Schools vary greatly in their emphasis, philosophy, activities, staffing and costs. It’s more than just a choice between private and public schooling, as there are many factors to consider.
We are fortunate in Australia that our education offerings are of a very high standard and we have a large range of options from which to choose. Because you want to match the best school with the interests and abilities of your children, this often requires a considerable amount of footwork to visit schools to see the facilities on offer and to speak with staff and principals. When judging schools, you should be persistent, well-researched and have a clear understanding of the New South Wales education system — as well as the choices available — before making your final decision.
Ask your child
Your child will have opinions about what school he or she wants to attend and that may depend on particular areas of interest, subjects offered, perhaps a language and, more often than not, where friends are going. Sending a child with little interest in academic studies to a school that prides itself on a high tertiary entrance rate could create problems.
Talk to your child’s teachers and find out what they recommend.
Most importantly, discuss the decision with your child and work with them — it is their future education.
The school’s values
The school environment will have a considerable influence on your child so you’ll want the values it promotes to be close to your own.
You need to work out what you want from a school before asking what it has to offer. Values don’t just mean moral and religious values.
They also refer to a range of social issues such as the school’s attitude to affirmative action for girls, bullying and discipline policies, and the nutritional value of foods available at the school canteen.
There are also practical points to consider relating to your willingness to be involved in school-related activities.
You need to decide if you have the time to be part of your child’s travel arrangements or if there are public transport options available.
How much time and energy are you prepared to give to the school? Some schools expect a high level of parental involvement, others less. If you have more than one child at secondary level, are their needs quite similar or are they likely to attend different schools? If going to different schools, demands on your time will be multiplied.
Do your homework
Choosing a School For Your Child is a great starting point for deciding on a secondary school for your child. But there will be other sources of information for finding out what schools offer, including the internet, school visits, open days and discussions with teachers, principals or other appropriate staff.
Even the community feeling about a particular school could be part of your research. Make a shortlist of schools you consider suitable and then make appointments to speak with the most appropriate person at the school.
This might be the registrar, the principal or the year-level coordinator.