school

'I'm pulling my girls out of their prestigious private school. But we're not moving.'

To my beautiful girls,

To tell you the truth, I am feeling a little guilty. No, I am feeling… a lot guilty.

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In this instance, truth be told I feel guilty even though I know that I have made the right decision for our family.

The mum guilt is that strong.

It is so strong that even if you know you have done the right thing, you can still be overwrought with it. Even when I have spent the better part of a year weighing up the pros and cons, making lists and going back and forth. I have discussed it with other parents, grandparents and even you.

I researched the right way to tell you and I did the right thing according to the child psychologists by bringing it up with you, discussing it early and giving you time to process the upcoming change. Still guilty.

Why?

I have pulled you out of the prestigious private school you have been going to since you were four years old. I have made the decision to take you away from your friends and your community, your teachers and the programs that come with the name, and money. This year you won’t be in the same classrooms that you have mapped out, memorised and explored for the last four years.

I still remember both of your first days’ with one of our favourite teachers. I remember walking home from dropping you at your first day of kindy with tears streaming down my face because that favourite teacher had given me a package with a tea bag, tissue and little poem instructing me to take a break and reminding me that you will be okay.

The second I pulled you towards me and kissed you goodbye on that first day, it dawned on me that your childhood was now just a little bit entrusted to her too. I have to tell you that at that in that moment, I believed that it was the only place where I could have possibly let your little hand go, to hold another’s. I had wide optimistic eyes and thought that because I was paying all that money, and your dad and I were working so hard to send you there, that meant you were in the best place.

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Now though, I no longer believe that this is the place for you, or for us as a family. One of the hardest things is that I can’t explain the situation completely, because it is too complicated for you to understand.

It has been an interesting road with the school over the last couple of years. Becoming aware of complaints and rumours. I noticed cutbacks to areas that directly affect you and your learning.

Time and time again I saw parent feedback being ignored and money coming before anything else. I saw big shows of pomp and ceremony alongside staff cuts and amalgamations of classes. I saw workplace bullying and wondered how, if the executive management allowed this to happen in their staff cohort, could they possibly offer support or protection for their students.

I saw and heard complete lies and I began to question if community was really something they actually valued, or just something they claim.

I think it’s true to say that once you notice these issues, it is almost impossible to un-notice them. I sat back for over a year, trying to keep the faith. I helped and supported the school in so many different ways but in the end, I had to concede that in this particular instance, our family didn’t suit this school.

Or rather this school just doesn’t suit our family.

I expect that when you are at school (and at home), you will have enough support around you. This means enough education assistants, teachers, support staff, admin staff, specialist teachers and relief staff.

Reliable and caring staff who are well looked after and supported is so much more important to us than the next big campus theatre, pool or fancy mural.

Knowing you have a solid and happy community of educators who can help you navigate your way through the changes that your adolescence will bring in the coming years will always take priority.

I want you to see the importance of the village, and that community is more than just doing the right thing when it is easy, but also when it’s difficult. Of course, clean, safe facilities and enough resources are also necessary.

I am not naive; I know that there are issues of different types at every school and I know that you can’t paint every type of private school with the same brush. I also know that the public school system has some of the exact same issues, and a lot of the time it is all down to the leaders.

In this instance, I, along with other parents and some staff members decided to vote with our feet. Since we have been continuously shown by their actions that money is so important to them, we decided that we would no longer give them a cent of ours.

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I can’t in good conscience be complicit in behaviours that spruik the values of religion but then leave people in their community feeling desolate and traumatised.

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I decided that we would pay our fees to a school where we can see it benefiting the entire school community. A public school where we fundraise for items that we will actually see our children using on campus and in the classrooms. A school where there will be people from all walks of life and cultures because they are entitled to a good education and a seat in that room, not especially because they have been afforded certain luxuries of an affluent lifestyle.

Kids, I am not naive. Some of these issues will, unfortunately, raise their ugly heads again in your lives and probably in our family.

I want to show you that you can stand up to these issues. That you should fight for what’s right. If you believe in something then you should be able to express that, loudly. But you should also know that if you’re done with fighting, if there is no compromise coming from the other side, it is also okay to walk away.

I am not saying that going to a different school will directly force some sort of morality epiphany in those who need it. In fact, I would bet that they are blissfully ignorant to the fact that we have left at all. So why then? What’s the point?

The point is that we are no longer contributing to a culture that just doesn’t align with the values we are trying to instill in you.

I need you to know that if I thought you couldn’t handle this change, then we would not have moved you. The thing is, you are both smart, strong, brave, funny and kind humans. I have been so proud with how you have taken this news.

Some days might be harder than others but I know that you will settle and we are here to support you, listen to you and hold your hand (if you want).

Now, the time has come for the new school year. The beginning of this huge change for you. Your bags are packed, your pencils have been labelled and your new shoes are ready to walk through those looming silver gates. The only thing left to do now is to show them what you’re made of.

I’ll see you at 3.20.

The author of this story is known to Mamamia, but has chosen to remain anonymous for privacy reasons.

Feature Image: Getty.

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