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Trying to choose a school for your tween? Here’s how to ace the test

Zofishan Umair

Zofishan Umair

Zofishan is a journalist, humour columnist, and a mum who has survived nappy explosions mid-air. She has over a decade of experience writing for print and online publications and is currently working on her first book.
Created on Oct 30, 2023 · 7 mins read

As a parent, one of the most frequent questions you’ll ask your child is, “Hey, how was school today?”

And depending on their mood, age, and how said day was, their answer may vary from a grunt (uh-oh, not so great) to an “eh, it was okay.” (Oh, thank God!)

And if you are the parent of a tween, that’s probably all the information you are going to get – unlike your preschooler, who will not only share everyone’s lunch menu but will also repeatedly narrate Kaleb’s antics from last week

Since our tweens spend a good chunk of their day in school, it’s an important part of their life growing up. And knowing that your child is happy in school is so, so important!

This is why selecting the right school for your tween requires careful consideration and deliberate thought with the goal that you will learn, grow, and thrive in a productive, positive, and nurturing environment.

Why is it important to opt for the right school?

Your child will spend roughly 6–8 hours of his day here. It is literally a home away from home.

To underestimate the influence of a school on a child’s character and development would be unfair, which is why you have to consider multiple things when selecting the right school for your tween. Not only that, but it also significantly impacts a child’s academic, social, and emotional growth. From teachers to their friends to the kind of parent body they have, all these things will influence your child’s confidence, thinking patterns, and even personality.

So what do we want from a school?

For one, different schools have different academic styles, and the right school will provide an environment that will nurture your child’s curiosity, creativity, and critical thinking skills.

After home, school is where most children learn and pick up social and interpersonal skills, and often, selecting a school for your tween goes beyond the question of the curriculum or campus size.

Instead, it involves other concerns like: what is the school’s stance on bullying? How competitive is the environment?

What are your most important considerations when choosing a school for your child?

Every parent’s primary aim when picking a school for their child is to make sure that it is a perfect fit for their child. And when it comes to schools, there is no “one size fits all.”

While academics and performance take precedence over other things, a more balanced approach can often be helpful for your child.

Here are a few considerations that can help when choosing a school for your child:

1. Commute

Would you be driving your child? Or would they be taking a bus? How long is the commute? One of the first things to consider is how far the school is from your home or work. A long commute can be stressful for both you and your child, so it’s important to factor in travel time and transportation options.

2. Personal and family values

What is the school’s stance on the dress code? How strict or relaxed are they in terms of discipline? To make sure that your child settles well, make sure you do not put your tween in an awkward spot by choosing a school whose values clash with your personal and family values.

3. Extracurricular interests

A big factor for parents of sports-minded teens is a school with extracurricular activities. Not only do they help kids explore different interests, but they’re also great for their college applications.

For example, some schools are known to compete at national levels in activities like debate, swimming, and football, which might be the right choice for your tween if he’s already interested in playing at the college level.

4. Tuition and financial aid

Schools are not cheap! This is why the cost of tuition and the availability of financial aid or scholarships are perhaps one of the most important considerations when choosing a school.

You may have to choose between public or private, and then find one that is affordable. But the good news is that many schools do offer financial assistance to deserving students.

5. Teachers and administrative policies

Personally, for me, qualified teachers, administrative policies, and the relationship between parents and teachers are some of the biggest consideration factors. Here’s why:

For one, experienced and qualified teachers who are passionate about education are a big asset to a school. A competent faculty member who is dedicated to their profession can not only improve a child’s academic performance but can also develop an interest in learning while also nurturing their personality.

More than 80% of Australian teachers shared that they have been bullied by students and parents. Do I really want my child to learn that that is okay?

I believe it is important to pick a school where a teacher is respected by the administration, students, and the parent body.

Schools that have a healthy and respectful relationship between the teacher and parent body are the ones where the child’s progress is seen as a joint effort.

Similarly, what are the school’s administrative policies? Can I approach the teacher or admin if I have a problem, or will I be ignored until I create a ruckus?

6. A safe and nurturing environment

The tween years can be a hard time for kids, and bullying can make them even harder.

My sister had to change her daughter’s school because she was being bullied by a classmate. My sister approached her parents and her teachers, who downplayed the bullying and refused to take any action.

One day, my niece came home in tears and refused to go back. That day, my sister knew the school, which had a wonderful academic record, qualified faculty, and state-of-the-art facilities, had failed her child. That was the day she realised the importance of finding a school that truly focused on creating a safe and supportive environment and realised how important the National Safe Schools Framework really is.

Her case isn’t the only one.

According to one study, 56% of Year 4 students in Australia, who are between the ages of 9 and 11, are bullied during school. Another study from 2016 found that 70% of 12- to 13-year-olds experience at least 1 bullying-like behaviour every year.

These figures go on to show the importance of finding a school that focuses on creating safe spaces for children to be themselves and grow with a positive mindset. Similarly, schools with a good disciplinary agenda can also help your child develop necessary skills, like time management, cleanliness, and so on.

7. Resources and additional facilities

Last but not least, resources and additional facilities that are available at the school, such as a gym, labs, and technology resources, should also be factored in. These can enhance your child’s learning experience and provide valuable opportunities for growth and development.

How do I choose a good middle school for my child?

Start by short-listing all the schools that you like.

Then visit the school, get a tour of the building, and ask questions that concern you or your child. Join online social forums and talk to other parents. Pay close attention to the quality of their interactions with the administrators and teachers.

Focus on finding a school that fits your child’s personality. Some schools are competitive, while others believe in a more holistic approach. If you feel your child thrives in a competitive environment, opting for a school that has a fast-paced curriculum can help your child.

Similarly, if your child has a knack for science and aspires to be an engineer or scientist when they grow up, selecting options that have STEM on their curriculum can be a good choice for your tween.

Remember, the objective is to find a safe place that helps your child learn and grow. You never know; maybe one day they’ll come home and tell you ALL about their “most awesome day at school.”

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