So what are the commonly held myths of private school enrolment? Wendy Johnston, Director of Marketing & Communications at St Margaret’s Anglican Girls’ School, has over 10 years’ experience working across three private schools in Brisbane as well as first-hand experience enrolling her own two children in three schools! We asked her about the policies and procedures for enrolling a child at private schools in Brisbane.
Myth #1 -You have to enrol from birth to get in:
One of the most common questions school registrars or enrolment staff is asked is: “When do I have to enrol my child?” Should you ring up from the birthing suite and instruct the registrar down the telephone line as your newborn son wails in the background: ‘It’s a boy. Book him in.’ That’s not fiction. It happens. It’s not often from the maternity hospital, but can be soon after. A recent enquiry posed just that question to the St Margaret’s registrar, saying attendance was a long way off, ‘she’s only two weeks old’ but they did want her to be ‘well placed on any waiting list’.
Unfortunately, there is no easy answer to the question of ‘when should I enrol my child?’ and enrolment policies vary widely. The one constant, I believe, is that your child must be born, and you will most likely be called upon to supply a birth certificate at some stage.
Some schools will guarantee places based of date of application, i.e. the ‘first in, best dressed’ approach, some schools rely on an interview process and progress reports from schooling to date, and sometimes a swag of other provisos.
Myth #2 -If you don’t belong to that faith you will never get in
For some other schools, an application to enrol will not even be entertained until the child is a certain age. Some schools in the Catholic system operate like this with different conditions holding a varying degree of sway: does the family being to the local parish; is there a current or previous connection to the school; is the family of the Catholic faith; or has the child previously attended a Catholic school. Other faiths are not excluded but may be placed further down on the waiting list. No matter what your religion, in most private and independent schools, families will be expected to at least agree to honour the values or religious ethos of the school and adhere to written codes of expectation and behaviour.
If you are set on a particular Catholic school in a certain area that has such provisions, planning on where your child attends school may begin with where you buy the family home, so that your, as yet, unborn child might attend the local Catholic feeder school and your family the local parish.
This kind of forward planning does sound extreme and again this begs the question: Is this all necessary? And again, there is no singular or easy answer.
Myth #3 -My friend down the road said…
Nina Johanson, the Registrar of Cannon Hill Anglican College for over ten years, says first and foremost people should make direct contact with the schools they wish to research to gather accurate information about a particular school’s enrolment procedure and to try to avoid making assumptions or basing decisions on what may be inaccurate albeit well-meaning information.
‘My advice is to pick up the phone and pose these questions to the people best placed to give you an accurate answer – the enrolments’ staff,’ said Ms Johanson.
Myth #4 -I went to ‘X’ school so that is the best one for my child
‘Before enrolling a child, parents should consider their location and the location of the desired school or schools they might want their child or children to attend. It’s important that families look at the logistics of getting to and from the school, as well as their educational values and financial commitments in the context of the family situation. If you attended the school, remember that what you experienced as a student 20 or so years ago may have changed, and is that what your child needs today?
‘Registrars and enrolment staff are fully aware that this is one of the most difficult and important decisions a family will make and are more than happy to talk through any necessary detail, to give clarification on enrolment policies, enrolment entry years and to discuss how a school may best fit each child’s need.’
Ms Johanson said that, above all, people should take the time to go to an Open Day or take a tour with enrolments staff, in order to get a feel for the environment and its fit with the family and/or child.
The Principal of St Margaret’s Anglican Girls’ School in Ascot, Ros Curtis, agrees, saying that often it was ‘the feel’ of a school that gave people final confirmation that a school was right for their child.
Facts about Private School enrolment
Choosing a school is a commitment, both emotionally and financially. Application fees can be over $400 and enrolment or confirmation fees to accept an offered place can be as high as $1600 and are required to be paid up to three years in advance. An advance fee payment can sometimes be requested as well, the year prior to commencement, and may also be non-refundable.
Perhaps the most important question should be not how early should I enrol my child but at which school I enrol my child. Regardless of whether you are choosing a private, independent (or state school), the best advice is to do your homework! And go the source – most often the Registrar – so you are gathering the facts, firsthand.
Director of Marketing and Communications
St Margaret’s Anglican Girls’ School
This article was published in Issue 8 of our print magazine, February/March 2015.