It can be overwhelming, the process of looking for a new school. Whether you are relocating or just deciding that it’s time for a change of environment, there are so many options and it can be hard to know where to start.
We’ve compiled our top tips for you to keep in mind when you’re embarking on a new school hunt.
Consider your Family + Your Child
This one may seem a little obvious, but it’s surprising how often we overlook this in our journey to find a new school.
Think of finding a new school a little like starting a new relationship – if your views and values don’t align, you may not be headed for long term relationship bliss.
The school you choose for your child should align in their values with yours. Considering that our children spend several hours a week at school, school should be like a home away from home; with values that closely align with what you teach your child at home.
Consider your child’s learning style and personal needs – will they be comfortably accommodated by their new school? We all have the desire to belong, and children are no different – if he or she has any specific needs; whether learning or personal; their new school environment should be inclusive where they feel no different to any of their classmates.
Location is also something that shouldn’t be overlooked – can you comfortably fit the school commute into your daily schedule? How close is it to home? If you have a childcare; can they easily access it? These are all things to consider when assessing your family’s needs.
Gather Information about Schools
Research, research, research. Once you’ve thought about your family’s needs, it’s a good idea to create your own wish list, in order of priority. This will be your checklist to ensure you capture information important to you, as well as your framework against which you will assess your selection of schools.
Some key areas to look at are; curriculum, approach to learning, academic performance, behaviour and safety. Good schools will be transparent with their information and will welcome questions; and oftentimes you will be able to answer many of your questions just by looking at a well-put-together website and school tour.
Don’t overlook areas like facilities and services, additional offerings; like after-school activities; and the admissions process. These are all things that create a picture of where your child will be spending a large part of their time.
Visit and Observe
While you can glean so much information from a website and a quick phone call, there is no substitute for visiting the prospective school.
Many schools are set up for school tours and often build their tour around the information that parents usually want to know first; however, it’s completely ok to take a list of questions!
Remember, this needs to be a good fit for your child, so no question is ever an inconvenience.
Take time to sit with the Principal and find out what their personal approach to learning is, as this will often be reflected in the teaching staff. Do you get along with them on a personal level? This is important, because this person will be not only your child’s advocate, but yours too; and you want to feel as though any potential future concerns are taken seriously.
Many schools now allow you to observe a class – watch how the teacher interacts with the students, and how the students respond to the teacher. Take note of the hallways and class décor – a picture says a thousand words – and you can often gauge so much about school culture by just looking at the walls.
Can you imagine your child here? Can you picture them sitting in the class, reading with the teacher, walking down the hallway?
Something many of us overlook – but something that speaks volumes – is looking to the parent community for feedback on reputation etcetera. Look at the school social media pages as well as their Google listing and read what reviews current and past student families have left.
If you’re able to, contact the School PTA and see if they’d be willing to host you for one of their meetings as a parent-at-large. Remember; it’s in their interests too as to whether you pick their school, so they should be welcoming you with open arms.
Remember: You know Best
Finally, trust your intuition. No one knows your child better than you do. Often our first instincts are right, if the school does not strike a chord with you when you first walk through the doors and start talking to staff, go with that hunch.
It’s ok if it takes you a while to reach the right decision for your family – this is a big deal and you have every right to go at your own pace. The right school for you will be happy to accommodate you and be on hand to walk you through the process every step of the way.
If you’ve been considering a change of schools, we’d love to invite you to meet with our Principal Mrs. Harris and take a tour of First Steps and Beyond.