State v private - 'good in both'

21:19, Jan 23 2014
Margaret Fish and Alexandra McMichael
SCHOOL SWITCH: All three of Margaret Fish's children went to both public and private schools. Her daughter Alexandra McMichael moved to private for her final two years of high school.

There were periods when Margaret Fish had three children at as many different schools - state, integrated and private.

"It was fascinating as a parent to be straddling two worlds because you'd go to Hamilton East and pick up the girls, and go round and park with the posh cars around at Southwell," she said.

"There's good in both."

She had three main considerations when it came to choosing schools: structure, a sense of belonging, and resources available. The sense of belonging was "one thread that is really strong with all three children at all three private schools that they went to".

All her children started their education at Hamilton East Primary School, which was close, multicultural, and provided opportunities in music and drama. Yet they each took a different path from there.

Alexandra, 20, spent the longest in state schools, moving to private for only years 12 and 13.


She and twin sister Frances both went to Hamilton East Primary, then Alexandra went to state school Peachgrove Intermediate where she and several of her friends were accepted into an extension class.

Frances wanted to go to Waikato Diocesan - and her parents were keen to give the twins space to develop their own identities - so Frances moved to the integrated school (partially private) and stayed until year 13.

"She liked that she could be herself.

"She wasn't Alexandra's sister, she was just proudly herself," Fish said.

Meanwhile, Alexandra enjoyed Peachgrove and moved on to state school Hamilton Girls' High School.

While she had some great teachers and achieved good results, she found many schoolmates did not share her academic focus. "It was difficult to find your way forward," she said.

Experiences in their respective geography classes were easiest for Alexandra and Frances to compare.

"Her [Frances'] geography teacher spent a lot of time making sure everybody was up to the same level," Alexandra said. "My teacher had to focus a lot on the people that didn't turn up to class, trying to prep them.

"And people who had caught the concepts faster had to wait around.

"That's why I considered moving to St Paul's, because there were too many people who were not motivated."

When she switched to the private collegiate school in year 12, she had to work harder, there was compulsory sport and lateness was not tolerated.

The printing budget was not an issue, and teachers would open their classrooms for extra tutoring before or after school.

Fish said that was something state school teachers often could not do.

"They have just got so much on their hands."

The eldest sibling, Hamish, now 23, moved into private schooling at age 7.

His dyslexia meant he benefited from Southwell School's clear distinction between subjects, Fish said.

He went to St Paul's for his secondary education where the outdoor pursuits programme, including kayaking and caving, was a drawcard.

Waikato Times