What to look for when choosing the right school for your family
Choosing the right school for your kids is one of the most important decisions parents and caregivers can make. With the power to shape their future for the better, the right school also offers a vital connection to community for your family.
The best place to start is by conducting thorough research, first online, and then in person by visiting each school during either an open day or pre-arranged tour. This allows you to weigh up each option against any personal or family considerations, like whether the environment will suit your children, gender, religious or cultural preferences, and learning areas such as academic performance, curriculum, and teaching methodology.
It may sound daunting, but this list of considerations will soon have you on the path to success.
Location and accessibility
Whether your available schools are public, private, or independent, their location will have a big impact on your household. Enrolling locally makes drop off and pick up easier and means your children can travel to school independently from a younger age. Your family will also benefit from the chance to become immersed in the surrounding community.
The great news is there are several excellent schools at Olivine, including Hume Anglican Grammar and Donnybrook Primary School. Olivine residents who choose these schools will also enjoy being part of a welcoming new community, creating a shared sense of belonging and trust.
Looking at schools further afield is an option if your child has a particular interest or talent, or there’s a specific area or school you want them to attend. While most schools offer a broad curriculum, some are stronger in certain areas like sport, music or the dramatic arts, and may therefore provide better opportunities.
However, any benefits should be considered alongside the cost and logistics required to transport kids to and from school each day. Most schools list available transport options on their websites, so be sure to take note.
Curriculum/ academic performance
A school’s curriculum and how their students fare academically are two further considerations. Do they follow a specific teaching methodology, or is the curriculum broad, across a range of learning disciplines? Do they offer English as a Second Language (ESL), special needs teachers, or literacy and numeracy support for children who need extra assistance?
Extracurricular programs and secondary school elective subjects also come into play. Do they cater for any special interest areas or skills your child has?
For performance data, once again, it’s best to use a combination of online research and talking to schools directly, as you may wish to quantify statistics – like this performance summary page published by Hume Anglican Grammar – with real-world insights.
While there are many privately operated school databases, My School is run by the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) – the body responsible for collecting and reporting data on Australia’s schools, running the National Assessment Program (including NAPLAN) and other assessments, and the Australian Curriculum. It publishes academic records for every school alongside profile and population information, attendance data and financial details.
How to find ATAR results
For families with older kids, ATAR (Australian Tertiary Admission Rank) is a term that will become increasingly familiar towards the pointy end of your child’s education. Calculated by adding up a student’s scores from each subject, an ATAR is a number between 0 and 99.95 that ranks the student relative to other Year 12s in the state.
Schools are also given an ATAR ranking, which represents the median ATAR achieved by its students. This information can be found online via the Victorian Curriculum Assessment Authority (VCAA).
While some believe small class sizes are better, there can be advantages to larger groups and schools, as they may provide more extensive programs and specialist educators. The important thing to consider is what sort of class size and teaching ratios best suit your kids.
From a local Olivine standpoint, class sizes are mid-range. For example, at Donnybrook Primary School in 2023, the largest class has 23 students.
Facilities and resources
Modern facilities and readily available resources can further enhance your child’s enjoyment of school. Are speciality subjects like science, technology, and music catered for? What sporting, technology or arts facilities are onsite? Does the school offer before and after school care services?
Once again, Olivine residents are uniquely positioned to benefit from two brand new schools with state-of-the-art facilities.
Hume Anglican Grammar sits on an eight-hectare site with multiple creative, contemporary, and environmentally friendly spaces. The school also has a Building Brighter Futures Masterplan that includes new secondary school buildings, a STEM centre and chapel, hardcourts and playing fields.
At Donnybrook Primary School, which opened its doors in 2023, students enjoy dedicated science and food technology areas, a library, two outdoor hardcourts, a sports field and a community hub building with a competition-grade gymnasium, canteen, music and drama space.
School vision and values
Schools differ greatly in terms of ideologies, so it’s important to investigate how each one stacks up against your personal and family values.
At Hume Anglican Grammar, you will find a teaching and learning vision with five pillars: Exceeding our potential, Being active agents, Reflecting on our practice, Loving lifelong learning and Living our values.
At Donnybrook Primary, the school places an emphasis on courage, compassion, ambition and integrity, and the social-emotional development of each child. They also value and celebrate diversity and strive to be an inclusive, safe and caring community.
What questions to ask
When given the opportunity to speak to staff, it’s a good idea to have a list of questions you would like answered. This might include enquiries about special programs and subjects, how standards like discipline, technology, and uniform are managed, the frequency of student assessment and parental communication, and annual costs for activities like excursions and camps.
At the end of the day, the right school will be a sum of all the above taken into the most important context of all – what’s right for your children and family.