In light of South Africa’s current economic state of affairs parents want quality education for their children but not all parents can afford the fees charged by the private schools at some of the country’s well known schools. In addition to this these schools are not able to accommodate the growing number of learners in need of good education. Two of the Student Sponsorship Programme staff members; Kate Hampton, Bursary Programme Manager, and Kgaogelo Seemola, Student Programme Officer, have put together a few useful tips to help you find a good school for your child.
Things to consider when choosing a school for your child:
1. Not all schools are the same
• Remember just as children have unique needs, talents and skills so too schools have different focuses e.g. some are purely academic, some are skills based while others place strong emphasis on sport. It is important to choose a school at which your child will grow and realize his/her full potential
• An FET school often assists the school leavers to find employment
2. If it is not mentioned on the website do ask what the school’s matriculation pass rate is
• An excellent pass rate and high level of distinctions is a good indicator of a school’s academic performance and its commitment to teaching and learner support
• The school’s attrition rate is also a good overall performance indicator
• It is important to ask what the staff to pupil ratio is and the average size of the classes
3. Find out about all the support structures / intervention methods available at the school
• Can the children ask for academic support after school or during school breaks if they are struggling with subjects?
• Does the school offer a variety of sporting or any other extra mural activity options?
• Would a learner have access to a school counselor / psychologist if such a need arises or would such a service need to be outsourced?
4. Ask to be shown around the school taking note of the following:
• If the safely of the buildings are up to standard
• If the hygiene level of the ablution facilities are acceptable
• Whether the sport fields are adequate
• If the IT department facilities and equipment are sufficient
• Whether the school library is well stocked
5. Are you familiar with the staff and leadership structure of the school?
• Remember a happy and well-structured school will have a stable staff contingent
• Are the staff qualified to teach their subjects?
• As a parent will you have access to the staff, management and Learner Representative Council (LRC) to discuss your child’s progress and happiness and how effective is the structure of the LRC?
• Are discipline procedures fair, transparent and consistent?
6. Location of the school is important
• Check that it is in a safe environment, conducive to learning and accessible to public transport
• Talk to members of the community to find out what the learners do after school
• Find out for yourself whether current learners are neatly presented and polite to visitors
• Check that the application process to the school in your area is clear and user friendly
7. Community outreach matters
• When your children apply to study at tertiary institutions, it is an advantage to know how much outreach there is and what good works are done by the children in their community
8. Because you will be paying school fees
• It will be good to be informed of the financial structures of the school
• In terms of development, maintenance, employing SGB staff what will any extra money be used for?
9. The School’s Governing Body (SGB) must be actively and effectively be involved in the running of the school
• The SGB and Parent-Teacher meetings should be held frequently and involvement and support of the parent body must be encouraged
10. What is the school’s reporting structure like?
• Ask to see a copy of the reports
• You want to know whether staff know their learners; their strengths and weaknesses and what advice they give in these reports.