Whether your teen is moving up from a feeder school, you are moving areas or your child is making the transition to a new school, you probably have many questions. What are your options? How much choice do you really have? What's the best option for your child and your family? Where should you begin? Here are some questions to consider:
Does the school fit your child?
Look at the school from your teenager's perspective. A school and its location should feel comfortable for your child, as well as the commute times and transportation. Note the school’s start and end times, average and maximum class size, and overall school size. As they spend more time away from home, even details like clean bathrooms and healthy lunch options can be important to your child's well-being. Think about how well the school’s academic approach matches your child's learning style.
Unlike when you were choosing a Primary School, you need ask your teenager for his or her input. Your teen is more likely to succeed at a school he or she helped choose. Are his friends going there? Is that important to him? Your teen is going to spend a few years there, make sure he will feel good about it.
How many hours of daily homework?
High school students should have homework, but the quantity and quality can vary widely. Homework should include plenty of essays and reading analysis in the humanities. Decide whether your child will thrive or at least manage the expected workload. If your child is an athlete, find out if it is possible to play on a sports team and still complete the expected homework. Ask whether homework is a given over weekends, breaks, and holidays. Finally, find out if there is any after-school homework support.
What electives, sports and service opportunities are available?
Be sure that the school offers your child’s favorite sport or activity, such as art, music, or drama. What are the requirements for playing on a team?
What support will they offer your child?
Ask what academic and social support the school offers. Are teachers available for individual help before and after school, or during breaks? Find out if there is a tutoring system that provides students with academic help from other students. Ask what the school does when a student is struggling or failing a class. Advisory groups are a common way schools regularly check in with students to assure they are thriving academically, socially, and emotionally. Finally, find out if there are therapists or social workers available for emotional and social support.
Will your child be safe there?
Safety is huge. Find out what the school’s disciplinary policy is and how many suspensions and expulsions they have had over the past two years. Observe the corridors during the school day to see how calm and safe they appear. Inquire whether the school has an open-campus policy, meaning students can leave the school grounds during school hours for lunch, and possibly at other times. Does the school have a written bully policy (and even staff training program)? Finally, don't hesitate to ask if there is an alcohol or drug problem. While this can be an uncomfortable question to ask, it's vital to get a sense of how the school responds to this reality at some high schools, and whether or not they are aware and pro-active.
What is your academic record and do you produce university graduates?
First, ask how many high school students graduate (and what their yearly drop-out rate is), and how many graduates continue on to university. Most schools will provide a list. This information will help you determine how serious the school is about its academic programme and whether graduates get into prestigious schools.