What parents want

What drives the decisions of prospective parents?

What Parents Want is the longest running survey in the country exploring why parents choose independent schools. Conducted every four years by Independent Schools Queensland (ISQ), the survey delves into the decision-making processes of independent school parents.

The survey examines the schools considered, decision-making timeframe, information sources and key factors influencing final school choice. Data was collected from 3,638 parents of children at 115 Queensland independent schools.


Independent school parents are now more likely to weigh up all available options across the three schooling sectors (independent, state and Catholic): 31% in 2018 compared with 17% in 2006.

More parents are thinking ahead about school choice and researching schools for at least two years before their child starts school: 65% in 2018 compared with 58% in 2006. Parents of new Year 7 students were far more likely to start their decision-making process in the one to two years prior to their child starting high school: 23% compared with the survey average of 16%.

Parents are more likely to base their decisions, wholly or to a significant degree, on the appearance of a school and its facilities: 70% compared with 42% in 2006.

Usefulness of school marketing

The survey found parents put a high value on their face-to-face contact with schools and their staff, with one-on-one school visits the most useful. The majority of parents access a range of information through a variety of channels to make their decision:

  • 89% visited school websites, with 64% visiting three or more.
  • 84% attended a school visit by appointment, with 85% of these parents attending one or two school tours.
  • 83% read school publications such as school prospectuses and brochures.
  • 74% attended school open days, with 78% of these parents attending one or two schools.

Meeting the school Head is important

Personal contact with members of a school community is important to parents. According to the survey, independent school parents most value meeting classroom teachers and the school Head.

Parent sources of information

Parents were asked to identify the range of sources, including both people and places, they rely on to research their school choices. Most frequently cited were “family, friends and colleagues”. This group has been the top trusted source in all four parent surveys since 2006.

When parents were asked to shortlist their top three most influential information sources, the following made the top five:

  1. Family, friends and colleagues (67%)
  2. Other parents with children at the school (54%)
  3. School open days (47%)
  4. School website and social media (40%)
  5. Family members already attending the school (24%).

Source: The What Parents Want series of surveys has been conducted by Independent Schools Queensland (ISQ) since 2006.

Listen to The School Bell podcast discussion of the What Parents Want survey findings.

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