjoys.

If you are worried about morality then why? Good morals comes from the family and isolating your child from bad influences is just going to make him a social outcast. If your family has some belief that means you are going to deny your child opportunities that others have then maybe you should let your child make these decisions himself when he is an adult - not make them for him.

Edited by PeterR, 13 January 2010 - 02:14 PM.

#6 Carrose

Posted 13 January 2010 - 02:23 PM

Sorry, but I hate the idea of private schools, especially when they are all based around religion. My BF thinks she is so high and mighty because she'll be sending her son to a (now, you must put a plum your mouth when you say this) *PRIVATE SCHOOL* thus making him better educated and better behaved than all the kids who go to a (remove plum) public school.
I say send your son to the public school, if he already has friends there and if he doesn't want to go to the private one so be it. Get off your high horse.

#7 opethmum

Posted 13 January 2010 - 02:40 PM

Hi There,  

Public schools are not bad, they are perfectly adequate and often provide similar academic results in the area you are currently situated. I know you have invested a lot of energy and money in the school and paid the deposit and everything like that but surely your son is worth more than that. You are not a bad parent by all means it is hard to see the ones we love being hurt and downtrodden.

This one bad year that your son has endured will probably most likely continue, the school has clearly let down your son in not providing you with the solutions your son needs. The people who have bullied him will most likely continue because kids will be kids and they will not change overnight some of them will be most likely placed in your sons class this year.

Your other children will most likely will not be affected in future enrollment proceedings should you wish for them to go there.  If your son has more friends who attend the local primary school and accept him for who he is I would surround him with them, he would have a far better year this year.

You should not waste your hard earned money for a school that is clearly not providing for your sons emotional well being . You should not waste your time and energy for a school that will not clearly help your son socially or academically. Nor should you volunteer just to apease them and keep up with the Jones' especially since you have younger kids and may find childcare difficult to come by when it is your turn.

I am not anti private school but I am concerned with schools out there who happily take your money and provide little in return.

By all means do a try and see for awhile but if he still comes home sad and angry and the school does not address your concerns adequately I guess you have your answer.

Good Luck, All the best. original.gif

#8 Teak100

Posted 13 January 2010 - 02:42 PM

If I was in your shoes I would let my son go to the state school. Primary school should be enjoyable. If your son is happy he'll do better at school. The other alternative that's been suggested is a good fall back if you really don't want to do that, tell him to give it 6 months and if he's still not happy you'll let him change.

I went from a state primary school to an all girls secondary school and was miserable. I had no friends, my teachers were seemingly unfriendly and everything seemed so foreign. My parents told me to give it 6 months and if I was still unhappy they would let me go to the public school...I ended up thinking it was ok and completed my schooling there. Which, I'm pleased I did. But your son is so young so keep in mind that he really won't get left behind if he's in a public school for primary.

On a personal note, I found at my private school that the girls who had come through from prep were very insular and clicky, and those who had come through from public primary schools were much friendlier and adjusted - we were not disadvantaged academically either.

Good luck with what ever you decide. I hope your son has a happier year.

#9 amyk81

Posted 13 January 2010 - 03:16 PM

Go for the public school, especially for primary school. Stdents who would do well anyway will do so at either school. If you like the smaller teacher to student ratio or something like that, consider making your son happier by letting him go to the public school and use your considerable savings for a tutor should you feel he needs it. Remember, private school students may get good academic results at high school, but not perform so well at uni when they have to do more of the work themselves, so the public school may be beneficial.
When you say you like the resources of the small private school, have you compared the resources of the public school? Some are quite well set up.

#10 jkmt

Posted 13 January 2010 - 03:20 PM

Another option might be to see whether your child can visit the public school for a day or two to 'try out' the experience before you make a decision. This reflects my experience many years ago, when I was moved from a public school to a private school at the end of Year 2. I hated the new school, and a few months later, my parents allowed me to spend a day at the old school which I had really enjoyed. The visit made me realise that the old school wasn't everything wonderful that I remembered. While I never loved the private school, that visit certainly made me settle better.

Definitely try to find out what it is that he is unhappy about - you may be able to work through it with the new teacher if you have a clear understanding.

Good luck with whatever you do. My eldest child is currently in a small public school, and he enjoys it so much and I have been so impressed by the staff and environment that I wouldn't move him for anything. At this age, a child's happiness in the school environment is as important, if not more so, than academic achievement.

