OPINION – DON’T JUDGE THE CALBRE OF OUR SCHOOLS BY THE BUILDINGS

DON’T JUDGE THE CALBRE OF OUR SCHOOLS BY THE BUILDINGS

At this time of year parents are going through the unenviable process of deciding “which school should I send my child to?”.

It is an issue that stirs a lot of emotion, as parents hold very strong preferences, and sometimes prejudices, about schools in the Yarra Valley.
As I parent I concede that I have felt the pressure of trying to provide the best possible education for my children to give them a great start in life, if not a head start.

My children went to school in the Yarra Valley and I am proud to say they have gone on to interesting careers that make them happy. They attribute their success with the calibre of the teachers who nurtured their strengths and helped turn around their weaknesses. They got a well-rounded and competitive education in the Yarra Valley.

What astounds me however, is how many parents judge a book by its cover. Schools that have older buildings with fewer ‘optional extras’, or have a more country feel are often immediately dismissed as an option by parents before they set foot in the front door. What about the curriculum and the teachers?

Once these parents have identified a school that has commercial and reputational appeal to them, they come to my office wanting help to lobby their preferred schools to take their child, or children. With Victoria’s population growing at around 100,000 people a year, parents sometimes fail to appreciate that most schools reach capacity very quickly just trying to accommodate students that already live within their catchment. This ultimately leads to bitter disappointment. I have seen some parents go as far as selling their homes and moving to a new area to scrape into the desired school’s catchment – a measure that seems somewhat unnecessary to me.

Perhaps it is because I am in the unique and privileged position of having visited all the schools in my electorate many times over that I have a more tempered and broad view of our educational standards. Honestly, I am yet to find an example of a bad school in Evelyn. I have been in classrooms during lessons and seen first-hand how happy our students look, the effort put in by teachers to personalise the learning experience so that information is retained and dedication to improving student interaction and socialisation. These are the things that truly matter and add up to a quality education.

It is true that many of our schools have older buildings – and buildings that reflect the more rural nature of our community. It is also true that the Andrews Labor Government has neglected a number of our schools in this year’s and last year’s state budget meaning that many schools are operating out of portable classrooms or in classrooms that need repairs.

However, I encourage parents to go beyond skin deep and don’t judge a school by its buildings.

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