Choosing a School for Your Daughter: A Comprehensive Guide

Choosing a school

Choosing a school for your daughter may seem like a daunting task. There are so many variables, and everyone has an opinion. It can be overwhelming. The first thing to remember is that, ultimately, it is about your child. You are the person who knows them best. You can see their strengths and the areas that need enrichment. You know, the little things that will make a difference in their day-to-day schooling. You are the expert, and you should trust that expertise.

Of course, being the expert on your child does not make you an expert on the differences between schools. That is going to take research and some exploration. Please do not ever judge a school on its ATAR scores alone. Yes, academic programs are important, but there is so much more to education.

The following points are designed to help direct your search and narrow your options. Good luck!

Private versus Public

Should you choose a private school when there is a perfectly good public school just down the road? All school sectors have their advantages and disadvantages. The choice ultimately depends on your family’s values and circumstances.

Private schools often have very powerful pastoral care programs. That means they invest in the staff and resources to ensure student wellbeing. They will set time aside to teach the socio-emotional skills that will hold students in good stead for a lifetime. They also invest in facilities and infrastructure that, unfortunately, are far beyond the reach of public schools. Science facilities, information technology, libraries, and sporting grounds are often state-of-the-art in private schools.

Public schools have the enormous attraction of being very affordable for Australians. They provide an education for a small fraction of the fees of a private school. The quality of the curriculum is very similar due to the strict auditing of the Australian curriculum. There is also very little evidence to suggest that a student will perform better academically at a private school than at a public school. Private schools often foster a strong culture of learning where students are highly engaged, while in some cases, public schools may not provide the same level of engagement. So this decision will come down to other variables.

Single-sex versus Co-educational

Single-sex schools are most common in the private sector. They are based on the belief that single-sex education can better cater for a child’s learning needs. A girls’ school, for example, can tailor resources, teaching, and learning experiences to girls. It is an aspirational environment that sets a girl up to understand that she can achieve great things in any field of work or life. This defies stereotypes and is countercultural. Girls are given double the number of opportunities for leadership positions in a girls’ school, and these schools tend to be staffed and administrated by women who offer wonderful role models.

Research conducted in Australia has shown that girls’ schools often perform better academically compared to their co-educational counterparts. These findings suggest that the tailored approach to educating young women in single-sex schools may provide them with a more supportive and focused learning environment, allowing them to excel in various subjects. The absence of gender stereotypes and the presence of strong female role models can empower girls to pursue their interests and passions without limitations.

While it is essential to consider these research findings, it is also crucial to remember that each child is unique, and what works for one may not work for another. Ultimately, the choice between single-sex and co-educational schools should be based on your daughter’s individual needs, personality, and the values you want to instil in her education.

Co-educational schools are more reflective of the world beyond school. They promote intergender communication, relationships, and respect. There is no doubt men and women communicate differently. Co-educational schools foster an understanding of differences and use those differences in collaboration.

School Culture

The first role of a school is to keep children safe. The second is to provide a quality education. After that, a school can be whatever it chooses. It can have a religious focus; it can have an academic focus, a sporting focus, a performing arts focus, anything! That focus will have a strong impact on the culture of the school. Culture is important.

You really need to visit a school, read its literature, and talk to community members to get a feel for the culture. Have a look at their social media and newsletters too. They will give you a strong indication of what is deemed important in the community.

Make sure the values and culture of a school align with your own. There is no point in choosing a school and then spending years railing against its very essence. It simply doesn’t make sense. Find your people.

Staff

The most important resource any school has is its teachers. Choose a school that values and nurtures its teachers. The quality and care of teachers will inevitably impact the education of students. A school should have strong professional development and wellbeing programs for staff.

Look for a staff that is clearly happy and valued by their employer. Those teachers will be deeply invested in the community, current in the science of teaching, brave, and innovative. None of these qualities are possible without the support of good management.

While on a school tour, take the time to speak to teachers if the opportunity is offered. Talk to students about the quality of teachers, too; kids tend to be brutally honest.

Co-curricular Offerings

Some of your best memories of school are not of the time spent in classrooms but of the extra activities provided. In developing a child holistically, service, sports, and cultural programs are essential. This is where a child will find their tribe; in the school production, playing in a hockey team, or helping prepare meals for the homeless. They will be with students of different ages who share their interests.

Make sure that the school you select offers the sort of co-curricular programs that will set your child’s passion alight. A school should be offering opportunities for all students to find their place.

Facilities

It is true that you cannot judge a book by its cover, and you cannot judge the quality of a school by its appearance. However, we all know that the environment does have an impact on our state of mind. Some schools are lucky enough to have beautiful surroundings and buildings that make them conducive to quality learning.

The appeal of a school’s facilities will depend on what you value in a school. However, apart from roomy classrooms and a quality information technology network, you should look at the following:

  • Library and information services
  • Science laboratories
  • Art and design facilities
  • Music rooms
  • Gymnasium
  • Theatre
  • Sports ovals
  • Play areas
  • Undercover and open lunch and recreation areas
  • School cafeteria

What Next?

Once you have narrowed down your list of schools, it is a great idea to take a few school tours. You will get a feel for the different cultures and priorities. If there is a choice, choose tours that run during school time. You will learn a lot by seeing the students at work and playing.

12 Key Questions to Ask When Choosing a School

  1. What is the mission and culture of the school?
  2. How does the school perform academically?
  3. What are the school’s philosophies and approaches to teaching and learning?
  4. How does the school support learning for students who require extension or extra support?
  5. How does the school track a student’s academic progress?
  6. How does the school address a child’s social and emotional needs?
  7. How is a child’s physical development catered for in the school?
  8. What co-curricular programs does the school offer?
  9. What are the points of difference this school offers?
  10. How does the school ensure the ongoing professional development of staff?
  11. How does the school engage with parents?
  12. How does the school prepare students for success beyond high school?

What A Term! So Many Opportunities – Jennifer Oaten

As I look back on the past nine weeks, I am so grateful for who we are as a community and what we have achieved. Through the dedication of our staff and the enthusiasm of our students, we have established new connections, immersed ourselves in opportunities and worked through challenges.

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