#11 emille

Posted 13 January 2010 - 03:48 PM

The first thing is to find out why he's so unhappy. My eldest child started school a happy little boy, absolutely busting to get into 'big school' and learn everything. After a week or two, he'd lost all his bounce. He was still willing to go, but it was obvious something had burst his bubble. After some judicious questioning (& playground lurking), I realised another boy he'd been 'buddied' up with by the Year 6 buddies didn't like him, and was taking every opportunity to hit him, abuse him etc. My boy simply didn't understand how to deal with it - he's always been very gregarious, and thought if there was another child around, they would want to play. I spoke to the teacher, got them separated (they were also in the same class, which couldn't change, but the teacher made sure they were never placed together), and things improved.

I have learned several things through his trials and tribulations (there have been others, although now he's moving into Year 4, and school has settled down for him). Firstly, the teachers quite often have no idea what's going on with children's relationships. Secondly, many children are violent in the plaground without repercussions - they are savvy enough to stop before the teacher arrives, leaving the victim in trouble for retaliating. Finally, and most importantly, you are your child's one and only advocate at school. If you don't stand up for them, no one else is going to. There's something serious going on for your boy, WM, even if it only seems serious to him. He's so little, he needs you to fight this battle for him. If the school isn't interested in his welfare, why would you continue to send him there? And I'm with some earlier posters - save private school for secondary education, there's no real benefit in primary. And a lot of the smaller private schools have very dodgy curricula - they simply aren't worth the fees. Or your little boy's tears.

#12 princessmombi

Posted 13 January 2010 - 04:20 PM

I wouldn't make any deals with him but I would get to the bottom of why he is unhappy. He's just as likely to be unhappy at the State school. Have you investigated whether or not he has social issues...is he shy? Has he got Aspergers Syndrome which make it difficult to relate to others in social situations. I'd be taking him to a psychologist if this didn't improve and no, I wouldn't be changing his school at this point in his life...he's too young to be making those decisions. Act like a parent & take the lead.

#13 melcspice

Posted 13 January 2010 - 04:24 PM

Hi there,

Just some thoughts...

I recently read an australian report that found that whether a child feels inclusion in their school community is one of the biggest factors in whether they will stay at school and enjoy it. They need to have friends, feel safe and have trust in their teacher.

I have a friend who recently transferred her 2 daughters from a catholic primary school to a public one (as they had moved) and the elder daughter in year 5 needed tutoring to catch up to the rest of her class...her old school was pretty far behind in meeting the required skills. This friend recently advised me that its more about getting a school in a decent area, NOT so much whether its public or private.

I come from a different place. I was bullied for 3 years at a state high school, changed to a catholic school in a nicer area and thrived. I felt a real sense of community at my new school, my homeroom teachers would chat to us as friends every morning, the teachers knew all of their students names. They had a fantastic arts/sports program and I thoroughly enjoyed my last 3 years of high school. So I do wonder, was it because it was private, or because it was in a good area that this school was great??

My brother who is 3 years younger on the other hand, loved the state high and hated the catholic school...now that i think about it, he never had that sense of inclusion at the private, and he did end up leaving school at the end of year 10.

At this stage we plan to move into a nicer area, pref out of sydney all together and send our kids to the public primary, and catholic High. I guess everyone makes a decision from their own experiences. Best of luck wtih your decision!!

#14 princessmombi

Posted 13 January 2010 - 04:36 PM

Yes, the other thing is WHY isn't the school aware of any problems...if it is a religious based Private school I WOULD remove him.we looked at one and the teacher pool is limited as they only employ "Christians" so who's to say they get the BEST teachers...they probably don't. They were below the State average in literacy and when I asked why they didn't really have an answer other than they were trying to change it...but I heard no concrete strategy. I asked one of the senior students what was good about the school and they had no articulate answer which I would expect from a Year 12 student. Frankly for the money I thought it was pathetic plus I didn't want my child pushed into their conservative mould. More importantly for such a ypung child why do you think his reasons are valid for a move? It's your responsibility to get to the bottom of it and fix it, not have some knee jerk reaction because you child is suddenly unhappy...you'll be jumping to attention all his life "fixing things" - sometimes it's good for kids to also fix things themselves to a point without you being a helicopter parent.

#15 sirgamble

Posted 13 January 2010 - 05:35 PM

Hard for me to comment... I made the opposite move (public to private)... best move in my life. Maybe it's just a change of schools he needs?

At some schools the kids are just lousy... they bully people and have their own special cliques. Public or private... if your kid isn't happy, I say move him, but also have a plan. Shifting the problem to the new school is quite likely if the problem hasn't been addressed or identified.

