Listen: Dr Justin Coulson gives his advice on choosing a school for your child.
School culture is far more important than academic results when choosing a school for your kids, says parenting expert Dr Justin Coulson.
While some school principals will boast about Naplan scores and behaviour management plans, Dr Coulson says these aren’t the best measure of what school will suit your son or daughter best.
“When I hear those conversations I roll my eyes a bit,” he said. “I don’t care about Naplan, I care about how my children are going to fit in. I don’t care about behaviour management plans, I care about relationships.”
Studies show that while academic results don’t influence parents a lot when it comes to choosing a primary school, it becomes a bigger factor for high school selection. But there are many other important steps to take besides looking at a school’s academic results.
Steps for Choosing a New School
When choosing a school for your child, Dr Coulson suggests the following tips:
- Visit a number of schools in your area, not just one or two
- If you can afford it, consider your local independent, Catholic or Christian schools
- Ask if the school you’re checking out offers an ‘Experience Day’ for students so that your children can spend a day getting a feel for the school
- Look for relationships your children can build in the school community
“We need to look at what our children need best, and perhaps invest a little more time visiting schools, going to Open Days, getting to know what schools offer,” Dr Coulson said. “And one of the most important things for our kids, especially as they get older, is that they have got to go to school with their friends. Once they feel good around the people they’re with, once those relationships are strong, the kids tend to do much better.”
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Is Your Child Struggling at Their School?
If your child is having a hard time at their current school, it may not be that the school is terrible, but simply that it’s not the best fit for your child’s needs.
“Sometimes there are other schools that can be more helpful,” Dr Coulson said. “It might be you’ve got a child with some special needs. Maybe they don’t like the noise, or maybe they want to run around and play and move more. Perhaps they’ve got ADHD and need to be able to be stimulated more. Maybe they need smaller classes, or whatever it might be.”
The Biggest Factor Influencing our School Choices
The Australian Institute of Family Studies has been researching for many years, what makes us choose the schools we do, in its Longitudinal Study of Australian Children.
The study, which looks at 8000 families around Australia, has found that government schools are still the major provider of primary school education in Australia, while a fifth of families choose Catholic Primary Schools, and 12 percent choose independent schools.
The reason? Convenience!
“The reasons those choices are made, generally comes down to what’s convenient, especially for primary school,” Dr Coulson said. If the primary school is nearby and it just works, then that’s what people do.”