How to choose a school

August 6, 2014 § 7 Comments

This post is for all the new parents out there, furrowing their brows over school brochures and websites, trying to figure out which school they should send their little darlings to.

No doubt you are looking at academic records, geographic location, extramural activities, sporting prowess, and trying to decide whether your child should be at a single-sex or co-ed school. I’m here to tell you that NONE OF THAT MATTERS. What you need to consider, is proximity to the school – the distance from your home and/or workplace to the school.

Trust me on this. It is the Most Important Thing. All you want is to be as near as possible to a school – a single school – that all of your children can go to. And if you can possibly manage it, get close enough so the little swines can walk there and back. It may be worth moving house.

First, if you’re agonising about single-sex or co-ed, look at your children. Are they all the same gender? Single-sex is for you. Boys and girls? Co-ed. Driving to one school a bare minimum of twice a day, day in and day out for the next 45 years of your life (it feels that long) is bad enough. Having to co-ordinate drop-offs and pick-ups at two (or more) schools is enough to make the most experienced logistics expert weep. Why would you do that to yourself?

The second thing to consider is the parking at the school. Phone the school and ask how many kids there are. I reckon you can work on an average of two kids per family and work out the number of families at the school. That’s the minimum number of cars that have to navigate that parking lot in the mornings. If the numbers don’t add up, you might have to pick a school slightly further away, but it’s a small price to pay.

Because there’s something about school parking that brings out the village idiot in even the most intelligent of people. There, in a space filled with children, people hoot and race and ramp and screech to a halt and wave their fists and swear and shout. It’s mind-boggling. And the fewer the parking bays, the worse the behaviour – it’s like an unwritten rule. Spacious parking lots are the way to school-run sanity.

Once you’ve assessed the quantity aspect of the parking bay, it’s time to assess the quality. Are there trees? How many? You want a good mix of sun and shade, and some dappled spots for the in-between days. You’ll spend a lot more time sitting in your car than you’ve bargained for. The perfect temperature and sun:shade ratio are all-important.

Then, are there some grassy areas or tables and chairs where you could sit and do homework with one child while you wait for others? Because you don’t know it, but you’ll be doing this a lot. Schools carefully plan things to end so that there’s not enough time to take one child home and get back for the next one . I’m convinced they convene special meetings just for this purpose. No teacher will ever admit to it, but that doesn’t mean I’m wrong.

Finally, scope out the parking bays closest to the exit so you know where to head on Day One. Rookies think that the best bays are closest to the school gates, but when there’s a concert or a play and everyone wants to leave at the same time, you will be prepared. You will have carefully parked your car so you don’t even have to reverse into the traffic.

No – none of that queueing and sighing and waiting for you. You will simply fling your children into the back seat, start your engine and flee out of the school gates with your Super-parent cape fluttering out of the window, a maniacal cackle echoing in your wake. Five minutes later, having followed all of the advice above, you will pull into your garage or driveway and have your children in bed before the front-gate parkers have even left the school grounds.

You don’t have to thank me. Just send cash.


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§ 7 Responses to How to choose a school

  • Trishpp says:

    This was one thing I got right. My boys jumped over the fence, my dog sat at fence at break and enjoyed the sarmies the grade ones didn’t want and my cat fished goldfish from the school pond. Actually the education was pretty good too.


  • Kit says:

    Sage advice, Mandy. We’ve finally got all our kids into the same school – no more fretting about whether another school would better suit this one’s personality. Unfortunately as we live on a farm it is 25 mins drive away and the parking isn’t quite adequate. But if you arrive five minutes late for pick up every day, all the punctual ones are already heading off up the drive, so you easily get a space. Now just dealing with the nightmare of one child being part of a major school concert and having to stay late every single day for rehearsals…..
    In fact, I would add to your list – on no account allow any child to take part in any extra mural activities – they will all fall on different days no matter how clever you are trying to co-ordinate.


  • Karen Meyer says:

    This is something I have been telling the parents of my students for years, often they think a school near to their work is a great idea until I point out that they may change jobs. Also sports on a Saturday and parent evenings they will need to drive out there. Only then do they realise how important it is to have a school near to where they live. Great read.


  • gill says:



  • I saw the link to your new post, and decided I’m not going to read it, because it’s going to make me feel like a bad mother, because my only criteria for choosing a school was ‘the closest one’. Eventually I caved and had a read and THANK YOU for putting a smile on my face.

    But some people have it lucky. My boss had two kids in different schools, both far away. He got employees to go and pick up his kids every day, and even take them to extra mural activities.


  • Martine says:

    Couldn’t agree more Mandy! Miss your humour!


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