Child Writing

5 Tips How To Choose The Best School

I’ve just reached a huge parenting milestone with my older child starting Grade 1 – and what an experience it has been. I am so proud of her and so excited for her for this new stage or learning and development. Then come in all the fears and anxieties too – will she keep up, will she be bullied and will she make friends?

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Last year my husband and I spent a considerable amount of time and effort into choosing the right school for our daughter. We considered a number of schools and there was even the possibility of our family moving towns to ensure that we can place her in a school that will fit what we were looking for in a school.

When my daughter was younger it never occurred to me that it would be such a huge decision, but when the time arrived the magnitude of this decision became apparent.

Thankfully now that the decision has been made and she has started her schooling we feel 100% happy with our choice and believe we have made the best possible choices for our children.

Here are some tips and guidelines from my personal experience of choosing a school for the first time:

The first thing that you will need to do is research the different options available, your basic choices would be between a public school, private school or even a homeschool.

Read also: 7 Ways To Prepare Your Preschooler For Primary School

How To Choose The Best School For Your Child

  1. Make A List Of Your Requirements

This is a vital first step and you will need to consider your needs as a family, as well as look at your child’s individual needs.

Your child’s personality and aptitudes may play a huge role in what type of requirements you will have. Your child may thrive on structure and discipline or your child may be more of a free spirit that would fit a more creative and free learning environment. If your child has special needs this will be a vital part of the decision making process.

The needs of your family may include the budget you have available for schooling – you may have limited finances that only accommodate for a public school or perhaps you are able to afford a private school but do you feel that the extra expense is worth it.

The area that you live in will also play a tole. Are you prepared to put your kids into a boarding school to enable them to get the schooling that you want for them, or will you be prepared to put them on a school bus every day? You may just be a mom like me that won’t let her kids out of her sight, then you will need to lift your kids every day and you will have to live within a reasonable distance from the school.

Your family values will also play a role. If you family has strong religious or cultural beliefs you may want to ensure that the school you choose shares the same values. Your family may place value on a sporty and healthy lifestyle which will make a school with a strong sports culture appealing.

Kids Playing Sports

  1. Start Evaluating Schools

Make a list of all the schools that may be viable and start evaluating each school. Make notes on what each school has to offer, as well as the advantages and disadvantages of each school.

Research the pricing, the sports facilities and the school curriculum.

  1. Visit Potential Schools

Once you have a list of schools and as much information as you can possibly find on each one start making appointments to visit each school, to have a meeting with the school head and get a tour of the school.

Have a list of questions prepared to ask each school such as what is their policy when it comes to bullying and how are their teachers trained? Find out what their latest matric pass rate is too, this should give you a bit of insight into the standard of education that they provide to their students.

School Art Supplies

  1. Talk To Other Parents and Students

Try and speak to some parents and even some past pupils of the schools you are interested in. This will give you some excellent insider information into the school that you may not otherwise get.

  1. Deciding On A Good Fit For Your Child

Once you have all of the above information on hand hopefully there is one school that stands out above all the rest for you in terms of the standard of education as well as the other requirements that you need to have met.

As a parent it is always important to listen to your gut feel and the same goes when you are choosing a school for your child. There may be a school that looks really good on paper and appears to be the best choice but for some reason it doesn’t feel right, then trust your instincts.

Remember that your child will be spending a huge part of their childhood at school, interacting with their peers and being educated – the school that you choose for your child will have a major influence on your child’s life and education for many years to come. Find one that reinforces the things that you believe in and that help your child grow into the best adult that he or she can be.

How are you planning to protect your child’s educational needs in the future? Visit the to help plan for your child’s future.

Now lets get to the competition! Tell us in the comments below this post how you have planned and prepared for your child to go to the best possible school?

Win a R2000 Woolworths voucher from Liberty – share your story and your thoughts in the comments below. The winner will be announced on Monday 29th January 2018.

Join our discussions on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram too – include the hashtag #LibertyBack2School to further increase your chances of winning!

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  1. Hi Lynne
    Congratulations to your daughter on starting grade 1. My daughter will only start next year. My husband and I have already sorted out the list of our preferred schools for her and I’ve made calls to find out when applications open and whether they have open day for the parents. We have three open days already for February and I am so glad I made the calls so early otherwise we would have missed out. My daughter loves swimming so, the school must have swimming as an extra curricular activity, feeder high schools as well are important to us as we also have preferred high schools for her so our primary school list is associated with high school list that we would like her to attend. In terms of her higher education we are saving monthly into an account but I think it would be wise to take out the Liberty Education Builder for her, I already have the Liberty’s EduCator Risk Benefit for her to cover her education cost in case anything happens to me. I really hope, like you guys, we find the best school for her as she will be spending 7 years of her life in that school.

