Tips for choosing the right school for your child
Written by Kate Jenkins, ParentingSuccess Area Facilitator South Bucks, SE Oxfordshire & North Berks
Deadlines are approaching. Fast. Big decisions need to be made. For many families the deadline for Secondary School applications is looming at the end of this month, and primary schools follow not long after in the New Year. You may not think that using all of your five human senses would play much in this decision process – I think they can.
My family, like many others, spent many evenings in September eagerly looking around the options of next education destinations for their child (in truth by the end of September it was rather less eager than the beginning of the month as each science lab started to look very much like the previous 4 we had seen).
Now my daughter is only in year 5 so we were taking the chance to look now when the pressure is not on to make a decision, giving ourselves time to absorb and then let those thoughts and observations sit with us for a while.
But friends with children one year older have gone through the same process and are now feeling the pressure of impending decision making. As one parent remarked to me, “we’re looking round all these schools and don’t really know what we’re looking for”. So how can we encourage our children to evaluate these choices constructively – and indeed evaluate them ourselves?
I remember hearing some advice in terms of looking for childcare for younger children but the more I think about it, the more I think it’s just as relevant to thinking about schools, both primary and secondary. Like an awful lot of aspects of parenting, many of us haven’t had to take these decisions before and we are feeling our way – so let your full set of senses guide you.
- What do you see? Do you see engaged learners? Do you see teachers equipped to build a relationship with the children who don’t want to be engaged? Do you see a well maintained environment? Do you see pride in staff and students alike that this is their place? Can you see your child finding a sense of belonging here? Can you see your child walking around here? One mother told me how visualizing this really helped her and her children eliminate some schools!
- What can you hear? Music? Laughter? Healthy debate and thinking being challenged? Words of positive encouragement from teachers? Teachers who are passionate about their subject and in taking their students on that journey with them? Language which is about encouragement, inclusion, individuality and community, or language that reflects the definition of success through the singular lens of academic achievement? Does this school ask the broken question of “How intelligent are you?” or reframe that question to one which is going to prepare your child for a future of lifelong learning “How are you intelligent?” How well equipped are they for guiding your child to uncover the answers to this? Will this school hear your child’s voice and opinions? Will this school hear your concerns?
- What can you Feel? Can you feel a sense of partnership between teachers and pupils? Does the atmosphere feel nurturing? Will this place meet my child’s academic, social and emotional needs? Imagine your child walking around this place. Does it feel right?
- Smell – does the environment smell fresh and clean or overpoweringly of cleaning chemicals? Or damp? (I’d recommend not using this particular sense too liberally in any School gym – in my recent experience they still seem to smell the same as when I was at school!)
- Taste – what food choices are available whether that be in fully catered childcare or a canteen environment at secondary school. Will this place support my child to make healthy choices whether they are young enough to be fed their lunch, or experimenting with the new found independence of choosing their own lunch in a canteen? Will the cost of a can of fizzy drink vs. a bottle of water leave a bitter taste in your mouth?
Switch on these senses, become fully alive to them and have confidence in what they will tell you. Combine what you sense with what you know. You are the expert on your child – can you SENSE your child being at this school? Does everything you sense fit with what you know of your child? Take this opportunity for connection with your child and imagine it together, help them use their senses to imagine each school as the place they will walk, learn, talk and BE! I hope it can provide you with a positive framework for making a strong decision. Together.
To find out more about Kate Jenkins CLICK here or email email@example.com