Your child is growing up and it’s getting close to the time for you to start thinking about, or preparing for, their next journey in life by selecting or attending a primary school.
Starting school for the first time is a big change for your child and your whole family. For children, and parents, it can often be both exciting and daunting at the same time.
So how do you choose a primary school?
This is one of the most frequent questions that I get asked by parents of kindergarten children which is naturally quite understandable as it can be a big decision. It can be common for parents to feel anxious about making the right choice on deciding which school to send their child.
In some locations parents, actually don’t have the luxury of choosing a primary school as they are either zoned to a particular location or there is only one school that is close by. For other families though school selection isn’t that simple and they might be looking at alternatives to a government school like a catholic or independent/private school for their child.
Whatever your current thoughts in relation to possible choices here are a few important points to assist with the decision-making process:
- Have a bit of an idea of what you might be looking for or needing for your child in a prospective school. For example, does your child have any particular needs that require additional support. It can be useful to put a bit of a list together as you think of things.
- Talks to other families you know about their experiences with schools in the area.
- Speak to kindergarten and childcare teachers to gain their perspective as they too also know your child well and what their needs are likely to be.
- Make a list of prospective schools that you might be considering.
- Visit those prospective schools to meet the principal and ask questions (more on this below). Make sure you do this during school hours as this allows you to see the school in operation and to gain a good feel of what it is like.
Questions to ask
- What does learning look like at this school? Find out the school’s approach.
- What facilities or programs does the school have to support a child’s learning?
- How is technology used to support teaching and learning at this school?
- What are the school’s values and in turn do they sit with your values?
- Ask about the size of the school, the breakdown of classes and the number of children in each class?
- What are the school’s academic results? Ask them what their strengths and weaknesses are? What are they doing about improving any weaknesses?
- If you have a child with additional needs then make sure you ask all the important questions that relate ie what support programs do they have in place? How is funding sought and allocated?
- What opportunities are there for parent and family involvement?
- Does the school work in partnership with families? How does this work?
- How is communication between school and families handled?
- Ask about the school’s policy on homework.
- What is the school’s assessment and reporting processes?
- Find about about the school’s approach around managing behaviours?
- What are the financial costs in relation to fees, uniform, supplies etc?
- How involved is the parent body in the running of the school?
- What is the school’s transition program? How and when does this take place?
Before making a decision on which school to choose, you might also like to consider other aspects like:
- Where the school is located?
- How will your child get to and from school?
- Do you need before and after care and does the school offer it?
- Where are your child’s friends going?
In making the final decision on which primary school, I usually tell parents to go with their gut feel as it is usually spot on. You know your child best and have a feel for the type of environment you believe will suit them. I also follow this up by saying to please also note that if things don’t work out at the first school you choose then there are always options to change to another school. I know many families who have done this over the years for a variety of different reasons and there has been little impact on their children as a result.
You have now made the decision on which primary school your child will attend so what now?
Parents play an important role in supporting their children with the transition to primary school. This transition is one of the most significant events in a child’s life and usually starts in the year prior to the starting school. Any transition process evokes mixed feelings of stress, anxiety, excitement and nervousness for everyone. Usually, these feelings are associated with uncertainty and the unknown. Students and parents worry about what this will mean in terms of a new environment, new routines and new expectations. Most primary schools have a transition or ‘orientation’ program in place to assist new students and their families.
Parents, along with kindergarten and childcare teachers, can help their children to cope with the new challenges they will face by assisting them to continue to focus on developing their social, emotional and learning skills.
Here’s a few tips on how you can support your child in the lead up to starting school:
- Encourage them to learn to do things for themselves – packing and unpacking their bag, getting dressed by themselves, using a lunchbox, going to the toilet by themselves, asking for help when needed.
- Teach them to look after their belongings.
- Encourage and teach them about making friends and that all children will be in the same situation in that it is new for them too.
- Encourage them to have a play with others that you know that are likely to be going to the same school.
- Keep talking to them about primary school in a positive way and please don’t share any negative experiences you may have had or are aware of.
- Continue to ask them how they are feeling and discuss any concerns or feelings they may have. Likewise discuss what they might be looking forward to.
- Visit the school on weekends and spend time playing in the school yard and discuss things like how they will get to school and the sort of things they will do when there.
Finally, please remember the transition process is a time of change for parents as well – being aware of this can assist and where possible I encourage parents to look forward to the new opportunities to be involved in your child’s education. Best of luck for the transition process to you and your child!
If you would like to know more about transition to primary school or to secondary school please get in touch.