Choosing a school is one of the most important decisions you will make as a parent. The type of school your son attends can dramatically shape the rest of his life. From his peer group, academic pursuits, sporting preferences, post-school outcomes – right through to his network of contacts later in life – the school he attends influences all of these factors and more. It’s a big decision, and the first step in this process has nothing to do with the school at all. The most important step is to first identify a list of key factors that matter to you, your son and your family. For most families researching schools could look something like this.
For some parents, their choice of school is heavily influenced by location. For others, distance is not an issue. Think about where you sit on this scale and research appropriate transport options. Will your son attend a local school? Will he catch public transport each day? Are you considering boarding school?
An often overlooked aspect of location is the programs a school can provide. A school situated near the beach or a large body of water can offer students marine study and water sport opportunities that a landlocked school cannot. Likewise, schools with facilities near ski fields can afford students options in winter sports.
Will your son attend a public, Catholic or independent school? If it is a Catholic or independent school, how much can you afford in tuition each year? For most families, finance will play a large part in the decision-making process, which is why it’s a good idea to start planning for your son’s education early. Consider school fees, uniforms, travel, stationery and additional co-curricular activities and tours. Ask each school what their fee structure is and if they grant financial support or scholarships.
Family values and personal preferences
Does your son have a creative flair? Perhaps he has a keen interest in sport? Do you have any religious affiliation? Are you after a single-sex or co-educational school? Perhaps you are looking to enrol your son where you went to school? While this list may be longer for some than others – and each family’s list will look different – it’s crucial that you identify your values and personal preferences as they will guide your research and help you to make the right decision for your son.
It’s important to realise that very few families find a school that meets all their needs. If after doing your research you find that not every item on your wish list has been ticked, don’t despair – there are many families in a similar situation. It’s about identifying the deal breakers and the areas where you are flexible.
Where to find information about schools
An easy first step is to talk to friends and family. What schools did they attend and what schools are their children at now? When they were looking for a school, where did they find information and what did they find?
School directories can also be a great place to start. Searching directories often provides better results than simply doing a general search. School directories offer basic, introductory information on a whole range of schools, making it easier for you to narrow down your choices.
Note down all the schools that appeal to you and then start searching for information relevant to each of these schools. Three places to focus your search are the school’s website, their social media presence and their prospectus.
Learn more about choosing a school by downloading The comprehensive guide to choosing the right school for your son.