Choosing the right school

Not long after Curly-locks was born, I enrolled her in the same primary school I went to when I was a kid.

The sentimental side of me was dead excited about the possibility of having her attend the same school my father, aunt, siblings, and I attended.

I have such wonderful memories from that school. I remember digging for gold under the convent, living in fear of the statue of Mary that allegedly moved, and forming the friendships that I still have today. Keeping this family tradition alive would be very special to me.

Since I enrolled Curly-locks in this school though, we have moved. We now live in the next suburb from the school, but in the same street as another.

And so the debate between Dave and I begins – send the girls to the small Catholic school in the next suburb to continue the family tradition, or send them to the large public school down the road, which they can walk to.

Discussing this dilemma with our friends, we’ve been quick to find we’re not the only ones having a tough time choosing a school. We all want to start our kids’ education off on the right foot. It’s a big decision.

We’ve come to the conclusion that the only way to make the right decision is to arm ourselves with as much info about each school as possible.

Here’s what we’re doing:

(I should preface this with saying, if you’re not sure which schools are in your area, the School A to Z guide works as a gateway to each state and territory’s Department of Education school finder or directory. In Australia, we can choose between government or non-government schools.)

Outline what you want from a school and what you want for your child

We’ve put together a checklist of what we want from a school in an ideal world, for example, handy location, good reputation, reasonable fees, good facilities in and out of the classroom, open communication, welcoming of parental involvement, great academic results, after school care etc.

We’re taking into consideration the personality type of our girls and which school we think may allow them to thrive more. We’re also keeping in mind which school our girls’ friends will be attending.

Community opinion / reputation

Every chance I get, I’m chatting to parents who live in the area about which school they send their kids. This is a great way to get the inside goss on what each school is like.

Academic results

Thanks to the My School website, we now have at our fingertips info for approximately 9,500 schools in Australia. The information includes a profile of the school, enrolment details, financial information and academic results.

Attend open days

We will be going to the fete of one of the schools in the next couple of weeks and I will be checking dates for an open day or fete at the other. At the fete, we plan to scope out the classrooms and playground and attempt to get a gist of the general vibe of the school. Do the kids and families look happy?

Talk to the principal

If at the pointy end of the decision, it’s still looking like a close call, we’ll arrange a chat with the principal of each school.

And, if all else fails, we’ll flip a coin πŸ˜‰

Are you having a tough time choosing a school for your child? How did you make your decision?

22 comments on Choosing the right school

  1. Susan
    August 22, 2013 at 2:18 pm (4 years ago)

    I will always vote for the NUNS! Respect and fear are powerful teaching tools(:

    Reply
    • mummywifeme
      mummywifeme
      August 22, 2013 at 3:01 pm (4 years ago)

      Lol, Susan. Right you are! πŸ™‚

      Reply
    • mummywifeme
      mummywifeme
      August 22, 2013 at 8:13 pm (4 years ago)

      Thanks Lynda. I will check out your post. It’s definitely not something we have even considered.

      Reply
  2. Lara @ This Charming Mum
    August 22, 2013 at 7:30 pm (4 years ago)

    Oh, I don’t envy you. We had a really hard time making a decision for ours too – with a similar set of choices – having a small private school and a big state school in our neighbourhood. I think your suggestions for research are a great starting place, but I would add a couple of things I’ve realised in hindsight. My School and academic results don’t always tell you much about the ‘culture’ of a school. I think talking to the Principal does help you get a sense of the school’s vision, but the Principal may well move on. Ours changed this year, with our oldest only in Grade 1 and it has significantly changed the school’s ethos. Talking to other parents is very helpful, but at the same time, I reckon I’ve heard a good AND a bad story about every school in our area! Different kids respond differently to different teachers and environments too. What’s a ‘good’ school for one child may not be right for another. My daughter had a wonderful Prep year and a not-so-wonderful Grade 1 in the same school. All of this does NOTHING to help you with your decision of course! I suppose what I’m saying is that it’s a lot like childbirth – gather as much info as you can, then disregard most of it and go with your gut! Good luck!

    Reply
    • mummywifeme
      mummywifeme
      August 22, 2013 at 8:15 pm (4 years ago)

      Wow. Great advice, Lara. Thank you. I love your long response. Yes, I think at the end of it all, we’ll definitely go with our gut. I’m sorry to hear about the big changes at your daughter’s school.

      Reply
  3. JodiGibson (@JFGibsonWriter)
    August 22, 2013 at 7:31 pm (4 years ago)

    Our kids go to the same primary and secondary catholic school that I went to. I must admit it is lovely having that sentimental connection, but ultimately it comes down to the school and what is best for the child. We were lucky. Good luck with your decision. x

    Reply
    • mummywifeme
      mummywifeme
      August 22, 2013 at 8:16 pm (4 years ago)

      I’m glad it all worked out for you, Jodi. Yes, I will have to be careful not to get too stuck on the whole sentimental thing πŸ˜‰ x

      Reply
  4. Cat
    August 22, 2013 at 7:40 pm (4 years ago)

    We have this dilemma at this very moment. The only thing is that our son is 5 next month and we need to have sorted this out already!!! To complicate matters he is a rather clever chops and we are looking for a school that answers the questions in the right way about offering him extended learning opportunities. We have a public school around the corner and like you, smaller Catholic schools in the next suburb in each direction. We are also looking at a larger school in the CBD which comes highly recommended but we aren’t sure. We have done SO much chatting and research and are now paralysed by indecision! We have a final interview next week and then a decision must be made! I have never been so stressed about a decision for my children!

