Choosing a secondary school for your child

Choosing a secondary school for your child - Ever-changing Life of a Mum

I can’t believe that my family is already at the stage of having to choose a high school!

My eldest daughter is now in her final year of primary school so lately we have been spending some time considering the best school for her to continue her education.

There is so much to keep in mind, particularly at such a young age when she still has so much growth and change ahead of her as she navigates her way through the teenage years and becomes a young adult.

When I started high school, we simply went to the school closest to our home or the same school our older siblings were already attending. I don’t remember touring any schools or being involved in any kind of discussion as to which school I should enrol in.

These days, the choice can be more than a little overwhelming. However, I’ve tried my best to keep the process as simple as possible.

I thought I would share a few tips and some of the thoughts I have kept in mind throughout this decision-making process.

Start looking early

We started the high school decision-making process last year when Miss 11 was in Grade 5 by attending open nights at our nearest public high schools. It really took the pressure off as we were able to take a look around and start to get a feel for the schools without the pressure of needing to make a decision right away. Many of the local high schools in our area tend to hold their open nights in late April and early-mid May, however this is rather close to the cut off date for needing to return your application paperwork, so I was really glad we had already started this process last year.

Look locally first

My plan involved checking out the closest public high schools first, then looking further afield if I felt we needed to. Luckily, in our case we didn’t because it’s easy to become overwhelmed with choices. However, if I had been unhappy with my local options then I certainly would have started investigating further afield to see what else was available.

Attend open nights and go on a school tour with your child

While we attended open nights in Grade 5, we followed this up with a daytime tour a few months into my daughter starting Grade 6. This was a great way to see the schools in action and view the campuses in daylight hours. I took my daughter along as I wanted her to get a good feel for the available schools so she feels comfortable and involved in the decision-making process. We made our decision shortly after attending the tours but, had we needed to, we could have visited the school’s open night again this year or gone on another tour to ensure all of our questions were answered.

Consider logistics

Do you have other children still attending primary school? How will you fit in school drop off and pick up at different locations? Will your child need to walk or take public transport to school to make it all work? Are there extra curricular activities you need to keep in mind? These are just a few questions to consider when choosing a school to help make the transition as smooth as possible.

Speak with other parents

As we started leaning towards a particular school, I began asking a few families about their experiences at the school. The more people I spoke to, the more positive reviews I received. Even better was when I heard a positive comment about the school from parents without needing to ask them directly for their thoughts. However, remember that while word of mouth is a great way to find out more about a school, it’s important to remember that they only represent one family’s view based on their own individual experiences and sometimes those particular circumstances will not apply to you. It’s best to weigh everything up and go with the school that feels best for your child.

Extra support for transitioning from primary to secondary school

One very important aspect for us was to ensure that the school my daughter attends has a well resourced student welfare office in case she needs some extra support in transitioning from primary to secondary school. While this is obviously based on her individual needs, it’s something all parents should keep in mind for their children when making the step from primary to secondary school.

Future interests and needs

Keep in mind your child’s interests and whether the school has opportunities within the curriculum, its facilities and extra curricular activities to cater for these. For instance, my daughter has a strong passion for dancing and the performing arts, so it was important for us to ensure the school she attends could help foster and develop this interest in the future, alongside the extra curricular activities she already participates in.

Have a back up plan

Regardless of the school you choose, it’s always important to have a fall back plan in place. For instance, while we aren’t in this situation, there are some public schools with zonings and caps in place on student numbers, so make sure you have a back up plan in case you don’t get into your first school of choice.

Remember, it’s not forever

While I would never make this decision lightly, I do believe that if at some stage throughout your child’s education you begin to realise the school you have chosen is not the right fit for your child then there is nothing stopping you from looking around for somewhere more appropriate.

Good luck to you and your child for their journey to secondary school. I’m sure there are plenty of exciting times ahead for all of us!

Are you looking at secondary schools for your child? What did you consider when choosing a high school? Any further tips you might be able to add?

4 thoughts on “Choosing a secondary school for your child

  1. Such great advice Erika! Too many times I see parents ‘over thinking’ and ‘over analysing’ and you are so right. You have a list, you made sure you checked out what was important to you and you went along with your decision. In NSW public schools it can be ‘harder’ to make the choice yourself as ‘boundaries’ are set for local enrolments (literally via map/street boundaries) are made and families from ‘outside’ those may not get in. This is because the local school cannot be ‘stretched’ beyond capacity by non-locals. In some cases, where this might not be the case, then others from ‘out of area’ can be enrolled. In western Sydney (and inner Sydney now) there are so many schools stretched beyond capacity from locals that no non-locals are accepted. And, the boundaries can be changed. Sydney, as you probably already know, is in such a population boom. The primary school where I went back teaching after I retired started off with no extra classrooms to meet student population for the first couple of years (2004-2007) and now have 21 portable classrooms on site. High schools are similar in big population areas. I wish your daughter (and you!) all the best for HS in 2018. Denyse #teamIBOT

  2. I have two who have finished school, and one nearly at the end, so it’s a long while since we had to make these choices. I consider myself to be so very blessed to have had my children in a small, local, low-fee independent school that goes from Prep to 12. After two school moves for my oldest daughter I was pretty keen to avoid that if possible. Our school pursued our enrolment, and it has been the best experience. No school is ever perfect, but we have deeply appreciated the way they worked alongside us to stretch, nurture and guide our children to be the very best version of themselves.

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