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School. Which One?

“Time will go so fast,” they say, as you look adoringly at your new-born. You silently dismiss such an absurd notion amid the whirlwind of feed, play, and sleep routines, as time seems anything but fast. Yet somehow over time, that tiny delicious new-born has learnt to smile, focus, reach out, wave goodbye, clap, imitate, say your name, speak in sentences, sing, crawl, walk, run, explore, think, learn, follow instructions, question, sort, describe, count, pretend, complete, and create! Four and a bit years on, preschool life as you know it is coming to an end. From nappies to Superman and Elsa costumes in the blink of an eye!

Your baby is turning five and very soon after that will be starting school! Terms like “transition to school” creep into conversations, and you’re wondering what transition even means? I heard it best described once as, “a passage from one scene toanother”. I’m freaking out slightly, my child is ‘transitioning’ from my loving nurture and the safety of small places like kindergarten and Mainly Music into the huge wide unknown world of primary school! The thought often daunts even the staunchest of parent. Your almost five old may be ‘ready’ for school, but are you?

So now the question looms, which one? We had the choice of three local primary schools, one right across the street, one on the way to the city, and one further up the hill in the opposite direction. All had good reputations. We were ‘in zone’ for one, and ‘out of zone’ for two. Should we go with the immediate obvious choice; the one we were ‘in zone’ for?, or should we apply ‘out of zone’ for the other two? I began my quest for a primary school with the people I knew, families in the community with children already in each of these schools. I asked questions like; what do you as a parent like about this school?, are your children happy going to school/ coming home from school?, what parent involvement do you have/ or is encouraged at your school? I listened to their feedback, recommendations, concerns, and praise. A personal endorsement speaks loudly.

Next I visited each school on my list of possible options.  Interestingly the frontline (administration staff) people often unknowingly, give a very good or not so great first impression of a school. I checked out playgrounds and classrooms, looking for spark and flair, would this school provide a stimulating and safe environment for my child? I attended Open Days, and the school Fairs. On a fact finding mission I asked questions about class sizes?, uniform?, what their take was on bullying and teaching kids to play nice?, did they offer a faith-based lesson? how did they support high or low achievers?, and importantly, I asked about the person who was about to begin educating my child, the new-entrance teacher,- who were they?, how much experience did he/ she have?

I read each schools ERO (Education Review Office) report, as these can tell you about a schools strengths and weaknesses and the things it needs to improve upon most, it’s a good idea to ask about these targets. Keep in mind that these are written once every three or five years though, so unless it is fairly recent it may not give a true account of the school in its current state.

It does come down to personal opinion really, and what you see as valuable and important in a school. At the end of the day there are many amazing vibrant primary schools out there, and because of that the choice can be tough. I do strongly suggest you go with your instinct, if it doesn’t have the “wow” factor you’re after it’s probably not the one for you or your child.

I’ll never forget my little lovely’s first day of school, she hung her bag on the hook that had her name above it, and raced excitedly out to the ‘big’ playground. I watched, somewhat nervously. She swung from the monkey bars and flung herself to the ground, awkwardly. Then righting herself, she checked to see if I’d seen her first ‘big school-girl’ feat. Moments later the bell rang and suddenly the entire junior school, so it seemed, ran past me in a blur of navy and white uniforms. I frantically scanned the crowd looking for her face. Nothing. I couldn’t believe I’d lost her on the first day of school! With the playground now empty, I grabbed my three year old by her hand and hoisted the baby capsule my ‘latest edition to the family’ was in, and high-tailed it back to the new entrant classroom. Ready to implore the teacher for help to search for my lost child I entered the brightened wonderland that was to be her haven of learning. Almost immediately I recognised my child, her long red hair spilling down her back from under her school hat that sat proudly on her little head. Inhale, exhale. There she sat, nose pressed to the front of the room, arms folded, legs folded, a picture of passionate enthusiasm. It hit me then and there, she’d started school!

It’s amazing really, how fast primary school has passed by – and I’m happy with the school we chose because my child was happy there. She was supported socially, physically, academically, and was motivated to perform well. She was at a place each day where the staff knew her and cared genuinely about her. I’ve learnt that a successful school is one where children come home happy, feeling valued, loved, and challenged. It’s not just about academic records and sporting achievements, it’s about developing a love of learning, about forming strong lasting friendships, about developing strength of character, and about excelling in all that we do!

“Today was good, today was fun, tomorrow is another one”! – Dr Suess.


By Shiree Meikle.

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