QUESTION: How do I choose the right school for my child?
Answer: Finding the right school for your child is a tough challenge and requires some careful consideration.
Here are six issues that must be considered and prioritised in order to inform your decision about which school will be most suitable for you and your children.
- Budget: Schools vary in fees dramatically. Often schools with strong reputations have equally strong enrolment fees.
One of the first considerations must be, what is my budget? What can I afford? How much value do I place on my child’s education?
- Geography: A school’s location in relation to your home is very important. If your child is entering Prep, you’ll probably be driving them there – and picking them up. So, is this commute sustainable and how much will the commute add to your budget and daily stress levels?
- Reputation: A school’s reputation is not always a fair indication of what the school offers, but it is still a consideration. More than this, your child’s school will naturally become a network for you and your children. A school with a good reputation will offer your child a good network of friends, and into the future, a network of professionals which will have a bearing on your child’s career opportunities later in life.
- Academics: Some schools really focus on the strength of their academic program. Is this what you’re looking for? How much of a priority is the core business of teaching and learning for your children? Do you want them to have the very best chance at succeeding academically, or do you have other priorities?
- Sport and Arts Programs: Some schools are known for the strength of their sporting or arts or other extra-curricular programs. Again, what are you looking for? How will you prioritise these opportunities? Do you want your child to have the very best opportunity to excel in the sport/instrument/art of their choice?
- Faith and Culture: Perhaps the most overlooked facet in terms of conscious decision-making is in regard to the school’s culture and its engagement with faith.
This facet is also the most difficult to measure, particularly in a 30-minute enrolment interview.
Whether they’re conscious of it or not, school culture is developed and led by the staff members as it is they who communicate expectations and therefore inform what students think is acceptable behaviour in school.
A healthy culture will naturally encourage students to behave well, treat each other with respect and dignity, and o treat the faith life of the school with respect and honour.
In finding the right school for your child, sit down with your spouse and prioritise these six facets.
For my wife and I, we wanted a school that would help our children to grow in faith, character and confidence – as such, faith and culture was the most important consideration, followed by academics, geography, budget, reputation and then extra-curricular.
This choice is of course highly personal but once these priorities are in order, you will have some clear criteria for the kind of school you’re looking for.
All that’s left to do is pray, and then begin making contact with the schools that fit.
By Peter Pellicaan
Peter Pellicaan is a former Protestant pastor who was received into the Catholic Church. He is a father of four and passionate musician.