Looking for a school

MATHS INSIDERS blog (4)

Not strictly maths but…

I was sitting in the doctors waiting area last week waiting for the youngest one’s vaccinations.  A lady walked in, sat down, glanced around the room and then walked across to a group of ladies who were sitting together chatting.  After introductions, the ladies started talking animatedly in Arabic. Now I’m trying to learn Arabic, so my ears pricked up as I tried to catch familiar words in the stream of the high speed conversation.

Eavesdropping in Arabic

I quickly managed to work out they were talking about schools. This lady was new in town and wanted to find out which school would be best for her children. Of course each of the other ladies had a different opinion.  I remember when I was new in town asking the same questions, and even back in the UK agonising for months about which schools to send my 2 oldest to.  Also as a former teacher, people are always asking me which school is “the best.”

Some tips

It’s enough to give any sane person a headache but in light of all these school conversations I’ve had, here are 5 tips to help you when you need to look for a new school.

Ask other people what they think

Other families will have gone through the same process as you, ask them what they think, what their friends think and what they’ve heard from others.

…then ignore what they say

Every family has different criteria for what they want in a school and every child is different.  Listen to what people say but don’t dismiss a school until you’ve fully investigated it yourself.  The school that everyone says is perfect may not be the perfect one for your child.

Visit the school

Preferably when there are students there.  Some schools have lovely buildings but provide a lousy education, some schools may have lousy buildings but provide a great education.

Great tip: See how orderly the place is at lesson changeover time/ break time.

Meet the Headteacher and ask questions – especially the awkward ones

  • What’s your bullying policy?
  • How do you support weak/gifted student?
  • What are your public exam results?
  • How about teacher turnover?

You don’t necessarily need a perfect answer, but you want to send your child to a school where they acknowledge problems and are willing to discuss them with you.

Look at the students work – ask them what they think

Pick up a book, look at the work on display, ask a student what they like/don’t like most about the school, even ask them a times table or two ;)

What questions do you ask when visiting a school?

Caroline Mukisa
About The Author: Caroline Mukisa is the founder of Maths Insider. A Cambridge University educated math teacher, she's been involved in math education for over 20 years as a teacher, tutor, Kumon instructor, Thinkster Math instructor and math ed blogger. She is the author of the insanely helpful ebook "The Ultimate Kumon Review" and insanely useful website "31 Days to Faster Times Tables" You can follow her math tips on Facebook and follow her on Twitter @mathsinsider

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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3 thoughts on “Looking for a school

  1. I did the first 3 that you suggest; although I didn’t speak to the headteacher directly I found out the answer to some of the ‘awkward questions’ by looking at their website. Asking students what they think can be a bit tricky sometimes (they may not want to talk to an unknown adult) but I did hang out in the school’s library to pick up the vibe of students, to eavesdrop on their conversations and to gauge their level of interest in the resources provided. If you can spot 1 or 2 groups of students looking for info/books and/or working on projects, discussing ideas then it’s thumbs up from me, as it suggests that teacher’s have set tasks that have captured the students’ interests and gotten them involved in their own learning.

    • Library spying, that’s a great idea Farida! I remember visiting a school once and seeing older children using the library as a hangout place to chat and listen to music which didn’t leave me with a good impression!

  2. Nice article! I also like the library-spying suggestion. I think another thing to think about is… do you get the feeling that the students and teachers want to be there? If they do, that’s usually the mark of a great place to learn and grow!

    I think the most important thing, as you say, is just to trust yourself and your own impressions.