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Choosing the right school for your child

It’s one of the most important decisions parents make, here are eight things to consider when choosing a school for your child.

NEWS 1 Nov 2023

It’s not surprising that choosing a school for your child is one of life’s more stressful decisions. Along with buying and selling a house, moving to a new part of the world or starting a new job, deciding which school will best support your child is right up there in terms of stress and worry.

So, how can you make the process a little easier and what should you keep in mind?

“The closer a family is to the entry year, the more stressful this decision can be. Families who explore their choices well in advance find the journey far calmer, so I’d encourage parents to think about their choice of school early”
Felicity Pearson, Deputy Principal at Haileybury Rendall School

Here are eight things to consider when you begin your search:

Look at the broader program

Depending on the year your child is entering a school, they may be there for at least 13 years so it’s important not to only focus on your child’s entry year. It’s also important to think about the programs and opportunities across the school, what kind of specialist programs are on offer, and how this will support your child’s progress and growth. For instance, alongside the academic program, the at HRS, we offer an extensive array of clubs and extra-curricular activities before, during and after school across a range of areas such as, but not limited, to innovation and entrepreneurship, outdoor education, health and wellbeing, House activities, homework support and Top End Sports opportunities.

Explore the school values

Schools are much more than buildings, physical spaces and academic programs. Look at the school’s values – do they match your family’s values and how does the school bring those values to life?

Find out about the teaching and learning style

The academic program and performance of a school is important when choosing a school. In primary school, look for a structured phonics program in the lower primary years. A school that is aspirational and sets high expectations is also a good choice. A good reference is the My School website for details about specific schools and how they compare.

Ask what wellbeing looks like

HRS has a Health and Wellbeing Framework that guides the care and curriculum offered by the school. Take a look at the school’s website and, during school tours or visits, ask what the pastoral care or wellbeing program includes. What kinds of topics are covered? What does consent and sex education include and what do students learn at what age? What do students learn about consent and what kinds of supports are in place if your child struggles with certain things at some point? How do we manage transitions into the School, particularly at key entry points such as Transition and Year 7?

Discover how a school communicates with parents

Every parent wants to know how their child is progressing academically and socially so they can encourage and support their child in their school journey. Ask the school how parents are kept informed about their child’s progress and growth. What is their reporting system and how often can you expect to be updated?

For example, Haileybury Rendall School has the myHaileybury app that enables parents to receive instant news and updates from the school and view feedback, results, reports and their child’s curriculum. Parents can also use the app to record absences and stay up-to- date with school programs and extra-curricular activities.

Ask other parents about their experiences

School tours, websites and enrolment brochures provide families with plenty of useful information but talking to parents of children already at schools you are considering provides even more insight. Ask parents what they see as the strengths and positives of the school and is there anything they see as not being a strong point. You could also ask their children what their classroom feels like. It’s best to talk to parents whose children are at those schools. Other parents may hear different things – good and bad – but if they aren’t at the school, they won’t really know what it is like.

See for yourself

Nothing replaces touring schools with your child and, ideally, visit more than once. Open mornings and school tours are a wonderful opportunity to see a school in action and to see students and teachers interacting. Many schools offer private tours, so if your child has particular interests like music or art, a private tour allows time to visit specific parts of the school to find out what programs are on offer. Another tip is to ask your child if they have any questions they want to ask and write down any questions you have. Maybe your child can try the school for a day or spend a few hours getting a feel for the place and whether they think it’s somewhere they could fit in and be happy.

Every student is different and children within the same family may not suit the same school. Schools also offer a wide range of programs and facilities and teaching styles can also vary. Thinking ahead about what kind of school you think would be best for your child, and allowing time to visit schools together, will help you make the right choice and ensure your child receives the best educational experience.