Choosing a good school is on top of the priority lists for most parents.  Whether a school is considered ‘bad’ or ‘good’ will always be up for debate.  There will always be as many views and opinions as parents, carers and children.

Once we had narrowed down the suburbs we potentially could live in (considering the monthly rent and transport links) we looked into all the schools in the areas considered.  In the past I always was of an opinion that I wanted a school that is academically outstanding for my children.

On this occasion I too had begun research from that perspective.  Melbourne has some wonderful schools both private and public.  I assessed the chosen schools according to their NAPLAN test results for year 5 children.  NAPLAN to some degree is an equivalent of perhaps 11+exams in England.  Kids are assessed based on their scores in literacy and numeracy.

A fantastic place to start comparing schools based on NAPLAN test results (but not only) is MySchool website.  It is a wonderful resource as it gathers all essential information about all the Australian schools (private & public, Primary & Secondary).  The website allows you to compare schools. It is invaluable in getting a feel about the schools and rule out the schools that are below average.

In suburbs we considered which were:

Pretty much all the schools were performing exceptionally well.  Some of them were listed in the top 20 in Melbourne.  Initially that made me very excited.  However, digging a bit deeper I realised that the suburbs with the highest performing schools (Ashburton, Glen Waverly & Mt Waverly) also had the highest population of Chinese people.  Chinese parents are very well known for ensuring that their kids excel academically in school.  Their kids are very ambitious and very often they engage private tutors. The kids are extensively tutored outside of school.  No wonder they perform brilliantly.  No surprise that the schools with a high percentage of Chinese kids do excel in NAPLAN test results!

That is not to say that those schools are not wonderful in their own right, however, the private tutoring can’t be underestimated.  Consequently, I asked myself a question: Is the academic excellence reflected in NAPLAN test results due to fantastic schools, amazing teachers or ambitious parents and their children that go above and beyond in their pursuit of the highest grades?

I suppose it is a mixture of all these things. At this point however I started looking differently at NAPLAN results and began to re-evaluate my priorities and what I wanted for my children.  I started wondering if I want my girl to be placed in a school where all/majority of kids were overly ambitious and privately tutored?  She will be in a new country, hoping to make new friends, learning to live at the other end of the planet.  Do I want to add additional stress of her feeling inferior when she starts to compare herself with other students?  The answer was: No, I don’t want that for my girl.  That is not to say she was a bad student in the UK.  She was a good performer academically but there is so much more to life than academic performance.

This year is one big adventure for my children and I wanted them to have time to enjoy it, to embrace it, to live it without the pressure of excelling academically.

We started looking into a school (Kunyung Primary School) that attracted very mixed reviews. It ranged from parents being totally in love with the school to parents who were absolutely outraged with it.  The NAPLAN tests were ok/good and above average.  The school ran a International Baccalaureate program and enjoyed fantastic views out over Port Philip bay.

 

I immediately envisioned Lily playing football in the school oval, having lunch sitting on a bench outside and talking with her new friends while looking at the shimmering sea.  And I loved it!  We contacted the school and were very happy with the communication and information we were given.  We spoke with a wonderful lady who is a school clerk.  She was very helpful and guided us through the enrolment process.  In Australia, contrary to England, schools are not governed by an external body who decides about schools admissions. When you are interested in a particular school you contact the school directly and they organise the admission.  Like in England some schools have catchment areas.  The one we were interested in didn’t have one. That was great news for us as it meant we were much more flexible in our search for rental accommodation.

 

Lily is an Australian citizen (by descent) so the process is relatively straightforward.  The documents required from us in her case were:

  • Birth certificate
  • Immunisation certificate

In Australia the school year runs from the end of January until mid-December. That made us a little bit concerned.  We were worried about the consequences this had for us on our return to the UK.  As we are here with the intention of returning to the UK after a year abroad we really wanted Lily to join the end of year 5. We had hoped that  from January 2017 she could start year 6.  The main reason for that was that we didn’t want Lily to be behind in her school work on her return to England.

Unfortunately, we were not allowed to do this. The school suggested for her to join the back end of year 4.  After the summer break in January 2017 she will start year 5.  We were told that if Lily was to join at the end of year 5 now (Sept 2016) she would be in a class with kids between 10.5 – 11.5 years old.  That of course we didn’t want from a social point of view. According to

For reasons beyond our control unfortunately we didn’t end up moving to Melbourne and not sending Lily to Kunyung Primary School.  I was particularly sad about it as I had really set my heart on the suburb and the school.  Having visited the area I fell in love with it even more.  Unfortunately with big projects like this (moving families across continents and starting a new chapter in lifes big adventure) unforeseen things happen. They force upon us a different direction.  And that is something we learn to accept and make the most out of what life throws at us. As a result of that we didn’t end up moving to Melbourne and decided to move to the Central Coast (just north of Sydney) instead.