    • Those are some great points there Bongiwe! That is also something that came in very importantly for us – the private school my daughter started at has a high school and even a private university! We also attended open days at some schools before making our choice, it is so important to take a walk around and get a feel for the school.

      How exciting that your girl is starting school next year, I hope she enjoys Grade R.

  2. Great post Lynne!!

    And also I want to share that Calista is growing into a beautiful young girl who will grow into an amazing, creative woman 😀

    • Thanks @siobhan 🙂 It is scary to see how fast she is growing up, just in the last week it would seem that she has had a huge leap in maturity. You’ll be pleased to know that we have booked her into a creative extra mural class at her new school. She will be doing clay work, beading, paper mache and loads more.

  3. Hi Lynne
    Those are really great tips 🙂 We were actually so lucky with primary school, my kids were still babies when a government school popped up literally around the corner from us. I watched it grow and monitored it closely. I wanted a school close by – both hubby and I work, and I had big issues with literally anyone driving my kids around, so we had to be able to do the drop and collection. My son is now in Grade 1.. and my daughter is in Grade 2 and they are loving it. To be very honest, I would’ve liked to have gone the private school route, but it was just not possible.. and having my kids 15 months apart definitely didn’t help the situation, but their school is really great, and I’m happy with the choice I made. My son is very busy… so much energy, so sport was very important, just so that he can burn off some energy. One thing that we really do need to look into is an education fund. It hasn’t been possible, but we just have to somehow. Their future education fund is constantly on my mind.. hopefully we will find a way forward 🙂

    • Yes I know what you mean about an education fund – it is so important and will make such a difference in the future but the difficulty lies in there here and now – finding the finances to not only pay their current educational and childcare costs but also to put some extra finances towards the future!

      You are so fortunate to have a great government primary school so close to you! And geez what a tight age gap – mine are 2 years and 2 months apart and that is tight enough for me. I can’t imagine how hard it was when they were younger, it must be almost like having twins… except maybe harder since their routines would be different.

  4. Congratulations on the massive milestone. Your child going to Gr 1 is such a blessing but it can be so stressful for parents. I know exactly which school you are talking about and to be honest… It is a fantastic school. I was privilege enough to be a gr 2 teacher there for 2years. It was the best time of my life and I miss the teachers very much.

    My children are not school going age but I have been doing some research into the schools in my area. Luckily there are 2 great public schools.

    Things that I look for in a school are:
    – Amount of children in the class
    – Does the teacher have an assistant?
    – Extra mural activities available for the children
    – Is the school grounds neat?
    – What curriculum is the school following?
    – Do they have an open-door policy?

    A very important point for me is also “word-of-mouth”. If I school is a good school, the word will spread very quickly.

    I also do some research on the school’s website to read articles, look at photos of the different events etc.
    Closer to the time, I will attend open days, because it is like you say, a school can look good on paper but the children are maybe not their priority.
    While I’m at the open days and sports day, I will walk around and listen to how the teacher speak to the learners. Are they being treated with respect, irrespective of their age and gender?

    These are just a few things that I will look at.

    I believe that having an educational plan for your children is a must. From the moment I got my children’s birth certificates, I took out an educational plan for them. It will not help me now to pay their school fees, but if they want to study further, there will be something for them.

    Thank you Lynne for a fantastic article!


    • Great response Elena and also very helpful and informative.

    • Those are some brilliant things to look for. I know some classes, especially in government schools are huge. Thankfully the school that we chose splits classes if they get too big – I think the maximum children allowed in a class is 20 or 25. My daughter currently has only 16 children in her Grade 1 class which is lovely.

      • @lynne Yes I also think it’s 25. This is a very manageable number of children to work with. I just can’t understand how government can put 40 kids in a class.

        In the early years it’s very important to get enough attention for them to keep up.

        Luckily there are 2 excellent government schools just around the corner.