#16 Pearson

Posted 13 January 2010 - 07:38 PM

We, along with several other parents, removed our son after 2 years at a local small private school.  The school, we found out had the worst reputation for offering anything to children either side of the norm.  The school was not at all approachable about bullying, or anything actually, and did not ensure that work was done or anything.  My son was like yours, and we asked him to wait till the end of the second year, so he could start afresh - worst decision ever.  Two years, children have time to form firm friendships.  Your son already has knowledge of children who go to this school, that he plays with, so he will have friends.  His happiness in school will set him up for school for the rest of his life.  
My son found it a little hard at first, as he did not know anyone at his new school, but persevered.  State schools in general will offer a better level of education, especially in Primary School years.  They also have a "rules" in place about classing size.  At the private school, it started off at 23 per class, and by the time we left, it was up to 32!  
We are happy, our son is happy, and as we do not have to pay fees, we are saving money.  This money can be used for other activities, including if he needs tutoring, or anything like that.

#17 EuropaMum

Posted 13 January 2010 - 11:10 PM

This was my problem last year......not similar, but related, so it may help.

Last year my daughter was a first grader at German school. She speaks German fairly fluently and is intelligent, normal looking and well behaved. She is the tallest in her class by far, except maybe one boy- I think this is relevant as I was a tall girl too and its not easy when there are cuter girls half the size of you.

So, my problem was, she didn´t seem to have any friends. She had friends at kindergarten, it took a while (she started her two year stint at kindergarten speaking no German) but she ended up having good relationships with both girls and boys there and the kindergarten teachers confirmed this.

I sat down with her to organise her 7th birthday party and there seemed to be no one she wanted to invite except kids from her old kindergarten. I managed to dredge from her the names of two kids from school (one boy, one girl), so then I started asking her who she plays with at breaktime. She said she has been told to go away by the group of girls that hang out together. She mentioned she thought it might be because she is "big". There are three classes of 18 to 19 kids in first class at her school, with only one third girls- so her breaktime group is 6 or so girls who don´t include her.

I should also note my daughter did not seem unduely worried by this, but maybe she is hiding it. She is quite capable of holding herself aloof so maybe that makes things worse- maybe this is the problem.

A year later.....

My daughter is doing a lot better now- she is in second class and the efforts I made beginning with a birthday party and having classmates round for playdates has worked. She does have a few very good friends now and seems happier.

When we were planning her birthday last year and she said she didn´t have any friends to invite, I asked her "well, who would you like to be friends with?" and we went from there and invited those kids... One of those girls is now the "best friend" and they went horse riding today together! She lives around the corner so it´s also a convenient friendship for me.

So, I would say get involved with the school and help your son make friends by hosting playdates and initiating some weekend get togethers with other families.

Good Luck!

#18 darius@darius.com.

Posted 14 January 2010 - 05:44 AM

Hi there,

I believe a very important part of  a child's education is derived from their social interaction not just their academic curriculum. There are many state schools that have that have both a tremendous social culture and academic record. Personally, my family unfortunately are currently living in a very poor socio economic environment where the local school children who may be bright, sweet, caring and lovely but often have uneducated and ignorant parents that I would rather have my children steer clear of. Ultimately, if my children were to go the the local state school they would be surrounded by children coming from those backgrounds and undoubtedly their parents too at times. I have been very aware of appearance, language and cultural values that I consider to be detrimental to my children's education and wish to avoid.

So when Worried Mum writes about Private v Public school choices she too may be faced with a similar problem. We opted to send our eldest who incidentally is at the same stage as WM's to the local private school for the reasons I have mentioned. Ideally I would prefer to live in a better area and take advantage of the state system but geographical boundaries at present prevent this.

On another note Dr. John Irvine's advice in this matter should be respected as he is no doubt a leading authority on these issues. I don't think that WM's concern is necessarily based on snobbery but more likely coming from common sense and concern similar to our own.

Good luck WM I hope things improve dramatically for your Child, I am very confident that Dr. John's advice will return great results.

#19 Seanj

Posted 14 January 2010 - 07:01 AM

I went to 14 schools, 6 private, 8 state.

I think it is impossible to say state or private is better -it depends on the school.

Size counts!

At larger schools I had opportunities  -  such as an advanced learning program at private school and 4 unit maths at state school -  which were not offered by my previous smaller schools.

I absolutely hated small schools, public or private -  the teachers were a law unto themselves. I only saw teachers bully students at small schools.  They got away with incredible laziness and discrimination.

