How to choose a great school

By Greg Whitby, 4 March 2020
Greg Whitby AM is Executive Director of Schools, Diocese of Parramatta.


Weekly Column from the Executive Director of Schools, Diocese of Parramatta

There has been plenty written about school choice, including by me! With many schools taking enrolments for 2021 and beyond, I wanted to take this opportunity to share a few ideas with people who are thinking these things through for the first time.

When I was growing up in Western Sydney in the 50s and 60s, choosing a primary school was an easy decision for parents. We went to school where we went to church, close to home. For students in the State system, going to your local primary was just as straightforward.

By the time families were thinking about high school, there was a little more consideration. After all, in those days, finishing Year 12 was an optional extra. Nowadays there’s more choice and more voice too: specifically, the voices of students. I think that’s a great thing. We expect students to own the learning, and that means being heard when it comes to decisions about their education.

In this era of social media and with websites like ‘Rate My Teacher’, there are many more opportunities for people to have their say about schools and teachers too. Just be mindful that these platforms do tend to attract the odd keyboard warrior providing feedback that doesn’t always represent a broad experience of school life.

So what makes a great school? To quote the cult Australian film The Castle, “it’s the vibe of it”. If you ask me, word of mouth is still the most important way to get a sense of what a school community is like right now. Have a chat with current teachers, families and students  at the school too.

There’s a lot to be said for the thoughtful approach that parents, carers and kids themselves bring to school choice these days. Learning communities are made up of people. That’s right, what makes them great is you!

Greg Whitby AM
Executive Director of Schools – Diocese of Parramatta


Greg Whitby is the Executive Director of Schools - Catholic Education Diocese of Parramatta
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