I regularly get asked by parents what my thoughts are in relation to selecting a secondary school for their child. My initial response is usually to do your research and then to go with your gut feel. Usually what you think and feel will be the right choice and spot on.
I understand it can be very common for parents to feel anxious about making the right choice on deciding where to send their children.
Unfortunately, in some locations, parents don’t always have the luxury of choosing a high school. They are either zoned to a particular location or there is only one school close by. For other families though, school selection isn’t that simple. They might be looking at alternatives to a government school like a catholic or independent/private school for their child. Other aspects to consider are whether to go single or coed or if you might need to think about moving to be in the right catchment zone for a particular school.
Whatever your current thoughts in relation to possible choices, here are a few important points to assist with the decision-making process on how to select a secondary school:
- It is usually best to choose a school that will best benefit your child’s learning and development. What might you be looking for or needing for your child in a prospective school? For example, does your child have particular needs that require additional support? It can be useful to put together a list as you think of key points.
- Speak to other families you know about their experiences with schools in the area.
- Talk to primary school transition teachers to gain their perspective as they also know your child well and what their needs are likely to be.
- Make a list of prospective schools you are considering.
- Explore your options and visit those prospective schools to meet the principal and ask questions. Make sure you do this early ie in Year 5 is a good time to start and I usually recommend doing it during school hours as this allows you to see the school in operation and to gain a real understanding of what it is like.
Questions to ask of secondary schools when you visit
Here are a list of questions you might like to consider, and even ask on your visits, when choosing the right high school for your child:
- How far do you want your child to have to travel to school? Have you thought how they will they get to and from school?
- Is it important is it that your child knows other children at the same school?
- What does the learning look like at a particular school? Ask what the school’s approach is and the type of educational programs offered?
- 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 assistance and learning do they provide students when it comes to learning the academic study skills they need to succeed at secondary school?
- Ask what the school’s values are and in turn do they sit with your values?
- Find out 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?
- What is the school’s assessment and reporting processes?
- Find out about their approach that they take around managing behaviours ie consequences, detention, restorative practices?
- 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?
- Ask them what the steps are in the enrolment process for their school?
At the end of the day you want to find a school that will meet your child’s needs now and into the future. In making the final decision on which secondary school, go with your gut feel as I mentioned earlier. 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 and their success as a result.
For more detailed information, please check out my eBooks on Taking the Leap to Secondary School – there is one for parents on how to support your child and another for children on what they need to know in order to prepare themselves for the transition journey.
Please do get in touch if I can assist you further on how to select a secondary school or another aspect of your child’s academic journey!