Where to start?
Just like any milestone in your child’s life – whether it’s 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 plan ahead now to keep your options open in the future.
“If you have a child under five years old, it’s important to determine what entry year level you might be considering,” says Samantha Rimmer, Manager of Admissions at Methodist Ladies’ College in Melbourne. “For example, many independent schools will likely already have a waitlist for Prep and Year 5 as they are major intake years. This will determine, to an extent, your options.”
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 simple process which enables you to register your interest in enrolling your child in the future. Many people apply to multiple schools which allows them greater choice when it comes to the time to make the decision.
“It’s an insurance policy early to provide yourself with as many choices as possible down the track,” Sam explains. “It gives you the opportunity in the future to do some further research and say no if you think it is not the right school for your child. But, if you’re not registered in the first place and there is a waitlist you may miss out on the right school.”
“It can be difficult thinking about something for your baby of today, that will suit your child or ‘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 other parent at football or swimming – and 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 an insight from a current student or current parent, and you will be able to ask specific staff questions,” Sam 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.