Winter has arrived with a series of cool, clear days. With a change in weather, it is not uncommon for people to become unwell with the cold or flu. I would like to encourage all members of our community to take care of their health and dress well for the conditions. For students, this can mean wearing extra layers (e.g. a plain white t-shirt) underneath their uniform layers of clothing.
I do also want to commend our students for the way they are currently wearing their uniform. I’ve hosted a couple of visiting principals this week. During a walk around the School at lunch time, one of the visitors commented on how well our students appeared. Well done, I encourage our students to continue to maintain this high standard.
That said, I’d like to take this opportunity to write on a different the topic. That is the topic of Value. More specifically, the value of sending your son or daughter to William Carey.
Occasionally, I hear a parent state that our school fees are higher than those of other similar schools in our region. I can understand why this is the case because if you look at schools’ advertised fee schedules, it is not always clear what the total will be. Often advertised school fees are broken down into separate sections which gives the tuition fee the appearance of a lower amount. There are also costs that schools will add to an account, which are not clearly stated on the fee schedule. This makes it difficult to accurately determine the cost of schooling.
As an exercise, I researched the fees of schools in the area and used the available information of ‘like’ (similar) schools to us, to compare school fees. There is no point comparing a school with noticeably higher fees or those which belong to a system of schools, as both groups have quite a different approach to an independent school such as ours.
In my research I totalled the advertised costs for enrolling a single student in each year group during 2019, in a number of schools, and compared the average of these to the same for William Carey. The data indicates that firstly our fees are comparable to ‘like’ schools and secondly, our fees are consistently lower.
I must admit a level of unease in making this point because it feeds into an unfortunate shift in society’s view of education. While education has huge economic importance, the down side of this is that an increasing number of people see learning as having a primarily financial purpose.
At its worst, some school communities are driven by family transactional expectations. I will use the McDonald’s drive-through as an illustration. The drive-through is a purely transactional relationship experience. The customer places their order, moves to the next window to pay for the meal and then moves on to the third spot to receive their food. The expectation is for customers to receive consistently similar products. McDonald’s succeeds because they have established efficient systems to provide the same quality and tasting food for each customer. Unfortunately, in a consumer driven culture, such expectations that are reasonable in the fast food industry are inappropriately applied in education.
Being part of a school learning community involves a relationship that is built on a partnership between families, students and the school staff. Student learning and growth is not like manufacturing a burger. Every student is an individual, bringing his or her own prior experiences, strengths, weaknesses and areas of interest and passion. Every family is different, as are the staff who work in our school.
Our school cannot be considered one of a chain. We are an independent school and so we provide the key strength of the independent schooling sector. That is, we provide the freedom of choice for families to join our learning community and partner with our staff so our students can benefit from the School’s positive culture and ethos.
The value in being part of William Carey, is not only that we strive to provide progress in learning for our students, but rather, we strive for each one of our students to gain their personal best. We also provide a wide range of co-curricular and extracurricular opportunities plus resourcing well-developed pastoral care programs, and welfare and health teams. We seek to see growth and progress in our students as a whole, not just in their test scores.
Just this week, parents of Prep and incoming Kindergarten had the opportunity to attend TEDx style talks on the topics of learning good handwriting practices, emotional and learning readiness for school and safe and wise use of technology. On the same day our High School Maths Department hosted an enrichment afternoon for all HSC Maths students to provide additional tutoring. Both these events were very well attended, and I would continue to encourage families and students to engage in partnering with us through such activities.
It is a mistake to assume that paying for an independent school education is an experience based on simple transaction. A school such as ours is not in the manufacturing industry. If anything, we are in the growth industry. However, what grows best in schools such as William Carey is often hard to quantify. For what we aim to grow in our students, is both in learning and the growth in character, as well as the relationship our students have with each other and with the God who created them.
In His service,