The beginning of another school year means we can get some routine back into day-to-day life, stop ignoring school speed zones and once again enjoy the artistry that is parking in a school yard.

TV news and the daily newspapers will be full of tearful preps and their parents, twins, triplets and quadruplets making their debut into the scholastic world and will be celebrated, as they should be.

There won’t be film, though, of the multitude of kids who dread the return to the classroom for a variety of reasons. The year 7s making the transition from biggest kids in the jungle to the smallest is quite a culture shock. The teen years bring personal challenges that school tends to magnify as puberty kicks in.

Then there are the personality changes. Yes, contrary to parental belief, teenagers do have personalities. They just dispense them when and how they choose.

Peer group pressure to fit in, be popular, look right, talk right, be active on social media, watch the right TV shows, listen to the right music, is all consuming.

Bullying now takes innumerable forms but its effect is still the same as it was 10, 20 or 30 years ago. It scars for life.

Schools are big business and the KPIs revolve around academic excellence. Student recruiting is rivalling the AFL. School advertisements regularly appear in papers, magazines, online sites, highway billboards, bus stops, radio and TV. Fees are substantial and parents are shopping around to get the best they can for their children. Which is their right.

The question parents constantly ask themselves and agonise over is – what is best for their son or daughter?

Everyone is different. Personally I value the lessons you learn about life ahead of most of the textbook stuff, so the academic credentials of a school are not of paramount importance. How the school community is run and how everyone is treated would always be top of my criteria. There are all sorts of smarts in the world but being happy, feeling safe and being a decent human being rate higher for me than any ATAR score. ■