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Choosing the right school for your child

It’s one of the most important decisions parents make, so what should you consider when deciding on a school for your child?

NEWS 17 Oct 2023

It’s not surprising that choosing a school for your child is one of life’s more stressful decisions. Along with buying and selling a house, moving to a new part of the world or starting a new job, deciding which school will best support your child is right up there in terms of stress and worry.

So, how can you make the process a little easier and what should you keep in mind?

“The closer a family is to the entry year, the more stressful this decision can be. Families who explore their choices well in advance find the journey far calmer, so I’d encourage parents to think about their choice of school early.”
Grenville Green, Haileybury’s Deputy Principal (Junior School)

Here are eight things to consider as part of your search

1. Look at the broader program

Depending on the year your child is entering a school, they may be there for at least 13 years. “When looking at a school, some parents focus on their child’s entry year. So, parents entering primary school focus heavily on the Prep program, however, it’s also important to think about the programs and opportunities across the whole school and how this will support your child’s progress and growth,” says Grenville.

2. Look at the school values

Schools are much more than buildings, physical spaces and academic programs. Look at the school’s values – do they match your family’s values and how does the school bring those values to life?

3. Find out about the teaching and learning style

There’s no doubt that the academic program and performance of a school is top of mind when parents consider schools. For parents looking for a primary school, Grenville recommends schools with a structured phonics program in the lower primary years. A school that is aspirational and sets high expectations is also a good choice, he says. You can check the My School website for details about specific schools and how they compare.

4. Ask what wellbeing looks like

Look at the school’s website and, during school tours or visits, ask what the pastoral care or wellbeing program includes says Diane Furusho, Deputy Principal Student Wellbeing at Haileybury. “What kinds of topics are covered? What does sex education include and what do students learn at what age?” she says. “What do students learn about consent and what kinds of supports are in place if your child struggles with certain things at some point?”

5. Talk about how a school communicates with parents

Every parent wants to know how their child is progressing academically and socially so they can encourage and support their child in their school journey. “Ask the school how parents are kept informed about their child’s progress and growth. What is their reporting system and how often can you expect to be updated?” says Diane.

For example, Haileybury has the myHaileybury app that enables parents to receive instant news and updates from the School and view feedback, results and reports and their child’s curriculum. Parents can also use the app to record absences, order lunches and stay up-to- date with School programs and extra-curricular activities.

6. Ask other parents about their experiences

School tours, websites and enrolment brochures provide families with plenty of useful information but talking to parents of children already at schools you are considering provides even more insight. “Ask them what they see as the strengths and positives of the school and is there anything they see as not being a strong point,” says Diane. “You could also ask their children what their classroom feels like. But only talk to parents whose children are at those schools. Other parents may hear different things – good and bad – but if they aren’t at the school, they won’t really know what it is like.”

7. See for yourself

Nothing replaces touring schools with your child and, ideally, visit more than once. Open mornings are a wonderful opportunity to see a school in action and to see students and teachers interacting.

Many schools offer private tours, so if your child has particular interests like music or art, a private tour allows time to visit specific parts of the school to find out what programs are on offer.

“Ask your child if they have any questions they want to ask and write down any questions you have,” says Diane. “Maybe your child can try the school for a day or spend a few hours getting a feel for the place and whether they think it’s somewhere they could fit in and be happy.”

8. Enrol early!

If you haven’t already enrolled your child at the schools on your shortlist, don’t wait! Many independent schools like Haileybury use a Waitlisted Admissions process that is in order of date of application. Enrolment processes often commence at least 24 months prior to commencement – so remember to enrol as early as possible.

What matters to parents…

We asked some Haileybury parents what they considered when selecting a school for their child or children.

“Aside from a sibling, you can’t give your child anything more important than a good education. When looking at schools, we considered different entry points and we decided to prioritise the early years of school to ensure we were providing a positive start for our children in their beginning years. I think it’s important to trust your instincts and intuition when choosing a school.”
Kursti, mother of Cooper (Year 6) and Pippa (Year 2)
“Opportunities within the school and within the school day were really important for us as working parents, and this was part of our decision in choosing Haileybury. When you find the right school, don’t hesitate to enrol. Getting an application in early will give your child the best chance of getting a place.”
Ivy, mother of Nathaniel (Year 6), Timothy (Year 4) and Melody (Year 2).

Every student is different and children within the same family may not suit the same school. Schools also offer a wide range of different programs and facilities and teaching styles can also vary. Thinking ahead about what kind of school you think would be best for your child, and allowing time to visit schools together, will help you make the right choice and ensure your child receives the best educational experience.

*Haileybury's Junior School was awarded Primary School of the Year – Non-Government in the 2022 Australian Education Awards.

To find out more about our enrolment process and intake years for each campus, please visit our Admissions page.