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.”
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 ;)