Choose a school wisely

Photo: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images
Ian Munro shares some thoughts on how to pick the right school for your child.

Ian Munro
Ian Munro
I’ve noticed that radio stations and secondary schools are beginning their annual rounds of self-promotion.

Both are aiming to impress their respective markets, with many of the former offering financial inducements via a range of competitions and a few of the latter via a range of scholarships.

In the main, all New Zealand state schools are staffed by well-trained, dedicated teachers and all offer sound tuition in the New Zealand curriculum within the financial resources and staffing available to them.

Differentiation comes down to the particular characteristics, areas of excellence and style of operation schools have, so, if you are in a position where you have choice, here is a list of factors I have used in the past for weighing up one school against another.

• Will the breadth of subjects and new technologies available meet your child’s needs? Is there outdoor education? Work experience?

• Are there opportunities to develop the whole person beyond academic through a breadth of cultural and sporting activities? Can students at all levels participate?

• Are clear learning expectations provided to students at the start of each year?

• If your child has special needs, whether learning difficulties, physical disabilities or special abilities, how would they be catered for?

• What pastoral and peer support systems operate?

• What form does reporting back to parents take and does it seem meaningful?

• What costs can you expect?

• Are the lines of communication, redress and accountability clearly defined if you need information, have a complaint or wish to discuss a problem?

• Does the school work closely with and have a commitment to its community?

• Compare the latest Education Review Office reports for each school. These are available on-line.

A school does not need to be flashy but should be tidy. Wander around the grounds at the weekend or after school. The appearance of the physical environment reflects the level of pride students and staff have in their school. Is it welcoming and clean or off-putting and graffiti-ridden?

The way students wear uniform and behave in public and on the sports field reflects their feeling towards their school.

You might want to consider the ease and safety of getting to and from school.

If you can’t make it to an open day or evening, make an appointment to visit. A good principal, or delegated staff member, will be pleased to take the time to answer your questions and show you and your youngster around.


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