Cast your mind back, gentle reader, to the England of the 1940’s………….qualification wise, this is Queensland.
Australia is indeed one country, but a country with different regulations from one state to another when it comes to laws, guidelines and education.
Confused ? You will be.
There are those in the UK at present who yearn for the return to the School Certificate days, or baccalaureate as it is now called, of the 40’s and 50’s. But to see it in situ and working is something else.
Nostalgia flies out of the window and sheer incredulity sets in. Here in Queensland, it is alive and kicking and is known as the “O.P”(overall percentile). It works on the system of an average mark over all the subjects you take. This can work to your benefit in some cases, but in others it just appears to be out and out unfair. If you excel in one subject and are a complete duffer in another, your O.P will not reflect this at all, it simply takes the median which in some cases can seriously drag you down. However, Queenslanders seem to be fine with this arrangement and it does seem to work.
They do have a secondary test known as QCS (Queensland Core Skills) which probably gives a more balanced assessment of a student’s ability as it is the same test for everyone. Unfortunately, it carries little weight in the big world outside academia, but it can give a little solace to those who have slogged themselves to death for years and come out with what they see as nothing.
Schooling now starts in Queensland at a very early age, with Pre-School or “Prep” year as it is known. This has yet to take off in all school state wide as new teaching staff have to be inducted, funding has to be found and also most importantly space in schools has to be stolen. Many private schools have offered a Prep. Type year for a long time but now that the mainstream of education has embraced the concept, thousands of tiny ankle biters are starting their school life a whole lot earlier.
If you do choose to place your child into a Prep year, do make sure that it is a fully accredited institution and not just an over-priced childcare facility. Generally speaking, those attached to a main school will be fine but do ask questions.
Southern Hemisphere School Year
The school year in Australia runs from January to December with four terms:
January to April (summer),
May to July (winter),
July to September (winter),
October to December (summer).
Junior School starts from Year 1 (or Prep.) to Year 8, then Senior School Year 9 through 12.
Pupils have a choice of leaving in Year 10 or Year 12, but it is law at present that pupils must complete year 10. There are also mumblings of being able to leave earlier if you enter into an apprenticeship, but that has yet to be ratified. Watch this space.
Year 12 students generally finish school in the November of their final year after which the majority of them attend the legendary “Schoolies Week” on the Gold Coast, this being a whole week of things you wish you had been able to do when you left school but never did.
Shall We Dance?
Australia has taken a lead from America in another end-of-school tradition and adopted the Formal or Leaving Ball. This event or sometimes two events can make a serious dent in your wallet as it can involve two ball gowns, limousines, corsages, pre-parties, post-parties, make-up and hair, photos… and that is just the boys! Well, maybe not the ball gowns.
Camps are compulsory for just about every year at school and range from an overnight jaunt and staying in a bunk house to a full-blown outward bound type experience. Reports on these vary greatly, with both brilliant and totally negative feed-back. At the ends of the day, it is what your child makes it.
Uniforms are compulsory in most schools and leave a lot to be desired. In one private school in Brisbane attended by this editor’s children, the summer school dress was referred to by the girls as “Gentlemen’s Toilet Green” and was thought to be “Character building”. Co-ordinations of brown and green abound. Fashion police should be pouncing at every corner! In many schools, boys wear shorts for summer uniforms, most practical in what can sometimes be an exceedingly soggily humid summer.
School lunches can in most cases be bought through a school tuckshop system and parents are encouraged to join a rosta. Formal school dinners akin to those in the UK are not usually seen other than in boarding school facilities and even then, lunch tends to be a sandwich affair.
There are loads of boarding schools in Australia, but please dispel any thoughts of Eton or Harrow. Boarding in Australia is seen as nothing out of the ordinary, with a great many children who live out in the country thinking of it as perfectly normal and not at all privileged. Very few children are home schooled in Australia these days, although there are still Schools of the Air where tutoring is undertaken in a group fashion via a radio.
Nearly all schools, both public and private, require students to provide their own books and stationery. Lists are given out at the end of each term for the start of the next, and school bookshops often run a second hand department (as they do with uniforms too) to try and keep down the cost to parents.
There is no shame attached to the second hand uniform department or book shop as may be found in other countries. In a lot of cases, it is far cooler to have a blazer which appears weathered rather than a spanking new one. My girls, for example, were told by their boarding peers to put their very new green dresses into the swimming pool overnight to take away the new look and encourage a more faded appearance………wish they had told me this before my snobbery got the better of me and I had chosen new over much loved! One girl we know found herself the proud owner of a blazer formerly owned by someone who was now an Olympic swimmer …E-Bay, here we come!
Quality of the School System
The school system in Queensland has a pretty good reputation in Australia, but as with anything, standards can vary from one suburb in one city to another. School performances can be checked against their O.P results; this information is open to everyone.
The private schools are open to all whose wallets can provide, but be aware that the cost you are quoted may not include all subjects and will have optional extras. Do ask if these activities include equipment, for example, does horse riding mean that they provide the horse or you (don’t laugh, I came unstuck on this one).
Boarding is available at some schools but not at all and standards vary greatly from one to another. Do not be afraid to ask to see everything to do with boarding from the dorms to the clinic, recreational facilities, dining area and everything in between. Most schools board from Year 7 but some boy’s schools will take boys from Year 6, so if needs be you can plant your seedlings in the school a little earlier.
Education comes in many forms, single sex / co-ed / religious / non-denominational and all colours in-between. If you are prepared to travel and cost is not necessarily a hurdle, then anything is possible and available in Queensland. Internationally accredited schools such as Montessori available, and by all accounts they will be starting a Senior School some time in the near future.
There will be information about a number of Queensland schools on this site, but remember that Queensland is about the size of a large tract of Europe, so the list necessarily will be limited to only those expats truly choose for their children, and will not include every school in the country children might attend.
Good Luck with your choices - and with raising children. We deserve medals!