Choosing the Right School
At some stage, all parents face one critical decision in their parenting journey: which school to choose for their child or children. It’s a difficult, sometimes confusing, but nonetheless important decision that impacts both your life as a parent and your child’s future.
Made complicated by the myriad choices, curricula and campuses, choosing a school is not as straight forward as it once used to be. The days of simply picking a school that is close to where you live and sending all your kids there are gone.
It’s about more than just academics
Make sure you look beyond the academics and facilities or physicality of a school. Yes, the curriculum and campus are important, but there are several other factors parents should consider given the infinitely more complex world in which our young generations grow up today. Fundamentally, look for a school that will offer your child a holistic learning environment. More specifically, look for an education partner that creates a strong sense of community, supports in areas beyond the core foundational curriculum, and provides opportunities and pathways for different types of learners.
An early focus on careers is key
Remember that your child will at some point begin exploring career prospects as well as university and college options. This can come as early as two or three years into their secondary/high school journey. It’s therefore worthwhile exploring whether your potential school of choice offers dedicated resources such as counselling, careers advisors and university placement support. Comprehensive careers support is extremely valuable and sometimes overlooked. The guidance provided can influence the subjects your child chooses and nudge them towards areas in which they excel. Meanwhile, schools that emphasise career choices and looking ahead earlier in a students’ development also often provide exposure to the working world, giving learners invaluable experience of different sectors. Enquire about partnerships the school may have with institutions locally or internationally. This is likely to open more opportunities and offer your child a greater breadth of options.
Inclusivity must be a priority
Whether or not a school provides an inclusive environment is another area that is often glossed over. Schools may call themselves inclusive but may not adequately cater to the different needs of children, be it additional learning support or equal opportunities. Dig a little deeper to understand how and where extra support is given if needed, and whether integrated education is offered. What you unearth will reveal a lot about a school’s commitment to providing a personalised education tailored to individual needs – beyond what happens in the classroom. The education industry is under no illusions as to the importance of personalised learning, but it goes so much deeper than academics.
Do the values align?
Another area of advice central to a holistic learning environment is culture, values and relationships. Reflect on whether the prospective school’s vision and values align with those you promote at home. Are its ethos and culture, as well as the direction from leadership, clear and embodied by everyone in the school? Pay attention to the energy of the school when you go on campus visits or tours; do you get a positive impression, are the teaching staff overwhelmed or disinterested? Get a feeling for the kind of relationships that exist both between teachers and students and teaching staff and parents. I always tell parents to trust their gut instinct – only you will know if the environment feels right for your child.
It’s no overstatement to declare that the school you choose impacts your child’s entire life. It is where they spend most of their time, form friendships, and carve a path for their future. It is much more than just a place of education and academics; it’s a whole community. In many ways, the classroom is an extension of the family unit. That’s why, when it comes to choosing your child’s next school, taking a 360-degree approach is fundamental. We wish you all the best in choosing the right school for your children – and look forward to welcoming you to GEMS.
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