School shopping is becoming increasingly common amongst parents looking to find the ‘best’ educational setting for their children. It seems gone are the days when parents would simply send their child to their closest local public school. We are in a new age where parents are spoiled for choice and schools are in a bid to attract more students using whatever marketing means available. Have we taken it too far or are we just better equipped now to make important decisions? The answer to that question is up to your own interpretation but one thing is for sure, not all schools suit all children. This begs the question – how do I choose the right school for my child?
Choosing the right school for your child comes down to a few core ideas. Firstly, it is important to acknowledge what aspects of education you and your child hold as most important. This will differ greatly from family to family but rest assured, whatever you hold most important, there is an educational setting to match that need. An example of aspects you might consider are: academic opportunities, existing friendships, location, personal beliefs, learning support, accessibility, class sizes, parental involvement and sense of community. Make a list of these aspects and order them from most important to least important. Once you have this list you can set about your journey finding schools that match your needs on paper.
We are all aware that sometimes a school can appear to hold certain ideals but in reality things are quite different. This is where the second core step comes into play – visiting the school. School tours are great for seeing the school environment and getting to know a few key personnel, however a truer reflection would come from visiting an event the school is holding or popping in to the school on a regular day to see students and every day processes in action. Most schools are more than happy for this to occur as long as the correct processes are followed.
The third core step is speaking to teachers and members of the school community such as other parents and children. Listen to what they say but understand that not everyone experiences things the same way. Take the good and the bad and acknowledge that no school is absolutely without fault. Lastly, you need to compare this experience knowledge and your own interpretation gained from visiting the school with your list of aspects you find most important. Is the school still ticking all your boxes? Are there things that would absolutely rule out your child attending or with which you feel uncomfortable? Once you are able to narrow this down, an answer should become apparent. Whatever you do, remember that the decision you make is not set in stone for all eternity. If it does not seem to be working out and all avenues to improve the situation have failed, you can always re-evaluate and change as there are plenty of options.
Sara Drebber is an educational consultant, teacher, writer and mother of three.