Choosing a school for your child is not an easy task. But it can be done right with proper planning and by understanding the most important things to consider based on your child and situation
It’s every parent’s dream to give their children the best possible education.
For little ones, the quality of education that they’ll get in the early stages will serve as the foundation of their overall development in the coming years.
But while there are plenty of schools to choose from, parents often feel overwhelmed and don’t know where to start when scouting for the right institution that will suit their needs and that of their children.
Catherine McEvoy and Natalie Humphrey, founders of the annual educational event, The School & Nursery Show, know the feeling very well. “As mothers ourselves, we believe that the way you choose your child’s school should be a very personal decision to ensure that you choose the right one for you, your child and your family,” says Catherine.
“You shouldn’t make the decision based purely on reputation or hearsay, and so meeting the school’s key team is essential and this is exactly what our show enables.”
Taking place on 2nd and 3rd February, The School & Nursery Show will gather key players in the education sector, giving parents and students the chance to meet and talk to representatives from approximately 40 participating schools and nurseries.
Furthermore, attendees will have the opportunity to enquire about entry requirements, scholarship programmes and listen and participate in panel discussions featuring top educators and school heads.
Last year’s event attracted around 4,500 visitors, with organisers expecting to surpass that number for this latest instalment.
Based on Catherine’s observation, there are unique challenges – particularly the rising cost of education – facing many expat parents here, adding to parents’ long list of concerns when looking for a school.
“Our children are all in fee-paying schools in the UAE, which is often different to what we would have in our home country.
“I think parents often struggle with the balance of feeling ‘happy’ with their school in terms of their child’s happiness and getting ‘value for money’. How do you measure this value for money for a child who is five years old?” she remarks.
“I personally have struggled with this and feel that you need to be comfortable with your fee structure and list out what is important to you.
“For me, for example, I value that my child has sufficient one-on-one time with her teachers, that the school shows excellent duty of care to my child, that there are excellent facilities outside of their classroom, and most importantly, that they love going to school.”
For Jo Shaban, managing director at Bright Beginnings Nursery, some of the basic points parents should take note of include curriculum suitability, cost and qualification of the teachers and staff.
“Are the children happy and engaged? Are the staff friendly, caring and happy interacting with the children? You can have the most impressive facilities with amazing equipment but if you don’t have happy, engaged children and staff, then you are not running an educational facility with children at its heart,” explains Jo.
Parents must also consider the amount of time they intend to stay in the country, the support their kids will get to hone learning development, and other services offered by the school like early drop-off or late pick-up facilities to cater to parents’ busy work schedules.
More importantly, a personal visit to the prospective school is also recommended so that parents and children will gain a better feel of the environment.
“We always require our parents to tour the nurseries and to bring their children along if they can. We also give them a comprehensive pack of documents covering everything they can expect once their child starts nursery,” advises Jo.
“Talk to friends and colleagues about nurseries and schools – word of mouth is often the best. Look at the websites and social media for up-to-date photos and posts about what they have been doing. Parents should also trust their instincts – do they feel comfortable?”
In the end, it all boils down to preparation and parents having a clear understanding of what they want both for themselves and their children, and whether all these fall in sync with what the school promises to offer.
“The whole point of The School & Nursery Show is for parents to meet educators; it is a very focused event and we only have exhibitors at the show who we know will genuinely benefit families,” explains Catherine.
“Most parents walk away having chosen or shortlisted two to three educators present in the event.
“Choosing a school is a big decision and we aim to make it easy for parents and help support their decision-making process.”
Do your homework
If you’re planning to attend The School & Nursery Show, it’s advised to list down all of your enquiries beforehand so that you are prepared with questions when talking to school representatives.
Here are some key topics worth addressing:
- Type of curriculum
- Number of children per class
- Registration process
- Tuition fee and payment structures
- School philosophy
- Location of the school
- Staff experience and qualification
- After-school options
- Opening hours
- Languages of instruction
- Extracurricular activities
- Type of food served in the canteen
- Health and safety policies
- Parent-school communication lines
- Support offered to children struggling academically, emotionally and socially
- Opportunities offered for all types of learners
- If the system of education is recognised locally and globally
- Medical facilities
- Security systems
- Drop-off and pick-up policies
- Availability of school tours
Need to know:
What: The School & Nursery Show
When: 2nd and 3rd Feb, 11am-5pm
Where: The Domes, Zayed Sports City, Al Khaleej Al Arabi Street
Tickets: Free, but registration required
WORDS Ferdinand Godinez