How do you find the school that is the best match for your child? Before interviewing principals and teachers, parents should ask themselves what are the child’s needs and strengths and what values do we live by?
Other considerations include the child’s character, personality, interests and aspirations. These factors will influence decisions about subjects on offer and how they are taught; whether the school is coeducational or single sex; its emphasis on sport, the arts and activities outside the regular curriculum; and its location in relation to home and public transport.
It is less about finding the ‘best school’ but rather what is the school that is best for your child.
Open days are a very good way to start looking and when parents have seen schools they like, visits can be arranged during a normal school day (but don’t just turn up). This provides an opportunity to ask how the school deals with curriculum options, specific learning needs, conflict resolution and social issues.
As in many ‘purchasing’ decisions, word of mouth is important. Parents should talk to other parents with children at different schools and examine their websites.
When you have picked a school, register interest in enrolling as early as possible. This is likely to involve an administration fee that is not refundable. When a decision is made to enrol, or when a place becomes available, a payment is paid to confirm enrolment but it is deducted from the fees.
Many parents ask what the best age is to start at an Independent school, for example, in the Early Learning Centre, Prep, Year 5 or Year 7.
The advantage of starting your child early is that they don’t have to change schools. If they are following a sibling (or will be followed) the continuity is valuable, convenient for transport arrangements and family involvement with the school. Seeking enrolment in later years might mean waiting lists.