It may only be the start of 2016 but the thoughts of many parents are already turning to decisions to be made in the coming months, namely, choice of school for your soon-to-be-teens.
While it may seem like no time at all since you were coaxing them into their first days at primary school, post-primary days may now beckon and it’s your call, your decision. Remember, of course, the child needs to have a contributory opinion – it is he or she, after all, who will spend the next five or seven years at the desks in the new school, not yourself!
So how do we decide? How do we make the right decision? Where do we get help?
Well, in no particular order, there are a number of vital elements to the decision-making process.
How far away, for example, is the new school? A ten minute walk on a safe route? A forty minute bus ride with at least one change? A half hour car journey in bumper to bumper rush hour traffic?
Is it a natural feeder point from your current primary school? Does it matter if your son or daughter goes with P7 mates to their next adventure in education? Or, would you/your son/daughter prefer a fresh start? Perhaps, if your youngster has either been the victim of unwanted attention – like bullying – or has been the one dishing out the unwanted attention, then perhaps a brave, new beginning is an option…..
Your child’s needs and interests need to be met. Does he or she have special needs? Whether academically, or socially, perhaps medically, all must be considered and thought given to the school’s ability to meet these needs.
Are school clubs important? Well, yes, in terms of a well-rounded individual, they are. After-school clubs play a vital role in many aspects of teen life, not least in assuring the young person that there are other elements to school life and that lasting and meaningful friendships can arise from out-of-classroom experiences.
And what about the old favourite? Word of mouth. Of course, you’ll weigh up the comments and opinions you hear. Not everyone will ‘sing from the same hymn sheet’. Those with an axe to grind because a particular teacher insists on the geography homework being written out legibly may well have nothing but negative comments about the school. Ask around. Keep your ears open. Attend Open Days or Nights. Talk to friends. Talk to friends’ children who may already be at that particular school.
And why ignore the staff of the school? Why not ask if you can have a look around. Ask questions at that Open Night you’re going to. How do they approach the common curriculum? What is their view on exams and exam results? Is it important to adhere to strict uniform demands or is it a laissez-faire approach? Does that suit you or your child? What importance do they put on parental involvement? Is extra help available for your son/daughter’s literacy difficulties?
Check out the school’s website, find out if they have a prospectus and read it. Go to the website www.etini.gov.uk if results and percentages are important to you. Read previous inspection reports and try to form a considered view.
But to be honest, you’re still taking a chance. You’re still hoping that all will be okay. You’re still taking a wee bit of a gamble.
Just remind yourself and your youngster that it’s a joint operation; it requires a satisfactory input to ensure there’s an acceptable outcome.
A child and parent with the right attitude will go a long way to making post-primary schooling a valuable and worthwhile lesson for all.