Three steps to making a right decision

The experience a tour offers is a vital part of the process, writes The Age on Sunday 12 February 2017 (Open Days and Special Events Feature, page 5)

Selecting a school for a child of any age can be overwhelming. Amanda Bennett, registrar at St Catherine’s School, suggests parents follow a three-step process of research, creating a shortlist and attending school tours.

“Word of mouth is [also] an incredibly effective and powerful research tool for parents to utilise,’’ she says. ‘‘Seeking the opinions of current and past parents, students and alumnae provide first-hand opinions and real-life experiences, which can greatly assist parents during their initial research to shortlist prospective schools.”

Ms Bennett suggests parents contact their school of interest to determine place availability and to schedule a campus tour.

“Parents need to feel their enquiry is welcome and appreciated and feel relaxed about asking for information,’’ she says. ‘‘Generally, parents should enquire about class size, curriculum breadth and focus, co-curricular opportunities, facilities, pastoral care, the level of contact between parents and teachers and the educational philosophy of the school. Importantly parents should also consider what differentiates the school from others.”

Principal Michelle Carroll explains that many of the enquiries received at St Catherine’s School are concerning the benefits of single-sex education. “We firmly believe in the benefit of an all-girls’ school environment,’’ she says.

‘‘Research recently compiled by the National Coalition of Girls Schools suggests there are a number of reasons why girls thrive in single sex-schools. These include academic achievement, building of self-confidence, a cultural dedication to how girls learn best, development of leadership skills, heightened career aspirations and the championing of girls in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), learning areas all recognised as critical to 21st century workforce opportunities.”

Another consideration for parents is school size. “Our small size, along with our one-campus advantage, ensures all our students – from the youngest in ELC to our VCE students – learn in one central and encouraging community,’’ Mrs Carroll says.

‘‘Small year levels and low class numbers allow for personalised academic and pastoral care, which fosters high self-esteem, resilience, empowerment and achievement of each student’s personal best, all this while maintaining a broad and extensive range of subjects and outstanding co-curricular activities.”

To explore St Catherine’s, prospective families can organise a private tour or attend an Open Morning (8.45am for 9am) on Thursday, March 16, April 27, June 1, August 17 and October 19.

“The initial experience of a school environment is vital to selecting a school for your child,” Ms Bennett says. “It is where parents and their child can assess if the school fits them and vice versa.

‘‘It is critical they experience the school in action to gain an honest insight into the culture, observing student/teacher relationships, respectfulness of students –including how they wear their uniform and conduct themselves, classroom etiquette and whether the students appear cheerful and engaged. This first visit can form a lasting and pivotal relationship with the school.”

St Catherine’s also offers options for families of prospective boarding students. “Given it is often difficult to visit the school for families considering boarding, St Catherine’s visits rural, regional and international education expos to offer parents opportunities to learn more about our school closer to home,” Mrs Carroll says

The Age

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