What to do if your child wants to change schools

School gates with school building in backgroundIt can be difficult to know what to do when your child wants to change schools. You might wonder whether they are having real issues at their school or if they are simply going through a phase, not to mention worrying about some of the practicalities of moving to a new school.

There are many things to think about before making the decision to change schools, which can prove stressful for both your child and family.

To help, we've provided a short checklist to help you navigate the process.

Talk to your child about why they want to change schools

It is important to discuss your child's concerns to see whether a new school will offer a real solution. If a child is experiencing bullying and your options have been exhausted, moving to a new school is often a good solution for families looking to offer their child a fresh start.

In other cases, changing schools may not be the most practical option. For example, if your child is having difficulties getting along with a teacher or does not enjoy a particular subject, it is worth exploring less drastic measures, such as moving classes or investigating tutoring.

Older children may be interested in changing schools to pursue specific Year 11 and 12 subjects, experience an alternative style of teaching or take advantage of scholarship opportunities.

Initiate a discussion with your child's current school

It is a good idea to discuss your child's concerns with their school before making a final decision, as they may be able to suggest alternative solutions that will satisfy you and your child without having to make a move.

If no solution can be reached with the current school, staff may even be able to recommend an appropriate new school or assist you with the process of changing schools.

If your child does move schools, the previous school should also provide the new school with transfer documentation, which generally includes information about their academic progress and anything else that the new school should know.

Allow your child to be involved in the process

If you decide to move your child to a different school, it is important to allow them to be involved in the process. Sit down with them and discuss the things they don't like about their current school and what qualities they would like to see at the new school.

If you can, visit the new school with your child before making any decisions so that they can see what it would be like to be a student there.

You may even be able to arrange a trial day for your child.

Choosing a new school may require some negotiating, as your child's first choice may not be the best option for your family (due to location and cost, for instance). There may also be other factors to consider, such as enrolment caps, specified intake terms and zoning restrictions.

Acknowledge some of the challenges they may face at their new school

Like changing workplaces for adults, moving to a new school is a big transition for your child. Even among children who have been desperate to change schools, it is not uncommon for them to express concerns or experience difficulties when adjusting to their new environment.

Your child might be worried about getting to know their new teachers, making friends and perhaps coping with new travel arrangements or picking up a new language. You may be able to put their mind at ease by discussing some of your own coping mechanisms when dealing with new environments.

Investigate support systems at your child's new school

If you are worried about your child's transition to life at their new school, we recommend looking into the school's support programs. This could include:
  • an orientation day that gives new students the opportunity to explore the school grounds and meet teachers before their first day of school
  • special support sessions to assist new students' academic and social transition
  • ongoing pastoral care programs that engage all students in meaningful activities and encourage wellbeing.
It is also a good idea to make time to speak to your child's teacher or year-level coordinator before their first day, as well as after their first week to discuss how they are adapting.

Further information

Your child's current school should be able to provide you information about moving to a new school. If your child is attending a government school, or intends to move to a government school, there are certain transfer processes in place. These differ between states, so it is best to refer to your state's education department website. Catholic and independent schools usually have their own processes, which differ from school to school.

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