Par­ents spoilt for choice

Mt Druitt - St Mary's Standard (East) - - @SCHOOL -

CHOOS­ING a school for your child can be one of the most dif­fi­cult de­ci­sions par­ents have to make. For some par­ents, the de­ci­sion is made even be­fore their child is born. In the past, the de­ci­sion of where to send your child was con­sid­er­ably eas­ier be­cause the choices of schools were lim­ited.

To­day, web­sites like My- School and Rate my Teacher have be­come ‘go-to’ guides for par­ents when com­par­ing schools. Sim­i­larly, so­cial me­dia sites like Face­book seem to be re­plac­ing the tra­di­tional ‘word of mouth’ rec­om­men­da­tions as par­ents jump on­line to share their views on ed­u­ca­tion, ex­pe­ri­ences at a par­tic­u­lar school or their own per­cep­tions of a school’s per­for­mance or rep­u­ta­tion.

Gen­er­ally though, there is no sin­gle fac­tor that in­flu­ences par­ents’ de­ci­sion mak­ing when it comes to se­lect­ing the ‘right’ school. Rather, it is a com­bi­na­tion of fac­tors such as rep­u­ta­tion, class size, aca­demic and vo­ca­tional offerings, ex­tra-cur­ric­u­lar ac­tiv­i­ties, lo­ca­tion, out of school hours care facilities and cost.

When you talk to par­ents ul­ti­mately what they want for their child is to be happy and en­gaged in their learn­ing. There is a grow­ing fo­cus around the world on the emo­tional well­be­ing of stu­dents as a key part of the learn­ing process. In fact, UNESCO re­cently pub­lished a re­port ti­tled, Happy Schools, which pro­vides a frame­work for en­sur­ing stu­dent well­be­ing in the Asia-Pa­cific.

Re­search tells us that safe, happy and mo­ti­vated stu­dents are more likely to be aca­dem­i­cally suc­cess­ful and have pro­duc­tive and ful­fill­ing lives.

My ad­vice to par­ents is to visit prospec­tive schools and ob­serve the learn­ing and teach­ing hap­pen­ing.

Look at the re­la­tion­ships that ex­ist be­tween teach­ers and stu­dents and be­tween the stu­dents them­selves. Iden­tify who owns the learn­ing – we want to en­cour­age kids to take charge of and be re­spon­si­ble for their learn­ing, not to have it con­trolled by teach­ers. And im­por­tantly, talk to stu­dents about how they feel. It is prob­a­bly one of the best in­di­ca­tors we have.

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