There are lots of schools to choose from, how do you know which one to pick? Download this quick guide to 6 tips to find the right school for your child or read on for more…
6 tips to find the right school – Tip 1: Visit!
Public or Private, low fee, high fee, no fee, scholarship – it doesn’t matter – visit the school! You’d be surprised how many parents will listen to other people and chose a school based on word of mouth. Parents will also avoid schools because ‘someone told me it was bad’. There are lots of reasons why the local school is usually your best bet but if you’re not sure, we’d encourage you to at least visit so you know for yourself that it wasn’t going to be the right fit for you and your family. Be clear about your needs – is it to be close to home? to have outstanding academic results? to offer a particular sport or language? If the school looks great but doesn’t suit your needs then keep looking.
6 tips to find the right school – Tip 2: Meet the Principal
We all know that any group – team, family, organisation, business or gathering – is only as good as the leadership showing the way. A school can look great but have low morale, poor results and a bad culture. Conversely, a school may look a little worse for wear but have high aspirations, a positive mindset and an ability to get the best out of students and staff alike. Make sure you meet the Principal. Even the exercise to meet them is illustrative – was a meeting or a tour offered without you asking? Was it seen as a burden? Were office staff friendly or give you the run around? Did the Principal want to meet you and your child or were they busy and distracted? Did they acknowledge your child by name and talk to them or appear aloof and distant? Ask the Principal how long they’ve been at the school and what they want to achieve for the school in the coming five years. This will tell you a lot about what is going to happen when your child is there rather than what has been done in the past.
6 tips to find the right school – Tip 3: Engagement
It is no point picking a school that ends up being expensive babysitting for your child! Look around when you are on the tour – are staff happy or stressed? Do the children look interested or are they yawning and distracted? Is there busy, happy, noise or is everyone simply being quiet but not collaborating or productively working? Ask if teachers team teach or if peer learning opportunities exist. Find out how they identify children who need extension and what they offer to amplify their learning opportunities. What do they do if they notice a child isn’t engaged? What strategies do they employ? Are there support services or programs? How many children learn an instrument and then go on to study Music at a higher level or participate in one of the music groups? What percentage of students choose to undertake a language? If the school is offers a specialist subject or subjects, how many students participate in that offering? How do they encourage greater participation?
6 tips to find the right school – Tip 4: Evidence
‘It’s an excellent school’, ‘XYZ School is world class’, ‘everyone says you have to go to ABC School’
You may think all these things and more but the facts may tell a different story. Look for evidence to back up the claims made by a school, or a well meaning friend. If it says it is world class who evaluates them and against what other schools? What measures does it use? Does the school have high expectations of all students – no matter where the school is located or what type? Look at the work on display – does it show progression from year to year? Attend a Sports Day or Performance event – how do the students behave? What about the parents and staff – are they welcoming and friendly? Does the event seem well organised or shambolic? Ask how the school measures the gains made by each student – gain is different to results. Judging a school simply on the number of merits or awards is not enough. Ask how they inspire and extend high achievers. How do they identify and support students to improve their outcomes over time?
6 tips to find the right school – Tip 5: Cleanliness
Don’t be fooled by flashy buildings. As in most things in life, it’s the little things that matter. Are the toilets clean? Is rubbish floating around the playground, or worse, do you see students or staff walking past rubbish on the ground? A school may not have a lush green oval or grounds but if a garden exists, is it loved or does it look abandoned? Are staff neatly and professionally attired? If a school uniform exists, are students wearing it with pride? Are the classrooms full of energy and colour or a bit like a junk yard? Ask to see the gymnasium, is equipment neatly stored and looked after?
6 tips to find the right school – Tip 6: Community
All schools will talk about community. Talking is one thing, doing is another! What opportunities or activities exist for parents and volunteers? How often do their parent groups meet? How do you join? Is there a school board or council – see if it is open and transparent on the website or is it a hidden ‘club’? Is signage unwelcoming – for example, a large NO STUDENTS sign in the front office? Ask the school if you can to speak with a current parent specifically about their experience of the school to help you with your enrolment decision – does this surprise the school or do they have a handy list for you to contact? Is there a regular whole community event? If the school is faith based, how many of the community attend church services or Mass? Does the school engage with past students? How?