What you need to know when choosing a school for your kid

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Choosing a school isn’t always as easy as A-B-C. Find out what to keep in mind when deciding where to send your child

For many parents, finding a school for their child can be a stressful experience, but it doesn’t have to be.

You shouldn’t just send your child to the school down the road or the first one someone recommends. But there’s help at hand to make sure that your decision is the right one and sets your child up with the best possible platform to succeed in education.

With so many aspects to consider from the curriculum and quality of education to the location and fees, where do you begin?

Starting the search

“The important thing is to look for the school that is right for your child rather than blindly following the pack,” says Gillian Pearce, business development director at schoolscompared.com.

“Take the time and research very carefully to make sure that the school that your children attend meets all of your expectations.”

It would be easy to pick a school that’s close to home or blindly go with the recommendations of a friend, but schools, like children, are not all the same and it’s important to take time to find the right fit and carry out some research.

So what things should you keep in mind when beginning to consider schools?

“Parents will traditionally have a focus on the location, academic attainment, curriculum and fee structure. These variables are fundamental for most families,” Gillian explains.

“But the crucial thing is that parents keep in mind what their child needs rather than being distracted by what schools are offering.

“The key thing I would advocate is that parents are very clear in what it is that they need for their child in order to progress their learning in the best possible environment.”

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While the standard of schooling in Abu Dhabi is quite high, it’s not always easy to find the perfect fit and tick every box on your wish list when finding a school.

Sometimes compromises will have to be made, but it’s important to maintain a balance and consider all your options.

“I think a lot of people will compromise on location; a lot of schools have buses so people will compromise on the length of time it takes children to get to and from school if they value what is being offered,” Gillian notes.

“Fees are another area where compromise may be necessary. Fewer families now get employment packages that include school fees so you will often find that families will sacrifice things like holidays or even how much rent you pay in order to secure what you feel is a really good education for your children.

“I think we’re seeing that more and more and an increasing amount of families are feeling the pressures of the fees that some of the schools offer.”

Doing your homework

After taking the time to understand what individual needs your child has and the variables you would like to have in a prospective school, it’s time to start researching and comparing and contrasting the different options available to you.

However, with so much information readily available, it can be difficult to know where you should start to begin assessing your options.

“A lot of the research can be done at home these days. You can do it in the quiet seclusion of your own home,” continues Gillian.

“For example, the Department of Education and Knowledge (Adek) website presents quite a lot of information on schools in Abu Dhabi, but specific school websites will also host a lot of pertinent information.

“School websites tend to offer a lot of information that can be of interest to parents, including SEN provision, the nationalities of teachers and students and much more.

“That information can be more important to some parents than others but parents will know at this stage what they’re looking for in a school for their child.

“Finally, our website, schoolscompared.com,is one of the most comprehensive ways of doing research on schools in the UAE, where users can compare the information we provide on schools side by side. This allows an easy comparison and can help narrow down the options and benefit the decision-making process.

“After parents have singled out a few schools we recommend to go and visit the school as well, because there is no substitute for that feeling you get when you walk in and the feeling you get when you are there.

“Only by visiting the school can you assess if your expectations are being met and it’s the right fit.”

The big visit

Once you have your list narrowed down to one or two schools, the final step of the decision process is to visit and get a true sense of what is on offer.

Whether it’s by attending an open day or booking a school tour, you can’t really get the whole picture of what a school is like until you’ve taken the time to experience it for yourself.

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“Open days are a strong way of getting a feel of a school,” adds Gillian, “You’re in the environment, you get to meet the senior leadership team and sometimes you get to speak to students, which can be valuable.

“You get an essence of the school, the amount of cohesion, how the school looks
and what the facilities are like.

“A lot of schools will also offer guided tours for smaller groups. Sometimes you get to look in on classrooms where lessons are being taken and you can talk to teachers and students. This can be so beneficial when it comes to the finer points of the decision-making process.

“If you have taken your child with you on the open day or tour and the feedback for them is positive then you can start to make a final choice for their education, but it’s important to still take time to consider everything before making the ultimate decision.”

Upcoming school open days

Cranleigh Abu Dhabi. Every Tuesday for pre-prep and Thursday for prep school. Near Manarat Al Saadiyat, Saadiyat Island. Contact: 02 497 0000, cranleigh.ae

Al Mamoura Academy. Open evening 30th January, 6pm to 7.30pm for students in FS1 to Year 9. Off E10, Al Nahyan. Contact: 02 885 7100, aldaracademies.com

Amity International School. Tours take place every Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday from 9.30am for students in FS1 to year 9. Al Bahia, off 49th Street. Contact: 02 503 9000, amityabudhabi.com

Al Rabeeh Academy. Open evening takes place on 7th February from 4pm-7pm for students from FS1 to Year 9. Mohammed Bin Zayed City, Z23. Contact: 02 448 2856, alrabeehac.ae

British International School Abu Dhabi. Tour times vary and can be booked by contacting the school. Off E22, behind Abu Dhabi University, Mussafah. Contact: 02 510 0100, nordangliaeducation.com

Aspen Heights British School. Tour times vary and can be booked by contacting the school. Off E10, Al Shahama. Contact: 02 564 2229, ahbs.ae

Diyafah International School. Open days 27th January and 7th and 14th February, 11am 1pm for year 1 to year 10. Mohammed Bin Zayed City. Contact: 02 558 5665, diyafahinternationalschool.com

Maplewood International School. Tour times vary and can be booked by contacting the school. Off E30, Mohammed Bin Zayed City. Contact: 02 552 4223, maplewood.school

Ajyal International School. Tours take place every Sunday, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday from 8.30am, for students in FS1 to year 11. Near Sheikha Fatima Mosque, Mohammed Bin Zayed City. Contact: 02 552 2668, ajyal.sch.ae

British School Al Khubairat. Tour times vary and can be booked by contacting the school. Off Al Karamah Street, Al Mushrif. Contact: 02 446 2280, britishschool.sch.ae

Wales International School. Open day 7th February, 3pm-5pm for kindergarten to grade 7. Off E11, Al Shamkha. Contact: 02 666 4883, walesschool.com

Repton Abu Dhabi. Open days 29th January, 8.25am-10.30am for kindergarten to year 2 and 31st January, 8.25am-10.30am for years 3 to 6. Near Gate Tower, Al Reem Island. Contact: 02 507 4800, reptonabudhabi.org

Al Ain Academy. Tours take place every Friday, 8am-9am for students in FS1 to year 12. Al Salam Street, Al Sarooj, Al Ain. Contact: 03 715 1000, alaininternational.sch.ae

The Pearl Academy. Tours on 12th February and 12th March, 8.30am-10pm for students in FS1 to year 6. Corner of Hazza Bin Zayed Street and Muroor Road, Al Dhafrah. Contact: 02 641 8887, pearlprimary.sch.ae

Al Bateen Academy. Tours on 7th February and 27th March, 8am-10am for students in years 7 to 13. Hazza Bin Zayed Street, Al Bateen. Contact: 02 813 2000, albateen.sch.ae

Al Yasmina Academy. Tour on 7th February, 8.15am-10.15am for students in FS1 to year 13. Third Street, Khalifa City. Contact: 02 501 4888, alyasmina.sch.ae

West Yas Academy. Tour on 31st January, 8.30am- 10am for students in kindergarten to grade 9. Yas Leisure Drive, Yas Island. Contact: 02 885 7000, aldaracademies.com

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