While academics are often seen as the hallmark of any good school, a pupil will not achieve to his or her potential unless they are encouraged, believed-in and supported.
At the outset, you should look for a school that will nurture and care for your child as a first priority, one that meets your child where they are at and encourages growth of their whole selves.
A good school, a school worthy of your child will have teachers that go beyond the terms of a contact of employment. They will be women and men of character, who have empathy and a deep sense of commitment to the young people in their care. They should be people that take on the education of your child as something honourable, exciting and challenging, and will strive to give of their best in growing each and every student in their charge.
Here is a simple tip: When scheduling a visit to a prospective school, ask when breaktimes are and plan your visit so that you have your feet on the ground at break. You can tell everything about a school from breaktimes: A snapshot of the sense of community; the way pupils engage with each other and their elders; and how happy, settled and included pupils are from how they act and behave when they are in the social times between lessons.
Ask about the school’s support programme for the emotional wellbeing of the pupils. What systems do they have in place to provide for the pastoral care of the young people? Don’t ask about their Matric pass rate, but rather ask them about how they respond to a pupil who they see sitting alone at breaktime.
Ask the Head taking the tour for a specific example of when he or she has made a decision that has put the wellbeing of a child as a matter of first priority. Put the Head on the spot. You need to know that the school you are handing your daughter or son to will look after your daughter or son. Ask the Head how they respond to teenagers who are programmed to challenge the system. Ask what they do specifically to ensure everyone feels welcome, everyone feels included, everyone feels supported and everyone feels deeply cared for.
Most good schools will tell you about their academic performance and will showcase their top achievers and that is good. These pupils have done well. But what about the pupil who has improved their mark significantly and who has achieved a passing grade for the first time? What about the pupil who battles to make friends? What about the pupil who has a home life that is impossibly difficult? What about that precious child who just needs someone to believe in them? Ask the Head these questions because schools are not just about a few. They are about the many.
Schools are so much more than places of academics and sport. They are places where learning happens and where lives are shaped and grown. They are places where untapped potential is tapped and where the individual within the group is seen and matters.
Come and talk to us at HeronBridge about the care we will take of your daughter or son. Come and ask us these difficult questions and have a listen to how we approach education in a way that is creative, affirming and inclusive. Come and listen to what it is that we do that allows us to provide an education second to none.
By Simon Crane | Deputy Head, HeronBridge College