Monday, 23 September 2013

Secondary School - the best fit?

I have just spent much of the past five weeks in Victoria, working with parents, students and teachers in the area of transition to secondary school.

A question commonly asked by parents was, "How do I know which is the best secondary school for my child?" The question may be common, but the answer certainly is not! Every school is different, every child is different - we need to match student and family needs with a 'best fit'.

Parents often trawl through the My School website in an effort to find which school has the best academic results - NAPLAN, HSC, VCE etc. Certainly, as parents we want the best educational opportunities for our kids - but are academic results alone enough to convince us that because School 'A' has superior results, then this is the best choice? What is it about School 'B' or 'C' that might sway us towards these schools?

When speaking with parents about the dilemma of choosing the 'best fit' for their son or daughter, I ask them to consider these points:

  • The child's strengths/talents - does the school offer opportunities in these areas?
  • Programs on offer - support, extension, extracurricular.
  • School 'climate' and values - do they match yours as parents?
  • Discipline structures - compatible with yours as parents?
  • Facilities - enrolment and physical size. Moving from a primary school of 100 students to a year group of 180 can be an issue for some kids.
  • Location - access to transport. Do you really want your child to be travelling 2-3 hours each day for the next six years? How will this impact homework, sport/leisure activities etc?
  • Friends - they will make new friends, but being happy at school and comfortable with friendship groups impacts not only their learning and achievement, but also their sense of belonging and developing resilience.
  • Communication - how well does the school 'connect' with the parent community? Do they encourage real engagement, or do parents feel isolated from what's happening at the school?
These are all issues to consider when choosing the right school for your child. Find out as much as you can about the schools on your list.....if you have missed the Open Day or Information Evening, make an appointment to take a tour of the school and speak to staff. The 'best fit' for your child often comes down to one or two critical issues - and every family's needs are different. Try to involve your son or daughter in the discussion and ultimate decision-making; after all, this will be THEIR school for the next six years!

Research suggests that a relaxed and happy student is the student who is more likely to learn well and achieve his or her potential long-term. Academic results and high-flying achievements are all well and good, but if we want to our kids to be as successful as they can be, they need to be happy with the choice of secondary school. Pretty simple, really......

photo credit: CollegeDegrees360 via photopin cc

About Author:

Angie Wilcock is a highly regarded expert and speaker on transitions in education. She works with teachers, parents and students across Australia.

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