As parents of a pre-school child we’ve all heard the phrase, “That school’s got a great reputation!”
We hear it frequently at Day Care Centres, Kindergartens, local cafés, playgroups, gyms and children’s birthday parties. But what does a ‘great reputation’ actually mean when it comes to selecting the right school for your child? In my opinion, not very much.
Often, a school’s reputation is built on factors such as results, socioeconomic factors, marketing expertise, and most commonly, the experiences of a very loud few. This is not to disregarded the idea of reputation completely, but it must be looked at within the bigger picture of a school and what it has to offer your child.
In these times of vast educational choice, it is very difficult for parents to know exactly what to look for and who to listen to. Gone are the days of sending our kids to the closest local school without a second thought.
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Today, choosing the best educational environment for our children is considered one of the most important decisions we can make for their future. Buzz words such as ‘inquiry based learning’, ‘higher order thinking’ and ’individualised curriculum’ only serve to confuse and overwhelm us. However if we can’t look to a school’s reputation to guide our decision making process, where do we turn?
My suggestion is to look to your child. Your child is unique. While they possess many qualities in common with other children, they also display a range of individual interests, strengths, weaknesses, social, emotional and educational needs. For example, does your child show a particular interest in extra-curricular activities such as sport or music? Does your child require academic extension or intervention? Does your child make friends easily, or might they require extra support in this area? Does your child learn best by listening or by doing? Just to name a few!
Schools vary considerably in their structures, class sizes, programs, facilities, policies, teaching approaches, extra-curricular activities and after school-hours care options. The process of aligning some of these factors with your child’s individual needs will offer you a greater understanding of how an educational environment may suit your child and the requirements of your family.
Now back to the all important question; is school reputation fact or fiction? As a parent, teacher and Education Consultant I would argue that reputation is a relatively insignificant factor in the school selection process.
While no educational environment is perfect, asking the right questions based on your child’s needs will set you up to make the most educated and well informed decision possible.
How did you choose the right school for your child? Share with us in the comments.