    Reply
    • mummywifeme
      mummywifeme
      August 22, 2013 at 8:18 pm (4 years ago)

      OMG! Cat, it is such a big decision. Sounds like you’ve really done your homework though. Like Jodi and Lara have suggested below, I think you just have to go with you gut feeling. Good luck. I’m sure you will make the right decision!

      Reply
  5. Leanne Winter
    August 23, 2013 at 10:20 am (4 years ago)

    Hi Renee, it can be so hard to find the right school. I think having your checklist is a great way to help you make an informed decision. I can understand why you would want to your kids to go to your old school, how lovely that would be for you and them. All the best with this, Leanne.

    Reply
    • mummywifeme
      mummywifeme
      August 23, 2013 at 1:32 pm (4 years ago)

      Thanks Leanne πŸ™‚

      Reply
  6. Jody at Six Little Hearts
    August 23, 2013 at 1:14 pm (4 years ago)

    I used my local school when we moved here 3 years ago. My grade 5 daughter was there for 5 weeks only until I pulled her. It was terrible! I chose my next local school and it is the best primary school I have ever had my kids attend! They have given them all so many sensational opportunities at this school. The staff are so dedicated.
    When making a decision, judge on gut feeling when you visit the school. I had to choose via the internet initially before I realised I had made a huge and expensive mistake. (We moved outer from a wealthy Melb suburb). As soon as I walked into our current school, I knew I had backed a winner!
    Don’t underestimate gut feeling! The My Schools website can offer loads of insight. A large school can indicate popularity too.

    Reply
    • mummywifeme
      mummywifeme
      August 23, 2013 at 1:33 pm (4 years ago)

      Thank you so much, Jody. That’s really great advice. I’m glad you’ve found the right fit for your little one now πŸ™‚

      Reply
  7. Neets
    August 23, 2013 at 1:53 pm (4 years ago)

    We are in exactly the same position as you Renee. Gorgeous little catholic school down the road or public primary about 500 metres away. Hubby went public primary and I went catholic primary so interesting debates in our household. We’ve been to both open days, done tours (interestingly got told by a teacher friend recently that the teachers get sent emails to let them know when the tours were on & to make sure all the kids are behaving) and attended both school fetes. Cant decide however swaying towards the catholic one as it has a great community feel. Some other things that we have also considered is the schools bullying policy as well as maths and reading recovery programs. Good luck with your decision x

    Reply
    • mummywifeme
      mummywifeme
      August 23, 2013 at 2:43 pm (4 years ago)

      Yes, good thinking. I’ll be interested to find out both schools’ policies on bullying, discipline etc. Yep, I bet they do put on a good show at fetes and open days. We just need to catch them unprepared πŸ˜‰ Good luck with your decision too x

      Reply
  8. Katyberry
    August 24, 2013 at 8:46 pm (4 years ago)

    My husband and I were thinking of the fact that we want our girls to go to one of the Catholic Girls highs hooks in the area, and sending them to the local Catholic primary gives us a little leg up in the priority list.
    So, I think you’re looking at all the right things, and I would just suggest thinking about secondary schools, and if there is any impact your primary school choice might have.

    Reply
    • mummywifeme
      mummywifeme
      August 25, 2013 at 8:51 pm (4 years ago)

      Brilliant advice thank you. I hadn’t thought of that. We are set on a catholic school for high school, so with that in mind catholic for primary might be a goer too if that will sway the high school to accept us. Thanks Katrina!!

      Reply
  9. Lisa@RandomActsOfZen
    August 24, 2013 at 10:26 pm (4 years ago)

    There’s so much to consider Renee, thank goodness you’ve got all your research underway.
    We had Bell at a Montessori kindy for 2 years, which she really loved. It was a 40 minute drive each way for me, 3 times a week, but so worth it. Then we moved just befrore she started prep, and the little public school around the corner seemed perfect. Prep and years 1 and 2 were fabulous, then they changed principal and the whole school fell apart! Bell’s year 2 teacher had been nagging me to change her to a private college that her daughter attended, so we just went for it.
    She’s now in her second year there, and we all couldn’t be happier. The sense of community, challenge and opportunity are beyond what we ever hoped for.
    Things change, people come and go, but I think with all you’re doing, you’ve got a great chance of finding the best place for the girls.
    I loved reading that you’re taking their personalities into account, such a big thing.
    Your girls are so lucky that you’re setting them up for the best start in their school lives. xx

    Reply
    • mummywifeme
      mummywifeme
      August 25, 2013 at 8:53 pm (4 years ago)

      Thank you so much, Lisa. The same goes for you. Driving 40 mins each way is impressive. Bell is lucky to have such an amazing mum!

      Reply
  10. Kim @ spirited mama
    August 27, 2013 at 12:06 am (4 years ago)

    Renee I went through hell choosing my daughter’s school – and very similar choices to you. I had no idea choosing a school was such a socially political decision. It involved so much analysis. Then i did some post grad work on teaching / education and came across the most amazing research on school belonging and how it made such a difference to kids academic, social, emotional lives. Essentially, it said children thrive in a school where they feel they belong, where a sense of belonging is critical to the school community’s lifeblood. I wrote a post on it ages ago, which you can find on that front slide of my site. It has the pic my daughter painted of a little house (sorry i should get u the link here: http://spiritedmama.com/our-childrens-sense-of-belonging-at-school-and-home/

    it weaves other stuff into it but it really all came home to me then. Go with your gut and how you really feel when you walk in – the rest will work itself out, xx

    Reply
    • mummywifeme
      mummywifeme
      August 27, 2013 at 9:42 am (4 years ago)

      That’s fabulous advice, Kim. Thanks so much. Yes, that’s what we want, a school where the kids can feel they belong. Somewhere with a real community spirit. I will go check the story out now πŸ™‚ xx

      Reply

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