It’s not uncommon for academic success to be foremost in the minds of parents when considering schools. But research by the Independent Schools Council of Australia (ISCA) shows that Australian parents choose independent schools based on their desire to support a well-rounded school experience for their children. There are many reasons why it’s important to consider more than academics when choosing a school. But ultimately, it’s a personal choice and will be different for every family.
Parents naturally want to make a considered decision. For this reason, many parents look to league tables and NAPLAN results to benchmark schools and compare academic results. However, it should be recognised that comparison tables don’t paint the full picture. Trinity Head Master, Tim Bowden explains why the comparison tables are incomplete and unreliable.
Looking beyond academics, here are some other things to consider when choosing a school:
1. Your child
Think about what is most important to you and your child. Is it rankings and league tables? Or are you more focussed on what your son is learning, and his happiness? For example, if your child is academic, what does the school offer in terms of gifted and talented programmes? If your child needs support, find out what sort of learning enrichment is available. You may find this information on the school’s website or you may need to meet or talk with a staff member at the school. Does the school have a particular programme your child has an interest in? For example, the International Baccalaureate or Cadets. What co-curricular activities are on offer? What sports, creative pursuits or extra-curricular programmes does the school have? Not all schools are the same and some may offer more choices than others. This may sway you towards one school over another. You may like to connect with teachers in charge to learn more, if your son has a specific talent or interest.
2. Does it feel right?
A school’s website offers information to get you started (some more than others, which can be helpful or overwhelming), but it’s hard to gauge the feel of a school from a website. On the surface, many independent schools may seem the same. The true test is in visiting the campus – meeting people, seeing the students and staff in action, and observing these relationships. It’s a chance to get a feel for the school, look at the facilities and ask as many questions as needed. Schools offer various opportunities to do this, through open and tours – usually in small groups or you can usually request one-on-one visits. If you want to get a feel first, go on your own, but don’t forget that it’s important for your child to make that connection, too. To get a sense of the school community, you might consider attending school events, such as musical performances or productions, fairs or chapel services that are open to the public.
3. Pastoral care and student wellbeing
Teachers Donna Cross and Leanne Lester believe pastoral care is not merely complementary practice for teachers; it is fully integrated throughout the teaching, learning and structural organisation of a school to meet the personal, social (wellbeing), and academic needs of students. Relationships are integral to developing a child’s social and emotional skills. It’s important to get a sense of the partnership between the school and home. Find out what sort of pastoral care and wellbeing programmes the school has in place. For example, is the pastoral care system supported through a house system? If so, find out what this looks like – is it horizontal or vertical? Are there mentoring opportunities available with staff and other students to support your child? If your child requires more support than others, does the school have the types of professionals, such as psychologists, career advisors or a chaplain, who can help?
4. Educational philosophy and values
You may think most schools’ educational philosophies and values are similar, but they’re not. The philosophy is the guiding principle or principles that underlie the school’s education. You may find it on the website, you may not. But you can certainly ask the Head Master and other staff what it is. You should hear the same answer from all, as the educational philosophy should guide all who work there – the Head Master, teachers and support staff. Make sure the philosophy and values mesh with your own, and that these qualities are those that you would like to see instilled in your son.
5. Other factors
The school’s location, the cost, its religious affiliation and its size may also make the decision of narrowing down your choices somewhat easier. For more tips on choosing the right school for your son, you can read our blog.
Trinity Grammar School is considered to be one of the very best schools in the nation. However, due to the limitations of the comparison tables, Trinity’s high performance may not always be reflected accurately.
For over a hundred years Trinity has educated boys in mind, body and spirit, and we are constantly evolving our teaching methods to ensure our boys receive the best education possible. Fuelled by a pastorally aware culture with exceptionally high levels of individual student attention, we aim to know, understand and nurture every student to help them realise their potential, passions and purpose in life.
To learn more about the Trinity difference and to discover why we’re one of the best independent schools in Sydney, download our prospectus.