Finding the right school for your child is one of the hardest tasks and decisions you will face. There is a variety of schooling options as well as unique terminology that can become overwhelming when searching for the best educational setting for your child. So here are some hints and tips to help you get started.
As a family make some key decisions to avoid having to tour all schools in the area.
• Decide whether you want a public, private or catholic education.
• Discuss what your family values are, these are the things you like to do together and your family beliefs.
• Look at how your child will be getting to school; will they be driven, taking public transport or walking/cycling to school?
From here, look at the schools in your area that meet your initial criteria.
Once these tasks are done, take a deep breath and give yourself a pat on the back. Congratulations, you have created your shortlist!
Ready for the next step? Now you can start to compare what each school offers. It’s time to get your Google on! Start searching each school and keep an eye out for any information that links to the criteria you initially identified. Compile a list of what each school offers – you can use a simple table or a list like the one below.
While exploring your chosen school’s website, it is also a good idea to gather information on the following:
• Facilities: art, music and drama rooms, ovals, computer labs and other devices utilised within the classroom, library and flexible learning spaces which encourage students to work collaboratively with their peers.
• Learning programs: these will include, literacy (reading, writing, speaking and listening), mathematics, inquiry, play based options within the primary school setting and outdoor education.
• Extra-curricular opportunities: sports, music ensembles, choir, theatre productions, camps, pastoral care, debating and
• Specialist subjects: art, music, language, performing arts and PE just to name a few.
• Intervention and extension programs.
Whilst gathering information, ensure that you jot down any questions for further clarification which could be asked during a tour. Online, you should be able to find tour dates and times. Some schools will need you to book a tour, whilst others are happy for you to rock up. So get your diary out and lock in some dates!
A wonderful resource which you can access for free is myschool.gov.au. This site enables you to look at statistics and results from all schools within your local area. These are generated from NAPLAN assessments. Don’t panic if you discover that a preferred school has achieved results below the national average in a particular area. Utilise this information to ask questions. For example, if a school has achieved below average resulting in numeracy during your tour ask what numeracy initiatives/programs have been introduced to improve results? Other information includes a short blub supplied by the school, how many students are enrolled and staffing numbers.
Now you’re prepped and ready to tour. What is a tour like? Well, it’s pretty much the best bits of a school. Some schools will have the principal/deputy principal tour you and some will assign children to act as your guides or a registrar (enrolment officer). This is a great time to get to know the school’s history, see the learning environments in action, meet and greet staff and ask all those well researched questions! The tour process can go very quickly and you may feel bombarded with information. Make sure that you have your notes section ready on your phone to jot down any key pieces of information which you can reflect upon later. Don’t be afraid to call the school and ask further questions if you get home and realise you have forgotten to cover any of your criteria.
So, you have reviewed bullying policies, gathered canteen lists (because you know that school lunches will become a chore by the second week!) and collected information relating to the before and after school program. It is now time to sit down, review all the information gathered and decide which school is the one!
Finally, remember to enjoy this exciting time. It’s an amazing achievement as parents to get your child to school age happy and willing to take on the next phase of their learning journey. Ensure you take the opportunity to participate within the school community, get to know other parents of children in your child’s class. It’s important for you to have some new friends too, as it is always nice to partner up with someone when having to create costumes for productions, volunteer on fete stalls and display art for the art show!
Written by Claire Smith and Stephanie Murphy
School Finder Consulting