WHAT TO LOOK OUT FOR WHEN SELECTING A SCHOOL FOR YOUR CHILD
The Pre School years are the early years and represent the sensitive period in a young child’s life. These years are critical to the child’s development and choosing the right early years establishment is crucial. While some parents opt for Pre Schools whose primary focus is the young child, others choose schools which serve the needs of both the Pre School Child and older children. Whatever option you go for, there are some key things to take account of when making your decision.
- Physical Environment
The physical environment must be right for young children. It must be clean, airy and attractive. It must be spacious to enable the children have room to move around, play, work and explore. It must also have enough room to house their equipment. The environment must also be safe and free from potential hazards. The equipment must be clean and safe. Toys must be in good condition and age appropriate. There should be sufficient sleeping facilities for the children, the toilet and kitchen facilities should be inspected to ensure they are satisfactory.
The adult to child ratio must be appropriate. The government ratio is 1 to 5, the ideal ratio is 1 adult to 4 children for children 1 to 3 years and 1 adult to 3 for children for babies under a year. Staff should be competent to handle the Pre School age group. They should have appropriate training and qualifications. They should also be first aid trained in order to handle emergencies. Staff working directly with children should be clean and presentable. The ambiance of the environment should be warm and caring so that children feel treasured. Ensure you are given access to assess the young children in the environment.
The curriculum should be appropriate and geared towards ensuring the all round complete development of the Pre School child. They should have ample opportunities to develop their language, intellectual, social, physical, emotional, creative and personal development skills.
MOVING ON TO PRIMARY…
Moving on from the Pre School into the primary setting, it is important to take a good look at the various options available. While it is good to get referrals, a school should not be selected on the basis of ‘well my friends children go there or everybody is going there’. You need to check things out yourself. Your child needs to thrive in the school setting so ask questions.
Find out what their curriculum is like, what follow on schools do children go to from there? What are class sizes like? How is creativity enhanced/ encouraged? Are children encouraged to express themselves and their ideas? Are they given the opportunity to discover and apply their learning? Get a feel for the environment. Are staff warm, friendly and approachable? Is the school head accessible? What qualifications do the teachers have? How do they deal with complaints? Take a tour and try to see a class in session? What is the school’s policy on bullying?
Do children have a healthy respect for each other, staff and property? What is the school’s take on discipline and what forms of discipline are used? Are children generally happy in school? Is there a good range of appropriate well managed extra-curricular activities? What provision is there for meals? Will children have free time in evenings or is the homework load so heavy that they will have little or no time for anything else?
MOVING TO SECONDARY SCHOOL...
This is a whole new ball game and another key sensitive period for your child as they grow into adolescence. Again curriculum matters. What does the school offer? – WAEC, GCSE, IGCSE etc. What have the school’s final year results been like over perhaps a 3 to 5 year period? How good are the facilities and student resources? Do they offer good career advice? Do they offer boarding, day schooling or both? What do they do about bullying? How good is the pastoral care? Are students properly supervised?
Take a look at the boarding facilities. If you are considering boarding, do the children look happy, healthy and well fed? Again look at discipline. Who is in charge and what forms of discipline are applied. What is the procedure if a child falls ill in their care? What first aid facilities are on ground? Is there a sick bay? Is there a clinic? Do they have qualified nurses who are duly registered? What hospital do they use for emergencies? Are parents informed if the child is ill?
How well do they focus on developing the total child? What recreational facilities are in place? How transparent is the school? How well do they handle problems? Is the head hands on? There are a host of questions to ask but these are just some you may want to consider before deciding on WHICH SCHOOL?
You need to know your child and choose a place where he/ she can thrive, a place where they will be happy after a reasonable settling in period. A place where discipline is effective and reasonable and does not demean the child’s self esteem. What do children who already go there say about their school? Once your child starts, don’t take your eyes off. Look out for any warning signs that your child may be encountering, any difficulties in settling in – withdrawal symptoms, behavioral difficulties, changes in attitudes, bouts of anger, tears etc. Don’t ignore. It could be crucial to your child excelling and being emotionally well balanced.
GOOD LUCK WITH THAT NEXT SCHOOL HUNT!
About the Writer
Mrs Abiola Adewusi is the owner/ manager of Tumble Tots Pre School based in Lekki Phase 1 Lagos. She has experience of school settings at home and abroad. She is a mother of 3 children, ages 9 to 19 years.