The proactive and positive way independent schools have responded to the COVID-19 pandemic has proven a major drawcard for parents deciding where to send their children to school, according to a major parent survey on school choices.

Responding to how well they thought Queensland independent schools handled the pandemic, 86% of parents said they were either satisfied or very satisfied.

For parents sending their child to an independent school for the first time, nearly two in every three parents (65%) were influenced by the level of support offered by the school during COVID-19.

These insights and more are drawn from the latest Independent Schools Queensland (ISQ) What Parents Want survey, which canvased almost 4,000 parents of children from 116 Queensland independent schools. This is the fifth survey in ISQ’s longitudinal What Parents Want research, making it the longest running survey of its type in the country.

The survey delves into the decision-making process of independent school parents, examining factors including schools considered, decision-making timeframes and information sources. The survey also covers classifications including student journey and parent socio-economic demographics.

Innovation and flexibility

Independent Schools Queensland CEO Chris Mountford said the autonomous nature of independent schools allowed them the flexibility to innovate and shift their teaching and learning methods throughout the pandemic.

Independent Schools Queensland’s Chris Mountford

“Independent schools have the agility to adapt quickly to disruption, and this has been highlighted during the pandemic where they have minimised the impact on student outcomes,” Mr Mountford said.

“In what has been an incredibly difficult and unprecedented time for the education sector, parents have taken note of how well independent schools have managed their child’s learning throughout the pandemic.”

The 2021 survey findings, which were released on 28 April, 2022 at Cannon Hill Anglican College in Brisbane’s east, also reveal the significant stake parents put in the individual needs of their children.

‘Preparing students for their potential in life’ has remained the number one reason parents choose an independent school over the 15 years of the survey series.

Teacher quality a priority for parents

Parents also placed ‘the high quality of teachers’ and ‘the school seemed right for the child’s individual needs’ in the top three reasons for the second survey running.

Mr Mountford said more than 136,000 students are now enrolled in Queensland independent schools, accounting for 15.7% of the total Queensland school population.

“More and more parents are making the decision to send their child to an independent school and the What Parents Want survey shows that they are taking a holistic approach to this important decision for their child’s future,” he said.

Engagement of parents key

Queensland Independent Schools Parents Network Executive Officer Justine Cirocco welcomed the survey finding.

QIS Parents Network Executive Officer Justine Cirocco

“The What Parents Want survey insights provide a valuable opportunity for schools to inform the way they engage with current and perspective parents,” Ms Cirocco (pictured) said.

“These findings clearly show parents place a great deal of importance on choosing the right school for their child. A significant part of meeting their expectations comes down to schools actively ensuring parents are engaged throughout their child’s educational journey.”

Other What Parents Want survey insights

  • A TRUSTED VOICE MATTERS: The most influential information source parents rely on when choosing a school is ‘family, friends and colleagues’ (22%).
  • THE DECISION STARTS EARLY: Nearly 2in 3 parents (66%) indicated the start of the school selection process started two years before the child started school, while one in four (26%) started before or from their child’s birth.
  • FIRST IMPRESSIONS COUNT: 7 in 10 (70%) said their choice of schools was totally or highly influenced by the look of the school and facilities on offer.
  • CHILDREN HAVE THEIR SAY 5 in 10 parents (53%) said their choice of school was totally or highly influenced by their child’s opinion.
  • SCHOOL SECTOR CHOICE: Independent school parents are more likely to weigh up all available school options across the three schooling sectors (40%).

More information

This story was originally published as Independent schools tick the box for parents during COVID-19: ‘What Parents Want’ latest survey on the ISQ website.

Download the report in full.

Read the key findings.

Read previous What Parents Want survey results (2018, 2015, 2011, 2007).