It goes without saying that if you are ready to help the love of your life receive a better education than that available at a public school, you want to know that your little beauty will receive the best learning experience for which you are paying. This article describes some features that you should look for when considering how to choose a private school for your loved one.
When choosing a private school, keep in mind that private schools have different qualities and philosophies, which cater for different families needs and educational beliefs. When deciding which school your child should go to, it is important to have an idea of the qualities you want to assess before you visit. Discuss what you and your youngster value about education and what they want to achieve.
What you should look out for in a private school
Private schools often offer better learning enrichment programs, more advanced learning and better extra-curricular opportunities to help transform a child into a respectable adult. Although all private schools usually offer a well-rounded curriculum most schools have particular strengths from which they will have built a reputation.
This could be academic, in which schools specialise in facilitating students’ entry into top universities, such as Ivy League universities in America, or Russell Group universities in the United Kingdom. It could also be sports, such as having a particular strength in rugby, swimming or tennis. Or it could specialise in an Arts program or even Trade programs for the less academic.
Many private schools can be selective. It is common in private schools with a well-established academic reputation for prospective students to take an entrance exam. In other schools, students may instead be required to attend an interview. In some schools prospective students are required to do both. It is important to be aware of these selection requirements once you have decided on a school so that your child is prepared well in advance.
If an entrance exam is required, make sure you check how many your child will be required to sit. Often there are three- literacy, numeracy and general reasoning. Schools usually give access to their past exam papers for a small fee.
It is possible in most private schools for particularly gifted children to receive either reduced fees or in some cases gifted students are lucky enough to receive a free place at a school. It is worth finding out about these financial opportunities to see if your youngster is able to apply. You should also find out if there are any expectations that come along with a scholarship, e.g. for a sports scholarship is there a minimum number of games to play or a minimum number of teams to be part of? For a music scholarship are there certain concerts that your little one will need to be a part of?
Look for updates and modernisation of the private school
Most private schools have modernised their school facilities to provide the latest educational resources to students. This involves providing advanced technology to students.
When having a school tour it can be fascinating and exciting to see what facilities your little one will be able to use. You may wish you could go back in time yourself! You may find facilities that you won’t find in a public school, such as a theatre, a swimming pool and clay kilns in the art rooms. I have even seen in one fabulous school a modern-art film theatre.
You can get a feel for the facilities when you have a tour of the campus. The school tour will no doubt showcase the facilities that the school is most proud of. Do they seem to care about the building and is it well maintained?
Taking a school tour
Ensuring that you can see and experience your child’s potential program is absolutely vital. You can look at the school’s books and find out more about the curriculum and what your child will learn during their stay.
It is an important time to ask well-prepared questions. How are students at this school different from other schools in the region, state, and country? You may be able to request test results that show student performance. This can help you to know that the school meets the educational needs of your child. Also ask about the school’s choices for the curriculum and what benefits these will bring to your son or daughter’s learning.
Try to ask students some questions on a school tour
Ensure that you speak to a student already attending the school, to know what he or she does during the day to find out what you can expect for your child. In this way you would have an insight into the potential school-life of your son or daughter. These questions can revolve around the school programs, classroom experiences, and even student interactions with other children.
Boarding Schools vs. Day Schools
Although some boarding schools offer co-education, there are more co-educational day schools than boarding schools, which may be a factor in your decision-making. Boarding schools offer more extensive extra-curricular programs outside classes, which generally beat those offered by day schools. For example, there will be more opportunities for study sessions with specialist teachers outside class and there will be more trips occurring at weekends.
However, day schools are a preferred option as many parents and their children find living away from each other far too challenging. There are options where students can board Monday-Friday and live at home during the weekends. Here, practicalities such as the distance between the school and home come into play as well as family commitments. It goes without saying that day schools have cheaper school fees. Most boarding schools will also offer places for students that want to attend during the day and do not wish to board if they live close by.
Unlike day schools, where your parents oversee and control more steps and actions, life in a boarding school is obviously a very different way of life. Some students relish this independence and other students struggle. Which pathway is best for your child will need to be considered carefully.
Check that you are Happy with the School Rules, Expectations and Responsibility
Within school your child should be able to learn to get along with others in a special close-knit community. Making many small steps towards students’ maturity is any school’s greatest responsibility.
Students learn to be responsible for their actions because they are bound by a code of honour and school expectations. I have written an article on strategies for developing responsibility in teenagers that can be found here.
The lessons from school life will provide a solid foundation for adulthood. Understanding a school’s expectations and behavioural support systems is important when making a decision. These must align with your educational beliefs.
Co-education vs. Single-Sex Education
In terms of single sex education, a historical belief is that students may find it easier to focus on academics, if they’re not distracted by members of the opposite sex, and it can be easier to actively participate in classes.
For coeducation, both students and girls in the classroom can interact with more people and learn to work with people of the opposite sex. One of the advantages of day schools over boarding schools is that it encourages children to interact with the opposite sex early on, building self-confidence and facilitating communication between the sexes in their educational years. This is one of the most important functions of a day school. By interacting with the opposite sex at an early age, children of the opposite sex can feel comfortable when they reach a stage where they may need to work with them in an official setting.
However, gender mixing can also be a disadvantage for some students in mixed schools. The may lead to some students have the mindset that the opposite sex is an intimidation. This can cause difficulties in learning, and others might simply believe that the opposite sex is a distraction from their academic work.
Frequent questions to ask when choosing a private school for your child
What would your child learn at each grade level?
What does your child need to know or do before moving on to the next level?
What style or type of program does the school use?
Are there programs for students having difficulty with their learning and for advanced students?
What is the teacher / student ratio? What is the minimum and maximum size of the class?
Are buildings, classrooms and playgrounds inviting and safe?
How does the school promote healthy relationships?
Is there an anti-bullying policy?
Is there a school counsellor to support students?
Where can students go to receive career advice?
If a parent wants to volunteer or wants to learn more about teachers, what are the options and methods for doing so?
Check out this video…
This is a fantastic quick summary of the key ideas to take away when choosing a private school. You will find it gives you great food for thought when embarking on your search for the perfect school.
Thank you for taking your valuable time to read my article. Having worked in several schools in my time as a teacher I know that each school has its own character that students fit with. Usually it takes a little bit of time for students to adapt to the new school culture and they will end up thriving and being happy and successful.
The school years are amongst the most impressionable and memorable in our lives. It’s so important to choose a school that you think will complement your loved one’s strengths and weaknesses to help prepare them for a lifetime of happiness and success.
I hope that you have enjoyed this article. I would be incredibly appreciative if you could leave a comment in the box below to share your thoughts on how to choose a private school for your little one.