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ACT government tests parents on whether public or private is best

Families are being asked whether they think public or private schools are doing better when it comes to disruptive kids, bullying, NAPLAN results and future career success as part of an ACT Government school survey.

Minister for Education Joy Burch launched the survey on Friday to garner parents' perceptions of Canberra's government school education and why they choose one school over another. 

The latest education census released in October shows ACT public primary schools and colleges are growing but Canberra parents still prefer to send their children to private high schools.

The city's government schools had 3.9 per cent more students in August than a year earlier. Yet while primary schools (up 4.3 per cent) and colleges (up 2.8 per cent) expanded, public high school enrolments fell marginally (down 0.6 per cent).

The ACT remains the only state or territory in which a majority of junior high students – those in years 7 to 10 – attend non-government schools.

Only parents and carers of pupils from early childhood years to grade 6 will have access to the survey. Private schools have not been included. 

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In a series of direct questions about why families have chosen to send their children to an ACT government school, participants will be asked what type of school they think is most likely to perform highly in NAPLAN tests and tertiary rankings and provide better outcomes in terms of jobs and earning capacity.

The survey also questions whether public or private schools are more likely to notice and quickly deal with incidences of bullying; provide fair and firm discipline when needed; and offer a more inclusive, supportive, friendly and caring school community.

Interestingly, the survey asks parents if they would like to find out the qualifications and skills of their children's teachers.

Value for money is also in the spotlight, including which type of school offers best value, based on costs and services, and the most well-rounded education. 

The government is also keen to find out whether families think public or private schools provide more individualised attention to students and closer, more interactive relationships with teachers and principals.

Other areas under the lens include excursion opportunities, location convenience, diversity of families, the impact of media coverage, and recommendations from other parents. 

A hint to potential changes in the pipeline, the survey seeks participants' thoughts on the introduction of school uniforms at government schools and paperless parent-school communication.

A smart phone-friendly app to help parents communicate with their school is also on the table. The application could notify parents about events, add due dates to phone calendars, provides newsletter information and allow parents to submit absentee notes, according to the survey. 

Ms Burch said the anonymous survey would help the government to test ideas and seek feedback about public school education. 

"Understanding what families think about their schools and why they choose one school over another is vital to understanding what works and what needs to improve," she said.

"Among other things, this survey asks parents and carers what is important to them when choosing a school for their child, which type of school do parents recommend to other families, and how well do our schools communicate with parents.

"We have a high quality, high performing public school system in Canberra and parental engagement is a key factor in making it even stronger."

The online survey will be circulated by all ACT public primary and early childhood schools to their parent and carer communities from Friday and can be accessed from mobile devices and tablets.

It will close on Friday, November 28.

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