General Education

What to Expect When Your Child Switches From Public to Private School

What to Expect When Your Child Switches From Public to Private School
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Sam Rubenstein September 23, 2014

Sending your child to a new school, let alone a whole new schooling system, can be a lot for him to take in. Here’s what you can expect and how to handle it.

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Class sizes, tuition costs, and the pedagogical philosophies of private and public schools offer very different educational experiences to students.

If you’ve decided that sending your child to a private school may lead to a more favorable outcome, be it because it is more tailored to his learning style or because you believe it is a better pathway to success, read on to learn more about what a private school can offer to your child.

What are the Differences?

Here is what sets private schools apart from public schools.

# Class Size

In public school, the classes are larger, typically 20 or more students in a class, with as many as 32 to 34 students. The teacher might only know her student through the written work he submits. The biggest challenge of a large classroom setting is that kids who need more direction could potentially slip through the cracks. It’s difficult for one teacher to give individualized attention to a large group of kids.

Large public schools across the country are being broken down into smaller ones to attempt to mimic what has worked for private schools. Public schools are trying to offer students the same resources of private schools, but with the added hurdle of more restricted funding.

Class sizes are smaller in a private school with an average class size of 20 students or less. This means more individualized attention to the child, but it also means more scrutiny — a structure not all kids are comfortable with.

# The Staff

Public school teachers and administrators have to follow the rules that govern their district, so it’s often difficult for teachers to effectively go the extra mile to work closely with all of their students. Public school teachers are required to focus on what they are legally allowed or not allowed to do.

In the private school setting, the school and the parent are granted a significant amount of power. Teachers are able be more involved in the student’s academic progress. Parents are granted more one-on-one time with private school teachers to discuss the child’s performance.

# Parental Contact

In general, public school teachers will not be in contact with you as much as their private school counterparts. In a large public school, your child can become an anonymous ID number who submits work along with hundreds of others, but in private school, the teacher will know your child well.

# Facilities

The supplies, the building, and the amenities are better at a private school. Private schools tend to be cleaner and more welcoming because they have to sell themselves to parents — who are the customers — as a business.

More-maintained facilities and higher-quality resources can give comfort to many parents, but the school does expect parents and their children to do their share to care for the environment. You and your child are required to treat resources and equipment with care.

# Consequences

There is a lengthy paper trail that comes with public school discipline. You may find that some students are able to get away with more, and it is documented and passed along into burdensome files.

Private school is not a right, and students can be expelled or disciplined for much less than would happen in public school. That being said, the atmosphere of private schools tends to be friendlier because they don’t deal with the same difficult challenges. Private school teachers have more freedom to be friends, rather than disciplinarians, to their students.

Advice to Make Your Transition Easier

Convinced that private school may be the better option for your child’s education? After you’ve selected a private school for your child, consider these tips for a smooth transition:

Be open to change, together: Allow your child’s teacher to get to know who you and your child are. Private schools boast of being tailored to the individual, with smaller classes and enhanced access to resources. If you let your child’s teacher get to know both of you, she can help make his school experience uniquely powerful.

Encourage risk taking: In public school, teachers become accustomed to rewarding those who are able to follow directions as prescribed by their rubrics. It can be dangerous to stray from a formula when there is such a redundant workload put on the teacher. In private school, the differences are celebrated more than building a consistent culture of uniformity. Encourage your child to take risks and try new things, academically and socially, in this safe environment.

But, stay in line: This may come off as a contradiction, but while your child’s independence should thrive and be celebrated at a private school, don’t have your child take it too far. A private school can have students expelled for what they deem unacceptable behavior. Your child can enjoy the freedom; just remind him to be cautious — there are fewer second chances than in public school.

Emphasize strengths: If your child has a skill or interest in the arts, let the school know. Private schools are not hindered by the test-driven culture to the same degree as their public counterparts. Your child can thrive in a number of ways that aren’t related to all of the testing. Encourage your child to take advantage of other programs like music or the arts.

With the right guidance, you can help your child’s transition into the public school system be a smooth one.


Downey, M. (2011, February 28). Moving kids from public to private in middle school. Retrieved September 23, 2014, from Atlanta Journal Constitution

Habib, M. (2013, September 26). Timing the leap from public to private. Retrieved September 23, 2014, from The Globe and Mail


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