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5 Top Tips on How to Select Your Child's First School

How to select your child’s first school – aspects to consider in making your choice.

Parenting is a constant juggle of decision making, options and ideas that determine so many aspects of your children’s lived experience, both now and into the future. This statement is certainly true when it comes to selecting a school and the fact that you are reading this blog tells me you have many choices ahead of you. School selection is a value laden and emotive decision, and so it’s important to try and put some practical solutions in place to help you navigate the path ahead. So here are my five top tips ( and a few bonus tips) for how to select a school, not just for your child, but for your family as a whole.

Family First

School is the place your child will not only learn , but will grow and grow up. So many years are spent at school and for this reason your choice should reflect your family values, beliefs and parenting style in its approach and educational philosophy. It is worth doing your homework regarding schools, as ensuring you can parent with the school is essential. Consider what aspects of your family life are important and how this should or could be part of your child’s school experience. Does faith, a bilingual language, a secular approach or sport have a part on your family life. How could this be reflected in your choice of school? Matching your family to your school choice, ensures you provide your child with an environment that acknowledges their needs, interests and attitudes, as much as it does your own.

Age of school start

Last month’s blog examined what school readiness means, and it touched on the start ages for children attending NSW public schools. Recent media attention has been drawn to a number of independent schools that have determined that school age readiness impacts on children’s school success. It is wonderful to see schools recognising the importance of the early childhood years as a time to grow and learn, well before school begins. Some North Shore private schools have set their own independent starting age expectations, therefore challenging beliefs that children are ready for school prior to the age of five. At Ganeinu, we recognise that these early childhood years are valuable and believe they should not be rushed or hurried. Check your selected school and ask the hard questions like “What is the average age of children attending”. This will help you decide if you child is a good fit in that specific learning context.

More than academics

Determining a choice of school should be based on more than potential academic achievement alone. What does each school offer for the well-rounded child who enjoys sport, languages and music? Will your child have an opportunity to shine in other ways and to feel supported as part of the school community. What clubs, classes and extracurricular activities are on offer here, and how will that suit your family? Does your child have a special talent, as specific need or an interest that the school can foster and encourage? School is so much more than NAPLAN and test scores, it is whole child focused. How does your school choice build capacity and offer your child potential beyond the ABC and 123?

Long term implications

Working parents, long days and multiple school aged children, are factors that often combine to make term times challenging and exhausting for families on the go. Your choice of school is a long-term decision and has implications for everyone in the family. Does your school offer before and after school care and how will your needs change or evolve over the years ahead. Remember a choice of schools is not just a decision for Kindergarten alone. Is the school near transport and what feeder high schools being you considering? Yes, high school, it happens much quicker than you think. Are your short-term decisions going to support your long-term school objectives for your children? Lots to think about for the year ahead and for the many years to come.

The warm and fuzzy bits

And now to the warm and fuzzy bits…. the best part really. How does your choice of school feel? Do you feel connected to the school and the process of school transition for your child? Have you been welcomed, and do you sense that the school is eager to involve you, ready to listen and cares about your child’s new beginning? Have you had an opportunity to ask questions and will you be supported in making the transition? All of these aspects are so important, because if you feel confident in your choice, so will your child. Children take their cue from parents and if you are happy, settled and assured, your child will be too. The first day of school is special and we all need to wave, blow a kiss and smile at the gate, as we feel that we have made an informed choice.

Bonus tips:

Knowing your Child

As parents, you know your children and you want the best match for their specific personality and unique learner profile. As teachers, we often recommend considering the size of your chosen school and how this will reflect your child’s individual needs. Does your child have a big personality that would thrive in a larger environment? Or do they feel more capable and supported in smaller community of learners. There are pros and cons on both sides of the fence, but matching your child to the school size, school context and school environment is essential in setting them up for a great beginning. Our Ganeinu preschool educators can help you in understanding how your child works within a classroom context and what this means for school choices long term.

The best of both worlds

Sometimes the challenge of so many school choices is knowing what advice to seek out. School open days, fundraising events, fetes and book week celebrations, all provide a great way of exploring what schools offer and the opportunity to sample the school community. Have you considered asking other local parents about their child’s own school experiences, attending parent committee events as a visitor or having a school tour with a teacher. Does your school option have detailed information online for you to read and engage with? Can your child’s preschool offer insights about local schools? You really can have the best of both worlds here – your own parental insight and a wealth of information from trusted people in your community who can validate and help navigate your choices.

Waitlists, Paperwork and Out of Areas

As a parent myself, I know I have been caught off guard by the vast amount of paperwork, waitlist applications and school prospectus forms that have arrived across my desk. If you decide to place your child’s name on a school waiting list or out of area enrolment form, it certainly pays to know what you are doing well in advance. School may seem light years away, but if you are yet to decide, at least know what is expected both from a paperwork perspective and a financial one. Many private schools require waitlist applications from birth, whilst others are a combination of interview or examination based. Be aware that schools have become very proactive in their advertising, induction for families and old boys/old girls family preferences and priorities. Having this information in advance allows many families to budget, make lifestyle choices or decisions about housing with schooling in mind both now and in the future.

You know your child and you are their best advocate, supporter and cheerleader. Be confident, be knowledgeable, question, research and consider before school begins. It is a big decision, and these tips provide food for thought along the way. We hope they guide you in the right direction and that your decision is made with intuition, confidence and with consideration of all the issues, options and choices available. We wish you well in your school journey ahead. Happy school days to all!

Top Five tips for selecting a school - aspects to consider in making your choice…

  • Family first

  • Age of school start

  • More than academics

  • Long term implications

  • The warm and fuzzy bits.

Bonus tips

  • Knowing your child

  • The best of both worlds

  • Waitlists, Paperwork and Out of Areas

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