So your child is the right age to start school and you’ve decided they are ready socially, behaviorally and physically. Now for the next big decision, which school is right for your child and family? Are you feeling overwhelmed by all the choices of great schools out there? Here are some things to look for and think about.
When thinking about all your options, most importantly, always keep in mind what is right for YOUR child and YOUR family. No doubt you will have family and friends sharing their thoughts and experiences, but you know your child best. Be sure the school will support your child’s needs and fits with your family’s beliefs and values. Make a list of all the things that are important to you when it comes to education and keep it somewhere you can look at it often.
Start by looking at the school’s website and organise to go on a school tour. Most schools these days have lots of information and photos on their website. Do they have a newsletter you can download and read? Are there opportunities for parent involvement? Do they have upcoming events? Browse the website and get a feel for the school. Go on a tour and ask lots of questions. See if you can visit at different times of the day. A tour or a visit to the school will give you a great idea of the atmosphere of the school. It should feel warm and friendly and you should feel welcome and comfortable to ask questions.
An essential part of education is the curriculum. Does the school prioritise Literacy and Numeracy? You should see plenty of books in every classroom as well as evidence of Numeracy as every grade level, right from the youngest grades. Ask them what programs they run for reading writing and numeracy. A school which runs a consistent program or approach across all grades, will generally provide good support and opportunities to consolidate and strengthen concepts and understandings as students progress through their schooling.
What extra curricula subjects and activities do they offer? Many schools offer programs for music, sport, visual arts, dance, drama, languages, library, etc. What is your child interested in? What opportunities are important to you. Every school will have slightly different programs and facilities on offer. Many schools also have partnerships with the local community where they will work together, often with experts, to provide an even richer curriculum.
An important question to ask is ‘How will the school support my child if they need extra help in an area?’ Most schools run support programs for literacy and numeracy, although the way these programs run will vary greatly from school to school. Many schools also run extension programs for students who may be excelling in an area. This programs may be run within the classroom or as an extra program in the school.
How big is the school? Are the student numbers increasing or decreasing? How many students in each class? A larger school does not necessarily mean a better school. Again, think about your child and their needs. Is your child quiet or introverted? Would they feel more comfortable at a smaller school? If your child is confident and loves trying new things they might thrive in a larger school. One school may not be the best fit for all your children either.
How far is the school from where you live? Do you want your children to be able to walk to school? If you work, will your children be able to travel to school on their own safely? Perhaps there is a bus, or sometimes parent communities organise a ‘walking school bus’. If not, does the school have a before and after school care program? Remember also, your could will probably be at the school for about seven years. If you choose to drive a distance from home, it’s a big commitment to make. If you decide to travel a long way, your child will probably also make friends who live in the area, which may mean travelling for play dates, birthday parties, and other weekendactivities as well as travelling for school.
If your child is going to be entering their first year of school, this can be an exciting time for them, but this big change can also come with nerves and fears. Find out about the school’s orientation or transition programs. Most schools will run sessions late the year before where children can experience time in the classrooms as well as meet the teachers and other children. This is a crucial element for a smooth and happy start to their schooling.
Research shows factors such as class size and public vs private schooling has a much less significant impact on a good education than factors such as quality teaching and strong leadership. Are the teachers in the school friendly and welcoming? Are they experienced? Are graduate teachers provided with support and professional development opportunities? Standardized test scores and results often published online do not necessarily give an accurate overview of the quality of education provided by a school, but by visiting a school, watching classes in actio, and speaking to staff members, you can gain a great feel for the atmosphere of the school.
There are an endless number of factors you will be considering while choosing a school for your child. From homework policies, to the price of school fees, to the ease of parking, there are so many considerations to make. Think about the things that are most important to you and your family and find the school that is the best fit for your child.