Choosing a school is no small feat, parents often undertake this task under enormous pressure and in a hurry to quickly find a school on their way to or from work. I would urge parents to invest a lot more time and whilst convenience is often the driving force, it's important to remember that your child is potentially going to be in that space for anything between eight to twelve hours.
The environment has to be conducive for your child to feel secure, be happy and thrive. I have been a little bias towards pre-school and primary school as my experience is within that space, but some of these can definitely be applied for high school as well.
As a parent myself and a Head of School, there are a few practical things that all parents should look for when in search of a good school, the following are definite must haves for me:
The environment should have a general aura of fun, excitement and vibrancy. A high sense of security, love and warmth. I want to see colour, flowers, trees, jungle gyms and outdoor play equipment. A deep essence that resonates with you must be there.
Classroom design and layout
This is a big indicator of whether the school is a forward-thinking, 21st century classroom. I want to see learning stations with different learning activities in each station, the classroom must have well-thought out educational toys that incorporate sensorial skills, fine and gross motor skills etc.
In a pre-school environment, I want to see the dramatic play area, the big wooden blocks, the reading corner etc. Classrooms that still force all children to strictly sit on a desk for more than eight hours a day worry me, so the class should have bean bags, couches, benches, comfortable carpet, balance balls etc.
Just to provide variety and allow children to comfortably learn in ways/positions that they are most comfortable in.
Great teachers make or break a school.
No longer those with a mere computer room and designated computer time once or twice a week. Schools that are innovative and digital are easy to spot. There are visible gadgets in the classroom from laptops/tablets, headphones, white boards, projectors etc. Digital learning doesn't happen in isolation to classroom day-to-day learning, it is infused.
Your child's happinessis the most genuine measure, a buzz of laughter and happy smiles speak volumes. Well mannered and polite children who greet and make way for you to pass is symbolic of the school culture.
A great set of extra-curricular activities that children can choose from, speaks directly to child development and how the school harnesses all aspects of the child and not just academics.
Effective teacher-parent communication that happens on a regular basis regarding the work being covered at school that week, fun activities that took place in class, occasional photos of the children, classroom admin messages etc. all this makes parents feel part of their children's learning experience.
A diverse team of dynamic and passionate teachers always makes for a great school. The school can have state of the art facilities and resources, without amazing teachers who inspire your child and makes them feel they are doing an incredible job and that they can achieve even more; then it's all for nothing. Great teachers make or break a school.