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    WHICH SCHOOL IS RIGHT FOR MY CHILD?

    Date:

    By Lana Clark

    My experience of finding the right school for my youngster hasn’t been easy, but the things I’ve learned along the way (ie. the hard way) are tips that can benefit us all.

    I recently came across a social media post calling out a school that I also had yanked my child out of a year earlier and, before adding feedback to the post, I realised my experience, although also negative, was not the same as this parent. It did however lead me to pose two questions to the Department of Education, how many complaints need to be had before the department looks closely into a school? And do they look at and compare how many students leave a school? The latter question I asked because when I moved my child from the school there was no exit survey asking why the move? Where are you going? Do you need the student file? Nothing from the school or department at all, so while I await official response from the Department of Education here are a few tips:

    School tours: These give you an initial feel of the campus and facilities available. Unfortunately they can be quite mechanical so you will not see the day to day running of the school.

    Annual report: All schools are required to produce an annual report. It is full of information such as visions, operations and budgets, so if you can make your way through the matrix of graphs and diagrams, a lot can be learnt. 

    Staff: Happy teachers come from the top down. If the staff are constantly turning over there may be an issue.  

    Contact: If you email the principal of the school and fail to get a response that could be a red flag.

    Services: If your child needs a speech therapist, occupational therapist, psychologist or support because they are gifted then make sure you ask for the school’s position on these services. In my case when I asked about having an Occupational Therapist they basically replied “not our problem” and, after pointing out that handwriting was indeed their problem, they dismissed the request due to the school having no space. This was a huge red flag and more parents would do well to address before enrolling.

    Facebook: Can you trust Facebook recommendations? Yes, No, Maybe? Everyone has different experiences. Definitely take note of all comments and even private message those to get clarification because for those who have no issues it does not mean none exist, it just means they did not come across any issues. 

    Bullying: This topic often comes up on Facebook forums. All schools will have a policy but there is no point just listening to them spew out the standard ’we do not tolerate bullying’ and directing you to the department website. You need to ask what exactly they do to combat it? And importantly what if their approach does not work? This is where previous parent experience is vital.

    You need to find the right fit for the child and not because they have made a school pick up buddy or they gel with other parents. At the end of the day you are dropping your child off and walking away so you need to be confident in your decision. 

     

    Schools may teach the same curriculum but internally they vary so much, and like any workplace their approach can change over time. So use the parent committee, ask questions of other parents and staff and meet the principal. Do not be afraid to be ‘that parent’ as you may find there are many others in the same boat.

    Also, if you do decide to change school drop a line to the Department of Education, on 1300 333 232 or swvr@education.vic.gov.au because all feedback positive and negative will hopefully help future parents make the right decision.

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