Choosing a school tips

Choosing a school for any child is a huge decision and comes with enormous responsibility on behalf of the parents. Let me suggest, first and foremost, it is the parents’ decision, not the child’s decision as to which school they attend.

So what should a parent be looking for when they are considering a school for their child? Parents have infinite choices these days about which school they send their child. So let me share with you some of the key topics and possibly some key questions that parents might consider when choosing a school for their child.

Firstly let me talk practicalities for a moment. Proximity to your home is important. You do not want to be travelling all over the countryside to get your child to and from school, especially as that as children become teenagers and they will have multiple before and after school commitments. So proximity is relevant. 

The second practical considerations maybe school fees. You need to understand that most schools will have some financial component. Even the government schools will have some financial commitment to cover things like books, uniforms, resources and camps and excursions.

Private, Catholic, independent colleges will have a significant tuition fees and you need to ask yourself is this within our budget, and am I going to get three times the value of education if I’m paying three times the value of school fees? 

So let’s be sensible parents and make the criteria include proximity and fees. Do not dismiss those unless you have the wherewithal to drive forever and also have the financial capacity to pay whatever schools charge. 

Now let’s talk the value of the what the school my offer. The curriculum is Australia wide and therefore most schools across the country will be following the Australian curriculum.

However each school will address the curriculum in their own unique way and that’s something you may wish to explore with the school leadership team at the point of enrolment.

So you may ask the staff what are the extra curricular opportunities available to my child or what are the points of difference for your school?, given the curriculum is Australia wide. For example, does a primary school offer a language from prep or kindergarten? Do the early years have the same opportunities as upper primary school years? Do they have PE lessons, do they have music, drama or a language or access to library or access to technology, in the same way the upper primary school children do? These are all relevant questions parents would like to address. 

Speaking about technology – there’s a question which parents may ask: Do early childhood class have access to technology? Do the children in upper primary school grades have access to technology or a one to one program? 

When changing schools, including going to high school, parents may ask the question: Does my child need to have their own device (laptop or ipad)? Is it provided by the school or is a provided by home? If it’s provided by either party, is there an additional expense associated with that? 

Parents often get excited about the size of class groupings so they may wish to ask the principal What are the anticipated class sizes? They also get excited at the experience of the teachers. So will my child be with a graduate teacher or an experienced teacher or will they be with a teacher who’s one year off retirement (and is cranky and tired and has retire but hasn’t told their body and hence they still turn up to work).

Will the classes be composite, single year level or multi-age – and what is the difference in each of these models. (Depending on the size of the school and the staffing limitations, some of these decisions are out of the hands of the principal and come down to pure economics- sad and true!).

All of these questions are very relevant when a parent is considering the appropriate school for their child. Again, I stress this is the parents’ decision not the child’s decision. I am surprised when parents say we haven’t decided on a school for a child’s yet because the child can’t make up their mind between school “A” and school “B”.

Parents you make that decision as you have to provide the financial wherewithal to fund the school; you have to provide the transport to and from the school it is your decision as to which school your child attends.

Good luck.

Contributor: Andrew Oberthur

Andrew Oberthur is the father of two teenagers and a primary school principal with over 30 years experience teaching and leading primary schools in Brisbane.

In 2018 he published his first book “Are You Ready for Primary School This Year? which is about building a culture of trust, collaboration and enquiry between parents and teachers. His book is available from his website www.creativecollaborativesolutions.net

He has been on ABC Brisbane radio a few times this year, as well as doing podcasts for PakMag.

Author: Sim K