Choosing a school for your child is a massive decision, but I never expected it to be so hard, even as a teacher. I actually lost sleep over it, but I also learnt a lot in the process.
My teaching experience taught me that schools could change very quickly based on many things, including leadership and staff changes and funding arrangements, so I waited until the year before my son started school to do tours. The only research I did prior was to know which schools I wanted to look at when the time came.
While considering the educational programs of a school are important, they are only part of what is involved. Teachers working across all sectors go to the same universities. The curriculum they follow is the same across whichever state or territory they are working in, so the biggest difference will be their delivery method. To get the best idea of this, I preferred to do the daytime tours where I could see the school with students and teachers working together.
Before going on tours, I decided to write a list of what was ultimately important to us for our kids (because it is important to have all your children in mind, not just the one starting school). This list is unique to each parent. It may include proximity to the school or the LOTE that is taught or the supports that will be available to your child should they require it. This list will help you work out the questions you want answers to, which may be covered during tours or you will know to ask. As I toured each school, and with the things on the list covered, I did however, find myself even more confused because each school has slight differences. Being a visual person, I needed to get all the pros and cons down on paper in a way I could compare them, so this is when I created my own graphic organiser (which you can download here now for free). It is best when you are comparing your top two schools. It has five columns, the middle for all the things that are important to you that both schools offer, on either side the pros of each school and then on either end the cons. It helped us really get an idea of where we thought met our needs and wants best, but it couldn’t do one thing.
To quote one of the greatest Australian movies ever, The Castle, it’s “the vibe”. From your first impression when you call the office to when you step foot inside the school for a tour and are greeted by the staff, you will get a sense about what kind of place it will be for you and your child. Do they seem helpful, polite, fun, easy to ask questions of, accommodating, have a lovely manner, seem organised and on top of things? These are all going to make a difference to the whole experience of school, so don’t ignore that feeling you get.
Most importantly, don’t just follow the crowd. Do what is right for your child and your family first, and no matter what life brings, you will always feel more comfortable in your decision.