How should I assess the school's academic curriculum and co-curriculum?
There are several ways of assessing a school's curriculum. You can consider its success in teaching the main subjects that virtually every school provides. This can vary a great deal and can only be assessed on a school-by-school basis via reports and by talking to people associated with the school, including students and parents. Please note that a national Year 7 10 curriculum is currently being rolled out.
The second way is to look at the breadth of the school's offerings. Here you are considering the range rather than just the standard of the academic curriculum. The options include the choice of languages, but also the special interest subjects such as arts, sports, technology and cultural activities such as religion or debating. When these special interest subjects are offered outside of class, they are part of what is called the co-curriculum'.
It is a great sign if a school offers a variety of cocurricular activities. This allows your child to explore their strengths and talents, develop friendships and have unique experiences outside of the classroom. The range of co-curricular activities will depend on the school's resources, but at least some of the following programs should be available. Look out for:
- a range of class excursions (such as a museum for history, a beach for marine science or a theatre for drama)
- guest speakers and special activities for occasions such as Cultural Diversity Week and Book Week
- voluntary community work and work experience in an area of interest
- school musical productions
- weekend sports, inter-school sport competitions and intra-school swimming and athletics carnivals
- art shows and student entries into arts showcases
- school participation in maths and science competitions
- sister schools overseas and international student exchange opportunities
- clubs such as debating, public speaking, chess, photography and school magazine production
- out-of-school activity programs such as the Duke of Edinburgh's Award
In addition, a major drawcard for some schools are specialist programs that remove students from the mainstream school environment, often to a separate campus, where they undertake a special curriculum centred on life-skill development.