Parents often ask my opinion when it comes to choosing schools for their children. They feel torn between wanting to do the best thing for their child, while being uncertain of how to judge a school before their child has attended it. How do I find out about a school, from the website alone? What is the media saying about it? And most importantly, is this the right one for my child?
It is not easy to find the right school: whether private or state, schools are difficult to read by their marketing profiles alone.
The answer, however, is far closer than you might think. It lies in a place most parents are not expecting it to be. The number one resource parents are encouraged to use when selecting schools for their children is their own instincts.
Put simply, if it feels right to you, then pick it. If it feels wrong, avoid it. I distrusted my instincts and ended up in a school that brought me top grades, but one that, I feel, did not get the best out of me. I was an all-rounder, capable, and curious, but I ended up in an academic school that was not hugely supportive of other aspects of my character, such as my sensitivity or creativity.
Thinking about culture in schools
It is actually quite rare that capable students thrive in highly academic environments. Highly academic environments, in my experience, are ideal for naturally academic people who spend a lot of time reading and have an insatiable hunger to learn; or for capable people who respond well to disciplined work structures over loose ones. But this is not for all bright kids. Highly academic schools tend to have academically serious cultures. This means the students will be competitive, focused and disciplined, rather than playful about their studies. Grades will matter. If your child likes international communities; sports as much as school work; encouragement from staff as well as disciplined exposure to new ideas, it might be worth considering the role of academic culture when making a decision about schools.
Think of your child's personality. Are they more emotional than pragmatic? Are they mature, curious and interested in the world around them, or more socially orientated and light-hearted about school? Think about them as they are, and based on your knowledge of their personalities, think about the school objectively. Consider facilities, and reputation, but also culture and atmosphere. Do you and your child like the mood of the school? Do you see your child getting comfortably assimilated there?
Below are some wonderful resources that you might like to review when it comes to choosing schools. Without exception, trust your instincts. You'll know better than anyone which is the best fit for your child.