Let’s face it – when it’s time for your kids to start school, it can be scary for a parent because it really is a big decision. Why? Because it’s your child that you are sending out into the world and into the care of someone else. You want to know that where you leave them and who you leave them with are people you can trust, who with will teach them well and, most importantly, keep them safe.
You may be a parent who is sending their child to a play school for the first time or you could be a parent, like me, that has a child who has the option of staying at their current school or moving to another school for Grade 1. Or, you could be a parent who has a child in their teens moving across to High School. Regardless, at the end of the day, there are aspects / factors one needs to consider when choosing the right school (play school, junior school, high school, creche) for our kids and these factors are covered in the article below.
How to Choose the Right School
Ask the right questions and take notice! Teachers and experts agree that if you ask the right questions, you can make this undertaking considerably less unnerving for yourself. Here are some tips on compiling the best possible list of questions to pick the right school for your child and family.
Personal preference and circumstances
Before you even start scouting for schools, decide which factors are most important to you. Are you sending your little one to school because you think it is important for their development or do you perhaps need to return to work? These, and other considerations, will determine what is most important in the ideal school for your child:
- Is the school close to your home or office?
- What are the school hours?
- Are there aftercare and holiday facilities?
- Does the school provide a transport service?
- What are the school fees?
- Are there any extra fees or items you have to budget for?
- Does the school provide extramural activities and what are the costs of these?
Values and Philosophy
As a parent you want your child to spend the hours they are separated from you with likeminded people who largely have the same outlook on life as your family. That is why it is important that you pick a school where the values, principles and philosophy are admirable or at least acceptable to you. Consider these questions:
- What is the school’s philosophy on discipline?
- Are there clear rules at the school?
- Will you, as the parent of a student at the school, have any influence on important decisions?
All about the school
Of course there are also some fundamental requirements the school has to meet. These include, but are not always limited to:
- Is the school registered?
- Is the school clean?
- Are staff members adequately supervised – either by camera or management?
- Is the school organised?
- Are age groups appropriately separated?
- Does the school follow formal class plans or have a registered class plan for Grade R?
Certain issues like safety and security and the necessary stimulation of your child should be non-negotiable. However, there are also other practical issues you should clear up before applying to a school:
- Are all facilities – like a pool and jungle gym – safe for children?
- Is the school secure in terms of the play area and the dropping and collecting procedure?
- Are staff members trained in CPR?
- Does the school provide children with healthy snacks and/or meals?
- Does the school provide potty training or are you expected to train your child at home?
- Do children take naps or have adequate time to rest if they spend a full day there?
- Are there enough facilities for the development of gross and fine motor skills?
The Carers (those who look after your child / children)
At the end of the day, a school’s success is still determined by the people who care for your child. Don’t be shy to ask these crucial questions about staff members:
- How many staff members work at the school and what is the staff to child ratio? Obviously the more teachers and assistants are available for children, the better. However, most teachers agree that this number will vary for different age groups. One adult should look after no more than 6 babies, 12 young toddlers, 16 children between the ages of 3 and 4, or 25 children between the ages of 4 and 6.
- What qualifications and Early Childhood Development training do staff members have?
- How high is the staff turnover? If it is fairly low, it might indicate that staff members are happy at the school which surely implies they will be happy to teach your child.
Trust your gut
When all is said and done, no answer to the above questions can or should override your gut feel. Visit the schools on your short list and ask your child’s opinion if they are old enough to comment. Chat to other parents about their experience with the school and ask for references if you need more information. But always trust your instinct!
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