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The best ways to research a new school

It can be easy to assume that a school’s academic results are the be-all and end-all when it comes to choosing the right school; however, there are a number of other factors you should take into consideration in order to find the best educational fit for your child. With most things in life, the more information you have the better off you are, and schools are no exception.

Here are the other things to look into when researching a school.

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It’s not just about test scores

There is no doubt that the academic record of a school can be a good indication of the teaching and learning that take place inside a school’s classrooms. It is important to remember, however, that certain schools are able to select a more academically inclined cohort which often inflates their performances on things like NAPLAN tests and end of high school exams. Furthermore, a high-performing academic environment can be a stressful place for many students with different interests and abilities.

Rather than focusing solely on test scores, be sure to take into account other elements that can be harder to measure, but can make a world of difference to your child. These may be the school’s culture or specific focus, such as sport, music or creative and performing arts, or the provision of learning or language support services. The range of subjects available and the suite of extracurricular activities on offer can have an enormous impact on a student’s satisfaction and wellbeing at school, which can also enhance their academic achievement.

The court of public opinion

While statistics and brochures can provide part of the picture, word of mouth is an important aspect in researching a school. Speaking with parents whose children attend the school or even other students at the school can be helpful because they can give a more thorough insight into what the daily experience of the school will be like for your child.

Additionally, there are online forums, communities and websites that allow people to provide feedback on schools and specific teachers. While these can be of use, it is important to take such comments with a grain of salt, particularly if they are anonymous and cannot be verified. Some online commentators are fair and balanced; however, many are simply looking to complain or vent their feelings. On the other hand, although articles in local community newspapers can provide information regarding a school’s events and achievements, these are also clearly designed for promotional purposes and will not give you the whole story.

See for yourself

When it comes to finding out what a school is really like, nothing is better than seeing it with your own eyes. Attending school fetes is a good way to get a sense of the school community, but school open days and tours are the best option. Meeting current students and staff, witnessing classes in action, and observing the school’s facilities and atmosphere, are the most effective forms of research you can do.

These days there are so many methods of researching a school at your disposal. Using as many of these as possible will give you the most comprehensive picture of any prospective school and will help you to make the best decision for your child.

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