Tips For Big School Selection

Education is the gift that should keep on giving. Educational psychologist Claire Maher advises parents on factors to consider when choosing their child’s ‘big school’.

The Grade One year is generally referred to as the start of ‘big school.’ In the past, when schools did not have Grade R attached, going to Grade One generally meant a new school, new friends, a uniform and pencil boxes. Nowadays many schools have Grade R, or even a whole pre-primary school attached to them, and while the jump doesn’t seem as big, there are still many factors that need to be taken into account when choosing the right ‘big school’ for your child.

What Should A School Offer?

There is no hard and fast rule of what policies and facilities schools should include. Inclusion of extramural activities, remedial assistance, therapy (occupational, speech and play), as well as certain subjects depends on the school type, their individual mission statement or aim, and resources. For example, remedial and special needs schools are generally expected to offer remedial assistance and therapy on site, whereas a mainstream school may only have a psychologist or remedial teacher.

Certain schools only offer a small selection of subjects for learners to choose from, whereas others offer a wider variety. Some schools will offer sport due to facilities available, whereas others will not.  Some schools will offer the opportunity for learners to use computers and tablets, whereas others will not necessarily be equipped. There are certain schools that do not offer subjects such as drama, whereas others may revolve around drama, arts and culture. 

Depending on your child’s interests and strengths, these are enquiries that need to be made with the school. While schools are encouraged to ‘move with the times’ there are also limits to their abilities to cater for everybody, and parents need to be cognisant of this when making decisions – instead of hoping to change the school policies later on in their child’s career. Parents need to establish what they see as important or vital for a school to comprise. If you think reading and access to a library is important, parents should make sure their school choices have libraries. If you believe your child is the next ‘Beast’ (Thendai Mtawarira), Jacques Kallis, or Penny Heyns, or even if they purely love sport, a school that encourages these disciplines should be chosen. 

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