Choosing a School

You need to visit the school or schools you are considering. Make an appointment to talk to the principal/deputy principal and have a list of questions which you wish to ask. It is also a good idea to take along examples of the child's work. You may also like to take someone else with you so you can talk about what was said at the interview afterwards.

Also ask for permission to spend some time with your child in the classrooms/centre. Consider the opinion your child expresses on the way home.

Questions to ask the Principal

  • How big is the school? How many classes and teachers?
  • The composition of the staff - male versus female.
  • How do you decide who teaches Year 1?
  • What is the philosophy/mission statement of the school? Is the school steeped in tradition and unwilling to change or is it a growing and changing environment. Are they looking to do things "better".
  • The content of the curriculum offered.
  • Does the school offer any specialist programs eg. music, writing, art, computers, swimming?
  • Does the school allow children to progress at their own rate? How do they do this?
  • Does the school have interest groups or Clubs operating eg. reading clubs, stamp clubs, computer clubs?
  • When may children use the library and how many books are they permitted to borrow at a time?
  • How often are parent/teacher meetings and how easily can a parent make appointments to see teachers?
  • Is information on each child made available to the next teacher who will be in charge of him/her?
  • How does the school perceive the role of the parent in the child's education?
  • Are parents used as helpers in class and how does one become involved?
  • Do you have a policy on gifted children? If yes, ask for a copy.
  • What forms of enrichment and extension are used with gifted children?
  • Are there any forms of acceleration in the school?
  • Is there a specialist teacher who works with gifted children?
  • Are gifted students given an opportunity to interact with intellectual peers?
  • Does the school enter children in competitions of all kinds, that is music, and academic as well as sporting?

Questions to ask yourself while viewing the school in operation

About the Staff:

  • Are children greeted individually as they arrive, and are they acknowledged as they leave?
  • Is the language used appropriate and not patronising?
  • Do staff walk around the room and speak to children directly instead of sitting at a desk and calling across the room?
  • Are children addressed by their individual names instead of collectively?
  • Do teachers ask questions which encourage creative thinking?
  • What is the attitude toward individual differences? Do teachers avoid comparing children and holding one or another up as role models?
  • How is discipline handled? Are encouragements offered for appropriate behaviour? Do teachers try to redirect negative behaviour more often than reprimand or punish?
  • Is the entire class focussed on the teacher, or does the teacher circle the room, watching the various activities and intervening only when necessary?
  • Who initiates most student-teacher interactions - the children, or the teacher?
  • Which gets the larger share of the teacher's time - problem behaviours or acceptable behaviours?

About the Students:

  • Do the children refer to one another by name, rather than "Hey, you" or "That girl"?
  • Do the children seem exuberant and spontaneous yet under control?

About the Program:

  • Are there opportunities for both group and independent work?
  • Are the children encouraged to make choices within an appropriately structured framework?
  • Are there opportunities for play experience and artistic expression as well as academic work?
  • Do the pieces of student work on display reflect individuality, or are they all the same?
  • Are there many books, and are they easily available to children? Are those children who can read encouraged to do so?
  • Is everyone read to regularly, regardless of ability to read?
  • Are math-related materials available? Are they manipulative in nature rather than pencil-and-paper tasks?
  • If a computer is available, is it used in conjunction with, rather than as a substitute for instruction?
  • Does the program allow for flexibility in scheduling?

About the Environment:

  • Are there open spaces so the children can move freely?
  • Are there secluded areas for private work and play?
  • Does each child have at least one spot to call his or her own in which to store ongoing work?
  • Are rooms colourful and attractive without being over-stimulating?
  • Are materials located within the reach of children?

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