It goes without saying that parents want the best for their children and devote considerable time and energy to ensuring their child’s happiness, wellbeing and safety, and fulfilling their basic needs. One of the most basic needs for any child is an education, but the decision as to where to send your child to school is anything but basic! While in the past students were assigned to schools based on their location, today there are many factors that have to be considered when choosing a school that suits your child and places them on the right path.
It is a decision that requires ample forethought to make sure that families are in full control of the situation and feel confident in their schooling decisions. Here are 10 key questions that can help you make an informed decision when choosing the right school for your child.
1. What is the school’s philosophy or vision?
This big-picture question can be answered early on by reading the school’s values and mission statement which you’ll likely find on their website, and this way you can easily rule out any schools whose educational values don’t align with yours. You can dig a little deeper when you plan a school visit by speaking to staff, students and/or parents to get a feel for the school’s culture, their approach to learning, and how their values are applied in the classroom.
2. Which curriculum does the school follow?
Do you prefer your child to study a national or international curriculum? This can depend on a few factors, such as what your child may have studied in the past, whether you intend to move countries, and where they might go to university in the future. You’ll also want to consider how the curriculum is delivered; the learning methods employed by the school and how this will shape your child’s experience. Is it a traditional system of direct instruction with subject-centred methods, or an inquiry-based, student-centred learning approach? This will determine not only how they are assessed, but also how they develop as learners throughout their formative years.
3. Does the school meet your basic needs?
Practical considerations such as whether it is feasible for your child to attend this school in terms of distance, transport, timetabling, etc. are also important to consider when choosing a school. Will the school’s timetable work for your family and fit into your life? Do you need the school to provide a meal and/or early morning or after-school care?
4. What are the class sizes and student-teacher-ratios?
A good student-teacher ratio is another important element worth thinking about. While large class sizes mean a wider social circle, small class sizes can mean more individualised attention for your child, as well as higher levels of engagement and participation and better academic performance.
5. How does the school measure individual achievement and progress?
Do teachers grade students’ work, such as homework, assignments, and tests? If so, how do they do this? If not, how do they measure performance? Whatever their system, it is important to know that progress is being systematically tracked and how you will be kept informed.
6. What resources are available to help children who need additional support?
Does the school have learning support programs and learning specialists with the expertise required to assist those students who may need it? Are these students following the same lessons as their peers or do they have separate classes? Even if your child doesn’t need additional support, it’s worth asking for to get a glimpse of how the classes are organised to cater for every level and ability. Besides learning support programmes, it is equally important to know what kind of technological resources the school integrates in their students’ education. Are the classrooms equipped with interactive smartboards? Do students commonly work on computers/ tablets during classes? It’s important to have a general overview of all the opportunities that the school will offer your child.
7. What is the quality of the school’s teaching staff?
Needless to say, your child will be spending a lot of time with their teacher. When contacting the school you can ask about the training, experience, and qualifications of the teaching staff, as well as the classroom environment they operate in. You may also want to ask about opportunities provided to the teachers for professional development, as this will show you the school’s commitment to their teachers’ growth and to staying on top of the latest developments in education.
8. What is student life like?
It’s not all about teaching and learning; you also want to make sure your child is happy to go to school every day. Make sure you ask questions about how the school fosters community; are there regular events and opportunities to build relationships? Also, what does discipline look like at this school? How do they deal with social and behavioural problems and things like bullying? Do the school’s values feed their policies in dealing with these issues, and do their answers align with your own views?
9. What extracurricular activities does the school offer?
Again, it’s not only the classroom that counts. You’d ideally like your child to get a holistic, well-rounded education, with plenty of opportunities to find and develop their passions and grow as global citizens. As well as asking what clubs and societies there are, you might also want to ask what opportunities the school provides for educating “the whole child”. As Ellen Froustis, founder of EIMAI, tells us, “The whole child approach to learning supplements academic learning with opportunities for a student to develop socially, emotionally, physically, artistically and ethically.”
10. How can parents get involved in school life?
Parents play a significant role in their children’s education. Find out what kind of community the school provides for parents. What school boards or parent committees are there? How is communication between school, teachers, and parents managed? What events do parents attend, and what other opportunities are there for you to be involved?
Hopefully, you’ve got some ideas to get you started in the search for the right school for your child. If you’d like to ask us any questions, don’t hesitate to get in touch or schedule a visit!