Small private schools are also often unwilling to take advantage of one of their greatest advantages - expelling trouble makers. Unlike large private schools.

If you live in a good area and the state school is larger, send your son there - IMHO.

As pps have suggested, there's always private high school.

#20 No Expert

Posted 14 January 2010 - 07:10 AM

My son was miserable at his new kindegarten school where the reputation was excellent. It was a public school, but I don't feel that is the issue. We ended up changing to a 'small local private school' (yes, religious and we were not) and my son thrived.

My experience has been that a new place is a new chance, my son was normally happy, social, smart... nothing to make him stand out, and simply did not make the right impression with the staff or the children (and vice versa - my son had a negative impression of them) and could not assimilate.

Early childhood is critical in developing self respect and confidence, and I personally believe that if you have the ability to move schools its NOT that big a deal and to give your child the best chance of happiness. If he is happy/confident he will have a greater chance of learning, and private/public should not be the deciding factor. I've had great experiences with both, enjoyed private schooling for my senior years and quality public at junior years.

Please dont turn it into a private/public debate, and let your child's happiness be your guide.If there are no real issues to work through then perhaps another chance and mutual good impressions will work!

Good luck!

#21 robhat

Posted 14 January 2010 - 07:26 AM

Quite simply, your son is unlikely to get a good education if he is unhappy, doesn't matter what sort of school it is. You might think a private school education is better. That might even be true (although I don't think it is) but if he's not happy, he's not going to learn as well as he should. The important thing to find out is, why is he unhappy...

You do not need to send your child to the 'best' school for the best education. Some children will do well wherever you put them (my DH was one of those). Some children need environments where things are relaxed, others need to be pushed... more resources doesn't always mean higher marks... About the only thing that is absolute is that a dodgy teacher usually equals dodgy results for the students (although even that wasn't true for my DH). Oh and probably harsh punishments and bullying etc won't lead to great outcomes either. It is perfectly possible that your son could have a better education at the state school than the private if the state school suits him better.

#22 JustBeige

Posted 14 January 2010 - 08:10 AM

First thing to do is find out WHY your son is unhappy.

Then make decisions based on the answer to that.

If he's being bullied and the school does nothing and nothing you do makes any difference then yes of course move him.

If its just a matter of being up his self esteem, then moving him isnt going to help.

#23 Magenta Ambrosia

Posted 14 January 2010 - 08:25 AM

Finding out why he's not happy is important. An unhappy child at school tends to become inattentive in class and therefore the best education will fail him/her. See how he goes for the next month (it's a long time in a young kids life) if he still hasn't bonded trial him at the public school - if it works out at the public school you've lost money on his happiness rather than spent money on his misery.
Different kids clique with different environments. My cousin who I'm guardian for has been to 11 different schools (all public) due to her parents moving around a lot. When she came to live with me we sent her to a school that looked great on paper, but did not challenge her at all. She lasted 2 days. We then sent her to the in area school which has and amazing array of fascilities and programs such as a TV studio, music recording studio, and a training kitchen that will be also used by a local TAFE. She has fallen in love with the school and for the first time in years attended all classes and got fantastic grades. It's the first school she has ever liked!!! They have a very strong anti-bullying policy, which works as DC says it's weird to be at a school where people aren't mean. I'm impressed by the teachers and the close bonds they seem to form with the pupils.
In the end I don't think it matters whether it's a public or private school as long as your son is thriving socially and academically.

#24 fairylite

Posted 14 January 2010 - 09:30 AM

Religion aside, I have never really understood why people send such small children to private schools. It is such a lot of money, and as others have said smaller private schools are often poorly resourced. My parents sent my 5 year old very naughty brother to a similar sounding school to try to straighten him out - it didn't work. Maybe your son is tangling with students like my brother. I don't see how taking him out of the school would affect his siblings' chances of attending a private school (unless it's the only one in your area). Honestly, if I have kids, they will be going to the public school FIRST and if that doesn't work out, I'll consider private.

#25 pretty_fox

Posted 14 January 2010 - 09:51 AM

As someone who changed schools in primary,  and then went from a large catholic co-ed primary to a private school in year 7,  i think really,  you should just change schools. Like many others here,  i don't actually think it's necessary for a child to have a private educate in the primary years unless they have special needs.  

Even as an adacaemically gifted child in my primary school,  i found that i didn't miss out on anything,  and the large teacher to student ratio certainly didn't impact my learning.

Your childs happiness is important and if they are hating school i think it's important to turn this around NOW before they get older and they learn they can just stop going...

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