How to choose a primary school

Choosing a primary school can be difficult, especially if it is the first time you are making a decision about your child's education. It can seem even more difficult if you are determined to find the ˜right' school that is, one that ticks all the boxes.

At the most basic level, you should consider the following:

  • Sector: Schools are classified as either government or non-government the latter includes both Catholic and independent schools.Government schools will usually only accept children from the local area, while Catholic schools will generally require that your family is Catholic. Independent schools do not have these restrictions. You may also consider whether the primary school you choose is a feeder school for your preferred secondary school.
  • Religious affiliation: While it is clear that Catholic schools provide teaching in accordance with the Catholic ethos, it is worth noting that independent schools may also be religiously affiliated, catering to religions ranging from Baptist and Greek Orthodox to Islam and Judaism. Government schools, although secular, are not exempt from religious education, and children are instructed through special religious instruction programs (which vary from state to state) and the National School Chaplaincy and Student Welfare Program (NSCSWP).
  • Fees: While government schools attract voluntary parent contributions, Catholic and independent schools charge fees, which can vary greatly in both sectors. It is also worth noting that there may be additional costs uniforms, stationery, laptops and camps are just a few examples. You should look out for these extra costs during your research, as this will help to provide the bigger picture when considering a school's fees.
  • Location: The location of your child's school can play a large part in your decision. Its proximity to your home, workplace or perhaps to grandparents or friends who can assist with the occasional school run or afternoon pick-up can make all the difference. If choosing a school further from home, consider that school sporting and social events will most likely take place in the school's local area and that many of your child's friends (whose parents will no doubt arrange weekend play dates) will live in the area as well, meaning that the lengthy trip will not be restricted to weekdays!
  • Specialist programs: The academic and sporting programs of primary schools will not vary greatly, but the minor details of a school you are considering may play a part in your final decision. You may be interested in a school that teaches a particular language or one that has a strong emphasis on sport. Some schools may also follow a particular teaching philosophy, such as Steiner or Montessori education.

Location may be the sole consideration for some parents, while others may place stronger emphasis on academic rigor and pathways to secondary school. To make sure you make the right decision, you should research potential schools thoroughly, make an effort to visit each school you are considering and speak to local parents or friends whose children have attended the school. Above all, you should decide upon the factors that matter to you and keep this central to your decision-making.

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