Private or public school? Expat parents talk

private or public school

Pexels photo by Andrea Piacquadio

Choosing between private or public schools is not always straightforward, as is often the case with important decisions. This is especially true when it comes to the future of your family in a new country.

Is it worth it paying a premium price for private education in Europe? Let’s see what the expat parents living in Ericeira have to say. Here are a few thoughts to consider before you make up your mind.

What is your child’s learning style?

Some parents suggest that your child’s learning style may be a clue for choosing the right school.

Our children are super happy in the local public school. They are studious and have top grades. Is this only because they are clever? Or maybe because we take our homework quite seriously? I will never know!

If your child prefers or does better in Montessori-type schools, I would say that the local public school would not be the best for them.

But, if on the other hand, your child is happy following the traditional curriculum as it is, then Ericeira’s school should be suitable.

Ivana, mother of 2 (8 and 13 years old) who previously went to school in the Netherlands

Do older children do better in private schools?

Not only are older children exposed to academic subjects that are more complex, but also their social interactions are more sophisticated. Therefore, individual support is even more relevant to ensure a smooth transition to a new language and environment.

That is not to say, though, that choosing a private school is the best option. The best option is, of course, the one where the child is happy and feels part of. 

Initially, my eldest (14 years old) did go to a private school. She went to Santo André in Venda do Pinheiro, which she did not enjoy as much as her current school here in Lagoa. And, to be honest, I am not impressed with private schools in general. I found them too business-oriented. But maybe this is just me being spoiled. 

Andre Expat parent of 3, who went to English and French schools previously

After trying two local schools, the 13-year-old JP is finally happy at the international school in Torres Vedras. Whereas her 11-year old brother has adapted well at the local school and does not wish to change. 

JP didn’t identify with the children at the local school. She was losing herself trying to follow others and she was not happy.

LP English mother of three (4, 11, and 13 years old)

Find the school that best fits the family’s schedules, private school or public school

Yes, time is precious and we all know that. Yet we still end up running against time daily, even in a chilled town by the ocean, such as Ericeira.

Therefore, finding the school that best fits the family’s schedules is important.

Longer school days at public schools

The school day is usually longer in public schools, especially for younger children, when compared to private or alternative schools. This may or not be an advantage, depending on your family routine.

After-school extra time at the public school

As well has generally having longer days, public schools also offer additional hours for those who need it.

When the additional hours are included, the school day can be from 7:30 am to 7 pm, which could come in handy.

PH English mother of two (7 and 9 years old)

Private schools close at 3 pm

Private schools, on the other hand, usually close at 3 pm. And parents are invited to pick up their children from school in Lisbon, Sintra, and Venda do Pinheiro or, to arrange a means of alternative transport.

Having said that, older children will be able to travel by public transport. Whereas, both the international school in Torres Vedras, and the school in Lagoa (which is actually free for children in the catchment area), provide a school bus service.

Longer commute to private schools

Given most of the private schools are further away, the commute may be lengthy (except for Ribamar School, in Lagoa), which is not necessarily a deal-breaker. The 13-year-old JP, for example, enjoys her commute on the school bus to Torres Vedras.

She is with her friends, they talk, listen to music and do homework on the bus.

LP English mother of three (4, 11, and 13 years old)

However, going to a local school may still translate into more free time and opportunities for meeting friends.

The children enjoy meeting their friends after school, playing and going to the beach, for example. This would not be possible had we chosen differently.

Ivana mother of 2 (8 and 13 year old) who previously went to school in the Netherlands

Check the national school ranking, for both private schools and public schools

Some parents suggest checking the national school ranking, where you can choose the best performers in any given area.

You may find this tool helpful, either with choosing a school in your location or, considering a new location.

Find out what is available locally: public, private, and alternative schools

Find out what is available locally before you make your decision. You may find it helpful to talk to other parents on the local expat Facebook group, to check our blog posts on schools in Ericeira, and homeschooling and alternative schools, as well as to make an exploratory visit to some of the schools on your list.

Besides, your child can always change schools to find the one in which they feel the happiest.

How about you? We would love to hear about your experience with public or private schools. Tell us all about it in the comments below.

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