Choosing a school for your child to attend can be difficult. There are all sorts of you need to know. Read more in our Choosing a School article.
You thought these hard decisions were over once you’d chosen a daycare you were happy with!
Because of enrolment schemes and zoning you may find that your choice of school is limited. Having said this you are still free to apply to enrol your child at any state school you choose.
Most children attend the school closest to where they live. If for some reason you decide this isn’t the best option for your child you are free to explore other schooling options.
How do I decide on a school?
Choosing a primary school can be much like choosing which early childhood education centre your child should attend. The biggest difference will be your options – there are a great deal more ECE service providers to choose from than there will be schools.
Think about the practicalities –
- Should I choose a school that is close to home or close to work?
- How will my child get to and from school?
- Where are my child’s friends going?
- Does the school provide an after-school programme in case I am working?
- What is the roll size of the school? Will my child cope in an environment with that many other children?
- Do I like it?
- Does the school have a uniform?
- What will they expect from me as a parent?
- What co-curricular activities are on offer for my child?
- What subject options are available to my child (secondary)?
- Is there an opening for my child?
Word of Mouth
The first place to start with your research is by listening to word of mouth recommendations from other parents. There is often a lot of chatter in the community about schools; which school seems to do what well, and what the weaknesses of a certain school seem to be from a parent’s perspective.
Ask parents with children the same age as yours where they think they might send their child. These sorts of conversations are often heard at daycares and kindys, and then as your child gets older there will be talk about whether co-educational or single sex schools are better for intermediate and college students.
Don’t be afraid to ask ECE teachers or teachers at primary schools their opinion of local schools. They may have a little more first hand or ‘grapevine’ knowledge about them.
A word of warning – when you are considering what others say about schools keep in mind that a lot of what they tell you is opinion based and may not always be grounded in fact. Obviously if a pattern starts to appear with what people are saying, it will be worth paying more attention.
Most schools these days will have a prospectus or brochure available for parents to take away. These outline what the schools’ ideals are and what they are able to offer their students. This will give you some idea of the school’s philosophy about learning and will start to give you an indication of whether or not your child will fit in there.
In addition, some schools will have a website where you can easily access this sort of information. This is a really good place to start in terms of finding out a little more about a potential school.
Education Review Office (ERO)
The ERO regularly reviews and reports on schools in New Zealand in order to assess the level of education and care that students are receiving at that school.
ERO specifically evaluates student achievements, teaching, professional leadership and the way the school is governed.
A typical report will include –
- a profile of the school or service, including the roll, the number of staff and dates of previous ERO reviews,
- findings about the quality of education received by schools,
- identification of areas of good performance,
- identification of areas where the school needs to improve
- recommendations for future action, and
- a summary for parents and the community.
The report will be very detailed enabling you to form a good idea of how the school is performing.
These ERO reports are available to the public to read and are an excellent source of information when you are trying to decide on a school. You can ask the school directly for a copy of their most recent ERO report to read or you can find it on-line at www.ero.govt.nz.
Contacting the school directly
Contacting the school directly will enable you to do a few things.
Firstly ask if the school has a prospectus/information pack/brochure they can send out to you.
If you are still interested in exploring the possibility of this being the school your child attends then make an appointment through the main office to visit with either the Principal or someone who deals with enrolment enquiries.
Larger schools and especially secondary schools have someone at the school whose job includes liaising with the public and parents regarding enrolment.
This person may be called an Enrolment Officer or Public Liaison Officer or it may be that this person is the Assistant, Associate or Deputy Principal.
Whoever it is will have the authority and knowledge to answer any questions you may have when you meet with them. When you make the appointment be sure to ask whether it is necessary or appropriate for you to bring your child along to the meeting.
It is likely that when you meet with this person you will be shown around the school. You will also be given an opportunity to ask questions about the school. You may like to ask about the following –
- behaviour policies (re bullying, language, drugs etc)
- class sizes
- extra support available, for example reading recovery programmes and teachers aids
- how many special needs children there are
- what the strengths of the school are
- what the strengths of the teachers are
- what extra curricular activities are offered.
New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA)
One last avenue you may like to consider when choosing a secondary school is NZQA. The NZQA has a website that shows the unit and achievement standards secondary schools are accredited to teach. This will allow you to form a picture of what exactly that particular school is able to offer your child subject-wise. This can become extremely important at secondary level once they start having to make decisions about career paths and further educational opportunities.
Useful Education Websites
The website for the New Zealand Qualifications Authority
The website of the Education Review Office