Where to start?
Just like any milestone in your child’s life – whether their first immunisation or first haircut – the more prepared you are, the less stressful the whole process tends to be. If you’re considering the possibility of sending your child to an independent school, it’s important to keep your options open for later on.
“The most critical question of a parent who may have a child up to five years old is what entry year level you might be considering,” says Fiona Dickson, the Director of Community Engagement at Methodist Ladies’ College in Melbourne. “For example, many independent schools will likely already have a waitlist for Prep and Year 5 as major intake years. This will determine, to an extent, your options ahead.”
Submit an application
With independent schools, you’ll need to register your interest through an application, which usually incurs a small fee. This is designed to be a very straightforward process to enable you to share your intentions regarding schooling. You can also apply for multiple schools.
“It’s an insurance policy early to give yourself as many choices as possible down the track,” Fiona explains. “It gives you the opportunity to say no if you don’t want to, but if you’re not there in the first place and there is a waitlist, that may be a challenge in years to come.
“It can be difficult thinking about something for your baby of today, that will suit your child, ‘young adult’ of tomorrow,” she says. “Once you apply to a school, you then have the opportunity to get to know that school as your child grows, and you’ll begin to tune into people you know – neighbours, friends, or another parent at football or swimming – and then hear about their experiences.”
Go on a tour
It’s important to understand what differentiates one school from the next, including the differences between a local government school and an independent school. Read about the school’s curriculum, its philosophy and programs. Going on a tour is vital – visiting in person is really the best way to get a feel for a school and to find out if it’s the right fit for you and your family.
“The one thing you’ll gain on a tour that you won’t get elsewhere is the insight from a current student or current parent,” Fiona says. “If you’re thinking about Year 7 or 9, you can afford to do a tour a little later when your child is in primary school.”
Just remember, submitting an application with your preferred school or schools, is an insurance policy – you’re securing the opportunity to make a decision later on. That day will eventually come, and when it does you can breathe a sigh of relief knowing you’re prepared for it.