‣ Disclaimer
This article contains information that is for general information only and should not be used for the basis of making any decisions regarding education or anything else. It is solely the writer’s opinion of the writer’s experience of one open day at the school and the writer’s interactions with the people present on that day. The writer’s article is purely subjective. Facts and information may or may not be complete, accurate, reliable or valid reflection of the school in question.

I encourage you to personally tour the school and meet the educators and students, form your own opinion and leave a comment here.

Best of luck with your search for the perfect school!

Paul O’Shannassy is Australia’s leading education consultant.  In fact, he may be the only one who offers such a unique service matching children with suitable private schools.  Since its inception, Paul’s business Regent Consulting has helped over 800 families over 15 years, find the right private school for their child. 

Paul is widely accepted as a leading authority on schools and education and is often asked for his opinion on education related topics in the media such as The Age and AFR.   

I was fortunate to sit down with Paul to grill him about all things to do with education.

Q1. What does an education consultant do and how did you get into such a unique service?

My business Regent Consulting helps parents make an informed decision about their children’s schooling.  

I worked as a school teacher, teaching in private schools for about 20 years and also have experience as a Vice Principal. I worked at many private schools  such as Scotch, St Kevins and St Michaels to name a few.  Regent Consulting was started 15 years ago when people kept asking me for advice at dinner parties about schools and where to send their kids. 

I realised there is a disconnect between what schools put out as information and what parents want to know before making a decision.  It seems like there is a general distrust of marketing material and parents want to know “under the waterline” information.  Having worked at many of these schools and developed a wide network and inside knowledge of these schools, I am able to help them make an informed choice.  

Private schools can cost half a million dollars for a family with two or three kids, so it’s a major financial decision. With the recent changes in payroll tax, fees are continuing to skyrocket.   If you think about it, it can be similar in cost to a house purchase, but potentially with a lot more riding on it emotionally.

Q2.  So how do you know so much about schools to be able to make a match?

I’ve worked in about 25 private schools over the years in permanent and emergency teaching roles so I have a lot of inside knowledge about the schools.  I keep up to date by visiting schools often with parents and other occasions and speaking to my network.  I also receive regular updates from the schools themselves and real time feedback for parents I have helped.

I’ve been doing this work for 15 years so I’ve also amassed a lot of information from families I’ve helped.  After they get in, they often give me feedback and let me know how they are doing. 

Q3.  So what is involved with matching a child with a school?

I have a well established process which has been refined over the 15 years.  I want to emphasise, there is no “best” school and it’s all about finding the right fit for a child.  

So my process is getting to know the family and their values and also getting to know the child.  I have a series of questionnaires asking parents about what’s important to them which basically forms a brief for me.  I also look at all the independent information about the child like NAPLAN, school reports, WISC and any other psychological testing.  Doing this gives me a good understanding of the family and the child and what they are looking for in a school.  

I then write an in depth report recommending several options and why I think they are a good fit for the child. 

I always encourage the family to go and see the schools.  I make recommendations so they can make an informed choice, but it’s like buying a house, you really need to go and see the house to get a gut feel for the place.

It’s not a normal transaction as it involves a high level of trust and communication between me and the families.  These are people’s kids and their lives I’m dealing with and I take that very seriously.  

I want to be clear here, that I’m fully and fiercely independent.  I don’t take kickbacks from any school so I am totally independent and will inform parents honestly about schools. If parents want me to tailor the service to suit their situation, I am happy to do that.

Q4.  What kinds of parents do you normally help?

We’ve helped a wide variety of parents ranging from:
• Parents who have done no research on schools and want me to start from scratch
• Parents who have been researching schools for years and are totally confused 
• New arrival families to the state or country who don’t know where to start with schools
• Parents who are unhappy with their child’s current school 
• Parents of students who are suffering bullying situations at their school 
• Parents who want to do due diligence comparing schools before they make a big financial commitment 
• Parents of kids with particular needs eg. neurodiversity 
• Parents of children with a particular expertise – eg. gifted in sport or music  
• Parents of students suffering with social isolation at school and want to change schools
• Parents who are divorcing and cannot agree on a school for their children

Q5.  What do parents generally want to know about schools? 

Parents often ask questions about:
• The school environment – is it a safe environment and is there much bullying at the school? 
• The school culture – what is the culture of the students, parents and leadership?  Families want to know if they will fit into the culture of the other families that go there.  Do they share similar values, similar socioeconomic status and world view?  
• If hearsay about schools is true
• Other aspects, including quality of teachers and academics for obvious reasons.  
• Racial mix – I do get asked about racial mix.  Parents generally want a diverse mix rather than a monoculture. 

Q6. I hear that you also do advocacy work to help get kids into schools?  How does that work?

Because I am trusted by schools and I’m well connected with them, I can help get some students into schools.  There’s never a guarantee, but I have a better chance than parents themselves usually as I have 15 years experience in undertaking this task.  

Parents often get emotional and upset with the school when they think their kids are going to miss out on a place, and that’s never a good idea.  Schools that have a long waitlist aren’t looking for pushy parents to become part of their school community.  There is a right way and a wrong way to go about it.  

I’m able to advocate for students because of the relationships that I’ve developed over my entire career in education.  During that time I’ve established a strong network within schools which includes teachers, principals, vice principals and other leadership and admin roles.  Often I’m able to directly contact a Principal or Head of Middle School and have a chat with them about a student, and that can be impactful.  

I am also a third party telling my client’s story and often that’s more believable than a parent trying to plead their case.  For example, if your child is gifted – it’s more believable coming from me than from the child’s own parents.   

Sometimes when there have been issues with a student, bullying at their school for example, I can speak with a Principal who may sympathise on compassionate grounds and help gain entry that way.

Q7. Can you give me an example of a case / cases you’ve worked on?

My recent client was a single mother who works long hours as a lawyer.  They were living in the Western suburbs and weren’t happy with the school choices they had.  Also, she felt totally confused by schools’ marketing and wanted a professional opinion.  Part of the brief was that her child had a strong interest in a particular sport and they wanted a school near where he could practise his sport.  

She consulted with me and we went through the process and I ended up recommending a school on the other side of town.  My client said that she would never have considered it as she had never heard of it.  They ended up moving across town to attend this school.  Her son has been there for two years now and is very happy with their choice. 

Q8. What advice would you give parents when choosing a school for their child?

Make a decision on the basis of fit for the child.  Don’t worry about prestige, family traditions, rankings tables etc etc.  And be careful who you listen to.  There is a lot of misinformation on the internet. Schools are heavily marketing their brands.  

Attending school open days whilst interesting and informative to some extent are carefully managed marketing events on behalf of the school.  Walking around looking at buildings and ovals doesn’t tell you much about culture, programs and teaching quality. 

Where possible, you need to match your child’s needs with the strengths of the offering of the school.  It is important to ascertain whether the reality matches the rhetoric and to understand how well a school is meeting its stated objectives.  Obviously this can be difficult to measure and get an accurate picture of what is actually going on.  

Dig as deep as you possibly can to try and understand what is going on under the waterline. 

If you are interested in learning more about Regent Consulting, please visit their website www.regentconsulting.com.au

* Regent Consulting is a sponsor of Melbourne Schools. Learn more about them here​ 

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