Choosing the right high school for your child

A school’s true nature is found beyond the marketing, the glossy tours and the slick statistics. Here’s how to find it:

There’s a lot to consider when choosing a high school for your child.

It’s easy to be seduced by stellar reputations, family traditions and locale, but finding the right fit for your child is what is most important.

Often parents wander from school tours to open days and never really discover the true nature of the school. Here are some tips on how to determine if the school you are looking at is best for your child:

1) Where are your child’s friends going?
Obviously you don’t want this to be a deciding factor, but unless your child is an extrovert who makes friends as easily as sneezes, it’s a good idea for your child to at least know a couple of kids in his class/year at high school before starting.

2) What is the school’s communication like?
There are a couple of ways you can test the waters here. Send the principal an email about your child potentially attending their school and gauge how long it takes to get a response. Pop into the school office, introduce yourself and see what kind of welcome you receive. Stand in the school’s hallways between classes and see if anyone introduces themselves and helps you find your way. All of these things help reveal and the culture and character of the school.

3) Talk to prior students
If you just talk to the students that the school puts forward on an official tour, you are getting only part of the picture. Ask prior students, who no longer have a vested interest in the school, about their experience.

4) Online research
Visit the school’s website and check out where the school excels – is it academics, graduation rates, sport, the arts, or something else?

5) Speak to the school’s guidance counsellor
This is a great way to find out how the school supports students, and also the kinds of opportunities open to your child. Do they have extension programmes, school-to-work programmes, a sports academy or other opportunities that relate to your child?

6) Attend an event
Maybe you have a rugby or netball-mad child. Pop along to a school game and see how their sports teams are supported and what the culture of the team is like. Talk with a coach and a couple of kids about the opportunities available.

7) Decide what is really important
Different schools will offer different opportunities for your child. Talk with your child about what is most important to them. Also consider each school’s network of support for your child and the learning environment that will bring out the best in them.

8) School tour
Finally, do the school tour and ask yourself what it is that the school isn’t showing you on its PR day. By now, you should have enough information to work out with your child the best fit for them.

Education is important. Find out more about kids’ education here.