How to choose the right high school: A principal’s guide for Great Southern parents

David RamsayAlbany Advertiser
David Ramsay, Principal of Australian Christian College Southlands.
Camera IconDavid Ramsay, Principal of Australian Christian College Southlands. Credit: Supplied

Though it may seem logical to include your child in deciding which high school to attend, if your child is younger than Year 9, this is often a decision best left to parents.

For Year 7 and possibly Year 8 students they are often not the best judge of the right school to choose.

They tend to make choices based on where their friends are going and the uniform policy rather than factors that will become more important as the high school journey progresses.

However, for Year 9 and up, choice is very important as without buy-in from the students it rarely works when only the parents are choosing a school.

I know a thing or two about the weight of these decisions as the principal of Australian Christian College Southlands in Albany.

I’m also presently a student completing my doctorate looking at the transition from primary school to high school and how to support an individual’s transition.

Below I’ve provided four factors to consider when choosing the right high school for your child.

How do the school’s values align with those of your family?

This is especially true for faith-based schools and families.

The school shouldn’t be in opposition to what you’re teaching at home and vice versa.

Supporting one another’s values will enhance the learning experience in school and at home.

How is the school keeping your child safe, cared for and nurtured?

Remember that you’re handing your child over to an institution to look after them for a large proportion of their waking weekday hours.

Will they be safe, well cared for and nurtured?

The high school years are a very formative time in a young person’s life.

You want to find a school where your child will flourish and develop into a mature, grounded and capable young adult.

You do not want a high school experience that crushes or seriously wounds, leaving after-effects for many years.

We can’t protect them from every hardship (nor should we try) — they need to grow and learn resilience but still within a safe and flourishing environment.

Families should look at the opportunities offered by the school

Does the school offer the right range of pathways for your child?

Look at things such as senior subject offerings, music, mission trips, performing arts and sport programs (these can change during a high school career), and flexibility and range of learning pathways.

Not every student will go to university so look at how the high school is supporting a myriad of opportunities.

How does the school add value to the child’s education?

Can the school take the child from where they are at and propel them forward in development, skills and better results?

I recommend you look at more than just absolute results, comparing also students’ starting and finishing points to measure the value added.

David Ramsay is the principal of Australian Christian College Southlands.

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