Friday, 10 December 2010

He who opens a school door, closes a prison.

Back in my day, compulsory education ended at the end of year ten. The rules have changed a little bit but in my mind that is still basically how it works and this week Liam finished year ten.
He will go on to finish high school and he intends to go to uni as well so his formal education continues but I thought the end of his compulsory education would be a great time to reflect on the education that the Australian people, by way of our government, have given him.

It all started in about October of 1999. I took my little boy to orientation day at the local school, Narwee. I was delighted with the family atmosphere, the weatherboard buildings seemed welcoming, the playground had an organic feel about it, if I can say that. My delight with the school combined with the reality that my baby was growing up conspired to have me in tears for some time!
Waterworks over with , his first day of school the following January was not dramatic and he slipped easily into school life.
Those early years were marked by teachers who were kind and patient, they recognised the artistic talent that I didn't because I didn't have anyone to compare him to, they fostered his interest in the world, they supplied costumes for dress up day when his Mum forgot, most significantly they taught him to read and write, the basic skills he would need for a lifetime of learning.
As time went on there were so many opportunities offered to him through the school: he participated in athletics, soccer, choir and art workshops. He went on trips to farms and the zoo, to historic sites, gold panning, museums......I'm sure I have forgotten most of it.
All the while teachers helped him to build on his basic skills, teaching him to research, to read with insight and to construct different types of text.
The shift to high school at Hurstville boys High was smoothed by transition days and orientation programs, there was opportunity to play with a school band, to work in laboratories, art studios, and to learn wood and metal working skills in dedicated workshops. A trip to China last year and performing at the Opera House were highlights in the broadening horizons of my boy and his classmates.

The community of school life has been a continual source of interest to my aspiring psychologist, too. There were those sweet teachers in the early years, later there was the one who demanded that people with dirty mouths seek the dictionary meaning of their preferred curse or insult, the men who modelled discipline, integrity and sensitivity. The principal who read stories to the littlies and got the older boys working in the garden. There was the humour of Mr Farr, who would bestow the legendary Farr Cup on those who stuffed up. There was the extreme conservative who probably shouldn't have made his political views public but who has inspired my apolitical young man to engage just a little with federal politics.
There were volunteers who provided his in-school religious education and supported the schools by helping at special events, running fundraisers, providing extra supervision on excursions and listening to kids read.
Our public education system has given my boy (and his siblings following behind) a solid foundation. He has been exposed to so many opportunities that I probably couldn't have provided, he has a good general knowledge and knows how to pursue the things he wants to know, he has experienced literature, drama, music, visual arts, debate and understands intellectual rigour.
Eleven years of schooling have prepared Liam for continued study and for life's university. He can go forward as a rounded and discerning individual and for that, each and every teacher, support staff, volunteer and interested onlooker has my unfailing gratitude.


  1. When I was in school we still used ink wells and pens.

  2. A lovely reflection on a milestone. It sounds as if they are getting a wonderful, fulfilling education, Kylie!

  3. My twelve years in public schools here were hell, and I learned little. The system wasn't set up for people such as I. I can but be glad that your son did well. I'm extremely glad that he's going to go on.

  4. bob,
    i thought you would have had a slate!

    i'm pretty happy with it, it's not all ideal but it shows what can be done if a person makes the most of the opportunities!

    i believe that school is still a nasty experience for lots of kids but there are many caring and dedicated people out there who change the system to everyones benefit.

  5. oh yes this makes me reminisce as well of our girl's 13years of school. All the parent/teacher interviews and going to see her perform in the orchestra and choir. I remember back in 2005 when she started high school working out the year she would finish schooling and it would be 2010 that seemed a long way down the track and before you know it has all gone by. So kylie i know the feeling of seeing them complete their schooling. I remeenber her in year 7 saying she wouldn't speak to those older girls as they were year 12's. Now she has been one with the year 7's looking up to her. I have only the one child kylie you will have siblings to see their schooling through to come.To have the first one of the brood have only those last 2 important and final years to go it is rewarding.

  6. Sounds like he's had a brilliant education which has really stretched him and developed his talents. It sounds like the whole Aussie education system is a lot superior to the British one, which only gives pupils the bare minimum of life skills, if that. Many pupils come out of school not even able to write properly or do basic maths. Liam's a lucky guy.

  7. I am pretty sure my mothers memories of my educational experiences were quite different and would not have this eloquence about them.

    Good for you and your school system!

  8. oh yeah my scolyears, remember them well><<>bars onthe window bleak concrete, bars on the windows<><>><>{did i say bars on the window????}yardsticks to beat us with<><><>blankets to use in nap time<><>>high fences to keep us in a herd<><><> electric proding sticks<><<>memories of mrs isgreen and her orange hair

  9. Damn....this is insane?!
    Where has the time gone?!
    He's so flippin' old now I'M flipping old!!!! lol....
    Well anyway, good job Kylie, you're a good mum and have raised your kids well!!
    I miss your family a lot!
    Hope all is well!

  10. Quite a tribute to your public school system Kylie. I'm curious. Do you live in a small town? Not trying to be nosy, it's just that it seems an awful lot of big city school systems completely miss the target.

  11. Kylie,
    An elegant and comprehensive tribute to the New South Wales state education system.

    I'm sure the teacher's union and state govt teachers would find this encouraging reading.

  12. Anonymous was meant to be John

  13. jo,
    it's rewarding and scary all at once but i guess you know that!

    i see helen did well, you can all be proud of that, congratulations and i hope it leads to even better things!

  14. nick
    yes, nick he's lucky and he has also made the most of his luck.
    there are many schools more priviledged and exclusive, even in the public system. i really wanted to pont out that an ok school and a comitted student are a good combo!

    walking man
    i'll take that as a compliment, so thank you and thanks for dropping by

    i would expect that and more in utah! :)

  15. tinkerbelle,
    things are good and i was just thinking the other day that i'll see you back on crackbook soon :)

    mr charleston
    i live in Sydney! a big city by australian standards.
    i have almost felt guilty about this post, as if it minimises the bad experiences many students still have. there are bad schools and bad teachers in our system but the good doesnt get a whole lot of press.
    one thing that has been an advantage is that we live in an area that was, and may still be, classified as having significant financial disadvantage so extra funding was allocated and extra programs implemented

    i sent the link for this post to some but have just realised that dept filtering prolly precludes anyone reading it!
    .....another try is in order.....

  16. What a fascinating post. Year and a half still to go over here. SO MUCH LEFT TO DO, AAAGGHH!


  17. you'll get there, megs!
    my liam still has two years to go at school but until the rules changed this year he could leave now.
    new rules say they can leave only if they have a job or a course to go to and parents give permission


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