During Term 3 there were a number of occasions when I reflected on the reasons why parents choose a particular school for their child or children. As I prepared for the Kindy Orientation morning I decided to spend some additional time researching the topic of “Choice of School”.
I not only read the latest articles about choosing a school but I also took the time to speak to young parents whose child was soon to commence school. This included speaking to my son who has a boy who will soon be starting school. All in all, the following list outlines the main reasons sited by parents:
- Is close to home
- Provides a Religious education
- Supports Language and Culture
- Will be a place where my child has friends
- Is where I went to school so it is part of a family tradition
- Is the right size
- Has a strong sense of community and has social events
- Provides extra activities for students (music, library, sport, cultural program)
- Is a safe environment
- Has class sizes that are ideal for learning
- Is co-educational
- Matches our family values (uniform, grooming, attendance, good manners, discipline)
- Provides a good quality of education
- Provides an educational continuum right through to Year 12
- Provides a range of subject choices for secondary students
- Communicates well – providing feedback to families
- Is a place where my child and family will feel like they belong
No school will be a perfect fit and it is unlikely that every Galstaun parent thinks that all factors listed here is important to them. For most families the school is not close to home but the bus service compensates for that. Religious education may not be important to all but most families will feel that the promotion of Christian values, generosity and compassion, self-reflection and spiritual well-being is important for their child.
Perhaps the most unique aspect of Galstaun College is the acknowledgement of Armenian’s 3000 year old culture and the provision of the Armenian language program that every child takes part in. For most, these are the draw-cards for Galstaun College. Putting all that aside, however, the fundamental purpose of schools is education.
Globally, there is a recognition that a good education is important for the future of the individual and for each nation. Education is often allied to future employment, remuneration and the standard of living. And globally, there are agreed curriculum areas that are deemed to be important for all children world-wide. These include literacy, numeracy and science which are compared from country to country in the OECD PISA tests conducted in a three-yearly cycle on a sample of 15-year-olds. Additionally history and geography are curriculum areas that are considered important for students to gain a perspective of the world in which they live.
The PISA results have high credibility as a measure of the quality of schools and school systems and are a rich source of data on the connections between student performance, attributes of students and their families, and features of schools and systems. Regulatory authorities in each country control any additional curriculum offerings. For us, it is NSW Standards Authority that determines the mandatory curriculum and for how many hours it is taught in schools, including at Galstaun College.
So what are the features of effective schools?
There are a number of misconceptions including some that are listed above as reasons for choosing a school. Many parents think the following will result in good learning outcomes for their child:
- small class sizes
- socio-economic background
- qualification of teachers e.g. with additional training like a Masters Degree
- Student to teacher ratios
- The amount of spending per student for resources
Recent research has shown that these are not the key factors that result in the best learning outcomes for children.
The correlation of the following are what have been shown to have the greatest impact on outcomes for children in both Mathematics and English.
- teacher feedback
- use of data to inform practice
- time spent on explicit instruction, including small group and differentiation
- high expectations
In other words, it is the quality of the teacher that has the greatest impact on the effectiveness of learning outcomes. Galstaun College recognises this and makes each of these a priority in our training, at our staff meetings and workshops, and in our everyday practices. Researchers have learned a lot in the past 5 – 10 years and the key take-out is that effective schools share a common set of best practices.
Director of Teaching & learning