A Guide to Choosing a School

Choosing a school for your children should be an exciting time in a family’s life. It’s the start of an era. However, with approximately one hundred private schools and even more public schools in and around Adelaide, choosing a great school has become increasingly more complex.

Many “leading” private schools in Adelaide rely heavily on their reputation from years past and the word of loyal old collegians. Having worked for many years in some of those private schools, and now as the Managing Director of an Educational Consultancy practice, I have seen generations of families believing unequivocally that the school they attended is the best place of learning for their child. With so much choice and their child’s future riding on this decision, it makes me question – how can they be sure?

Certain schools here in South Australia are doing wonderful things in terms of investing in teaching and learning and supporting the ‘whole’ student.
This is achieved by appreciating that each student is a unique individual and each student responds better to different learning stimuli. However, there is undeniable evidence that some schools in South Australia are letting our children down. In the 2014 Global Report on Education, a report that is part of a wide-ranging programme of educational analysis, Australia’s national education system had fallen in ranking to 15th.
This is an alarming statistic. We must now question, are we giving education and school choice the necessary consideration it deserves?

Rohan's Top 4 Considerations When Choosing a School

1. Exceptional Leadership and Vision Is there a clear vision and direction the school is taking to develop a truly 21st century education for students? Is positive student and parent leadership and role modeling evident within the school?

2. Active and Responsive School Governance Are the principal, leadership team, teachers, parents and students involved in shared decision-making? Is there synergy between the governing council and in-school leadership?

3. Teaching and Learning as the Core Business Schools must value, acknowledge and reward students and teachers success. It places great importance on the taught curriculum and teaching pedagogy.

4. Embrace Technology and Model Innovation Does the school have a technology plan and roll out schedule? There must be a shared vision with clear objectives outlining where the school is now and where they want to be.

A more general factor to look for is the willngness of the school and the teachers to communicate frequently with families and a willingness to communicate via digital formats about happenings at school is a must. The use of digital communication speaks volumes about a school’s willingness to embrace technology as part of their curriculum. Another sign of a good school is it’s involvement with families and the local community. This provides excellent role modeling for students to learn how to be an active contributor in their community.

Each student is a unique individual and each student responds better to different learning stimuli

The term ‘wellbeing’ is a buzzword in educational circles, student wellbeing programs are a priority in great schools. This shows a commitment to building resilient learners who are socially inclusive of others and able to cope with life pressures. These schools also have a strong-arm approach to bullying and instill restorative justice principles. In addition, schools should have high levels of teacher wellbeing. This reflects the time teachers are given to plan rich and engaging programs for their students without being overloaded with excessive commitments. A great way to assess
this is by looking into staff retention rates of schools.
When it comes to the question of which school is best – no one school is the best for every student. At the core of this is appreciating that, like we are all different and unique human beings, so too are we as learners. Everyone has different learning styles and models that suit us best. It is a well-known statistic that in South Australia the highest levels of academic achievement generally result from single-sex schooling, particularly girls schools. While this model may suit a particular type of learner, it will not suit everyone.

It is undeniable that the single biggest influence on student achievement is the teacher

This also raises the age-old debate of public versus private. Again, the same concept applies. It is undeniable that the single biggest influence on student achievement is the teacher. While a school may be well resourced and have excellent teacher-student ratios, this is useless if the teacher is not passionate and skilled in the art of teaching.
When choosing the best school for your child you must determine the educational priorities for your family whilst also considering the strengths, weaknesses, needs and learning style of your child. I encourage families to speak openly with schools and feel confident asking challenging questions. After all, education is a life long journey, and our children’s future depends on a successful start to that journey.

by Rohan Feegrade

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