How To Make A Last Minute Decision On A School

We are just a few days away from the new academic year.

For some parents, it is a very crucial time, especially for those who have recently moved to the city or for any other reason, looking for a new school for their child. In a tight time constraint, there’s always a chance to commit a mistake where you choose a wrong school for your child.

If you have found yourself in a sticky situation, don’t panic. We have jotted down the important points to know before you decide on a school at the last minute. Topics ranging from what to look for on school visits, application procedures and what to do if you happen to change your mind once the session begins, all have been covered here to guide you on how to deal with the situation.

Things To Consider While Deciding On The Right School

First things first, try to think about what you might want from a school and what your child as an individual is expecting from their new school. “Personality of your child needs to be at the centre of your school choice. Some students are free spirited who require limited intervention or oversight while others need hands on support to focus and stay on task. We all come into this world with gifts and challenges. A parent will do well by authentically assessing their child’s learning gifts, challenges and disposition and finding a school that will support them”, says Johnathan Maxwell Letcher, Principal of the American School of Creative Science Al Barsha.

Other Things To Consider Before Deciding On A School Include:

  • Are you looking for a more traditional style of teaching or creative approach of learning?
  • Where are you going back home? India, Europe, UK or America and which curriculum style will suit your child with his higher studies?
  • Think of the school location as it will not only have an impact on every day travel time but will also have an impact on a child’s social life such as playdates and after school activities with school friends.
  • Will the child do well in larger environments, in multi-cultural settings, and alongside peers who have English as an additional language?
  • School fees widely vary in the UAE, so there’s no point considering a school with fees above your range. Keep in mind in addition to school fees you also need to consider the cost of transport, uniforms and other extracurricular activities.
  • Consider the age of your child: Children of different ages require different things, whether it’s educational, extracurricular or even the classroom’s overall environment. Focusing on what your child needs, dependent on their age, can be the key to finding a school that will really help them excel. A programme that identifies the unique strengths, weaknesses, skills and abilities of each child, targeting these areas with a personalised approach to their learning, is very much the right strategy

Things To Look Out For When Visiting A School Include:

Finding out what you should really look for in a visit can be tricky. However, with a little knowledge and research, it does not need to be a stressful experience at all. In brief, parents should look for following things:

  • The Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA) ratings talk a lot about a school. Apart from looking at overall ratings, refer to detailed reports to know what are the key strengths and weaknesses of a school. These reports are the first step in finding the right school without having to even visit a school.
  • The school’s core values, vision and what it stands for. Parents need to then compare them with their own vision for their child’s education and what their expectations might be. How the school aims to develop the “whole child” academically, personally and socially.

“Whether parents share the school’s values, at Brighton College Dubai we believe in holistic education and happy children. The care and welfare of every child is at the centre of each and every decision we make. Other schools may focus on testing, or sports, or technology”, says Barry Cooper, Deputy Head Academic at Brighton College Dubai.

  • After school activities are critical to your assessment of the school. Regardless if a student is an athlete or not, a wide range of after school activities are important to a child’s overall development and adds to the enjoyment factor at school. Also, other activities that take place during the school day should be considered.
  • On the academic perspective, a school’s record of successful examination performance and university entrance provides reassurance that the school will prepare children with the skills they need for the future, and jobs that might not currently exist.
  • Everything from the teaching environment and how happy the children are within the school can be determined if you get an overall feel of the school itself.

Things To Ask On Your Visit To School

This is your opportunity to have all of your questions answered. So make sure you have a list prepared in advance and don’t be afraid and make sure you leave with each one answered. Remember, you are making a crucial decision for your child and it should be a right one. Some of the questions might include:

  • Do they encourage the development of softer skills such as emotional intelligence and resilience?
  • What does pastoral support and discipline look like? 
  • What are the facilities like and what’s included in the extra-curricular programme?
  • Is the school building able to accommodate modern day sports and extra-curricular activities?
  • What opportunities does the school provide children beyond the academic curriculum and beyond the classroom to help them succeed in the 21st century?
  • Is there an academic advisor to support students develop their academic and extra-curricular profile and what’s the advisor to student ratio? Barry Cooper of Brighton College Dubai says, “Ask about the experience of the staff. At Brighton, the majority of the staff are British with a background in British independent education; but we are also keen to hire people with expertise beyond the classroom. Our staff are teachers, dancers, actors, singers, writers, coaches, counsellors and more. “

“The question is a little more difficult to answer in the summer months - what are the current children like? Can you see them working and playing on the school videos? Can you get a few minutes with a current parent to talk about their experiences? It is really important to understand the community you and your child are going to join”, suggests Barry Cooper of Brighton College Dubai.

Procedure For Last Minute Applications

Most of the schools in the UAE accommodate last minute entries from parents and have special procedures in place to accept them. Enquire with the school of your choice to understand what you need to do in order to submit your late application. It may include sitting an assessment test or submitting score reports from previous schools. It is always good to check with the school’s administration department to secure your last minute spot.

What If You Are Unhappy With Your Final Decision?

If you think you have made a wrong decision, don’t worry. There is always a solution to every problem. If you are unhappy with the school, it is advisable to meet your child's class teacher to discuss issues before escalating your concerns right to the top. If you think you are not satisfied with the class teacher’s response, meet with someone more senior, the school principal should be your last resort. However, if as a parent you decide to withdraw your child from the school, you should enquire about the school procedure. Things may differ from school to school , however generally, if children leave within a couple of weeks then parents may only lose the assessment and registration fee if it is later than that then they will probably have to pay the first terms fees but they should be entitled to have the other cheques returned. In a nutshell, always believe in your intuition and never shy away from asking any questions that cross your mind.

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