Tips To Choosing The Right School

Education is a vital part in the growth and overall development of a child.

At school, they are able to tap into their skills with the help of their teachers, find their career paths, learn valuable lessons, socialise with peers and develop accordingly.

Learning can help empower children, and the right guidance received in school can help them climb up the social ladder in life as well as in school.

However, making a choice on which school to attend is an overwhelming one that can make the decision-making process difficult for parents, as each child has different needs and ways of learning.

With multiple options and curricula to choose from in the UAE, the options are vast and narrowing a list can be a tedious process.

To help ease the trouble, Connector, in conversation with schools in Dubai, has come up with a checklist to ensure the best school is found for the child.

Visit the school: One of the best ways to find the right school for a child is by visiting various schools, as each school has multiple key strengths and skills they focus on. Jeff Smith, Principal at Dunecrest American School said, "Visit the school properly and have a walk around the school. The best information comes from your sense and feel about the school, as you walk around, what you see the interactions are like between the staff and the students, what is on the walls, what sort of information that tells you about the work that the children are doing, all the types of activities the children are engaged with. You might see things that give an indication whether they are involved in projects."

On visiting, it will be easier to make a decision in terms of whether the child will thrive in that environment after meeting the staff and having a look at all the available facilities. Dawn Rennie, Head of Admissions at International School Partnerships, which manages Nibras International School, Star International School and The Aquila School said, "We understand that choosing the right school for your child has to do with the right feeling, so our advice for parents is to plan a visit to the school. Your visit will give you and your child an opportunity to tour the facilities, meet with the Senior Leadership Team and teachers, and get a feel for the school's environment."

Carry out background research: While compiling a list of schools to visit, an essential element is doing research. Rather than visiting the school without any prior knowledge, checking the school's website and seeing whether the programmes are in line with what the child requires is important. Alison Roberts, Head of Marketing and Admissions at Swiss International School Dubai said, "Aim to do as much research in advance of a school visit, so you can ask specific and relevant questions that will help you form a decision, what curriculum does the school offer, what are the unique elements of the school, what areas of the curriculum is the school particularly strong in and what kind of environment and culture would suit my child?"

Look into the teaching staff: The staff at a school are the backbone for providing quality education to students. While at the school, talk to teachers to determine if they are passionate about helping children grow, find out what their qualifications are and how happy the teachers seem with the school operates. This gives a stronger sense of the working of the school. Mark Ford of The English College said, "Knowing who owns the school can provide insight into its mission and values. Research the background and qualifications of the teaching staff, including where they are from and their experience level. Additionally, look into the staff turnover rate to see if there is consistency in the quality of teaching. It is also essential to consider the class sizes and student-to-teacher ratio to ensure your child receives the attention and support they need to succeed."

Communication between staff and children: As the child will be at school throughout the day and interacting with the staff on a regular basis, it is important to see if the staff communicates with the children as much as they do with parents and if the children's input is also considered. Jeff Smith of Dunecrest American School said, "Another good indicator as you are being shown around, is if you got your children around with you, if the members of the staff are talking to your children, as much as they are talking to you. Parents make the final decision of where their child goes to school but a child should not go to a school that they do not like, where they do not get a sense of wanting to belong to the school. It is an agreement between the parent and the child about which school to attend, and is the child that is going there, morning to afternoon, to study at the school. If a child is not happy, it is a bad starting point."

What else the school have to offer: While academics is a vital part of a student's life, having a balance in extracurricular activities, sports and clubs helps students in learning leadership skills, working as a team with peers and contributing to their overall growth. Dawn Rennie of International School Partnerships said, "We suggest that you research the school's academic and extracurricular offerings. Look beyond just test scores and rankings, and consider the school's culture and values, as well as the types of programs and activities that will be available to your child."

Academic performance of the school: All parents want the best quality of education for their children, and while looking for the right school, it is a good idea to look into the KHDA rating of the school, as it gives good insight into the way the school runs, based on inspections. Mark Ford of The English College said, "It is essential to look at the school's academic performance and the destination of its students after graduation. This information can provide insight into the quality of education, and the level of preparation students receive for higher education or the workforce."

Go with your instinct: As parents understand their child the best, looking past the information presented is also key, as the right school will have the child at ease while enjoying their time in school. Alison Roberts of Swiss International School Dubai said, "Schools are so much more than just inspection reports and data. look beyond the numbers to see the true essence of a school. Evaluate what is important to you in your child's education, and the best school is not necessarily the best school for your child, And always follow your instinct."

The community at school: An important factor to consider is the amount of input and level of involvement parents are given. Parents understand the needs and requirements of their child, and schools should cater to parents and allow them to be involved. Dawn Rennie of International School Partnerships said, "Once you enrol in a new school, we suggest that you get involved in the school community as much as you can. Attend school events, join parent groups, and volunteer in the classroom or at school events. This will help you stay connected and engaged with your child's education and build relationships with other families and staff members at the school."

School environment: Based on the needs of every child, a great way to get insight into how the school runs and functions is by talking to other parents that already have their child enrolled, as it provides a deeper understanding of if the school is the right fit. Alison Roberts of Swiss International School Dubai said, "Seek recommendations and word of mouth referrals from current parents. These are the best indicators of what a school is really like, and are the best ambassadors of the school."

While talking to parents, evaluating if their child is happy will help solidify the decision made. Mark Ford of The English College said, "The school community can significantly impact your child's education and wellbeing. Talk to other parents and understand your child will be able to find a sense of belonging and acceptance."

Essentially, while picking a school, it is important to consider what each child needs, be it a more academic or creative backing, and considering the tips above will ensure that the child is able to learn to the best of their ability in an environment that suits them.

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