  5. When I was pregnant I was considering a pre-school close to our home. They have a very good reputation and they’ve been around for many years. They are the only pre-school that is still part of the women’s federation. My colleague’s little girl started school at this pre-school and they showed me the activities and classes. I was very impressed. The only problem was that they only take in children from 18 months+. I then searched around for schools that takes in babies. My JD was just about to turn 6 months old and I didn’t have a clue where to place him. I posted on one of our local pages in Nelspruit and got a lot of responses and referrals. One of the daycare’s really stood out for me. The name is “Moekie se hoekie”which I love. I phoned Ouma Sarie and I immediately liked her. My husband and I visited her that same afternoon. She was so welcoming. She showed us all the areas: sleep area, changing area, play area. My husband also liked them and he can be quite difficult and protective when it comes to JD. I decided to keep him there until he is 18 months and then move him to my first choice. Moekie se hoekie really looks well after my child. They even keep a diary in his bag where I can see what his meals and drinks was, when did he take a nap and how many no 1 & 2 nappies changes he had. It turns out he is so happy where he is at the moment that I didn’t have the heart to move him to another school. Why fix something that ain’t broken? He is still so young and I still have time. When he has to go to Gr RRR, I will start looking at all our different options. But for the time being he is a happy chappy.

    • Elize I couldn’t agree with you more! If you have a place where he is happy, developing well and learning then why move him! Our kids were at an amazing pre-school and now that my daughter started Grade 1 we decided we didn’t want to send her to the school that the pre-school fed into and chose another school…. and we decided to move my son to their pre-school which was a really good move since he actually appears to be happier there. I am so glad it all worked out because as a mother I think you always question how things will work out.

      • True story Lynne. I’m always worried that I will make the wrong decision and then my son would be unhappy. I also don’t want to make to many changes because it can be traumatic and stressful for them.

        His daycare really look so well after him. I can see how happy he is. 🙂

  6. stephanie videira

    Great tips, we recently moved back to my home town, my daughter was with me at home till she was 4 years and when we moved back to my home town, we had a already done our research on the pre-school we wanted her to attend, she took her time with all her milestones so it was important for me to find a pre-school/school that has a small amount of kids in the class, also have a few friends that kids go to this same school and they where all happy, we also made sure we got to meet her age group teachers and got to see the classes, we are lucky that the place we choose goes from 4 months – matric which is great as these days its a struggle to get into grade R/1, we have found she has grown leaps and bounds in her school and so happy we made the right choice

    • That is great that she is growing and developing so nicely. I am sure that must have been a bit of a worry for you. I really do think that the school can make all the difference!

  7. Fatima Bibi Hoosen

    My daughter started grade RR this year, she’s 4 turning 5
    I’m sending her to a Montessori and she will go to grade R there next year as well
    I’ve chosen this specific Montessori because of the amazing feedback I’ve got from other parents that have sent their kids there over the years, there’s a mix of all different races and religions so my child will learn to respect and play with kids of all races from a small age

    As for schooling from grade 1, I have 2 schools in mind, they are further away than other schools near me but I am looking at those 2 because they are semi-private (or partially subsidized)
    The academics are good and they offer a good range extra mural activities, which I feel is very important as well
    Kids need to keep fit and do activities they enjoy as well
    Again, from parents (and kids) I know that have sent their kids to those schools, have nothing but good to say

    • Yes a mix of all races, religions and cultures is a great thing to look for. I would have been very keen on a Montessori school if there was one in our area! I have heard such great things about Montessori.

  8. With my two kids i must say it was easy choosing a school.
    First of all we went to the school and made sure it is a save environment for them as we all know it is easy for some people to snatch your child.
    Second we obviously made sure that they like the school and asked them if they would be happy.
    Third we also made sure that the education that they need is good and like my kids they love doing sport and activities so you have to make sure your child likes all the activities the school provides.
    Fourth we also made sure that the teachers treat the kids in the same manner and that your child won’t feel left out i must say my children are very happy in theit school.
    Last i feel that there must be communication between the teachers and the parent and we have to stay updated of everything that happens in the school and that is way my kids are happy because there is communication between all of us. To me as a parent it is important.

    • You are so right, good communication is so important when choosing a school! Another excellent point that adds value to this discussion – thanks for your input 🙂

  9. Great Article with some good points and advice! I was fortunate, my brothers daughter is one year older than my daughter, so we actually kept an eye on her progress when she went to grade 1. We liked what we saw and our decision was made easy 🙂 . Good communication is very important I agree, the teachers were so friendly and because of my daughter being so soft and teachers not screaming she really fitted in and could give all of her best. She is now in gr7, a prefect, and since gr4 top ten in her class and loving the teachers. I really think teachers do play a big role and that all contributed to her achievements.

  10. Hi there! The only way we could ensure our boys would go to a good non private school, is ensuring that we lived in the suburb where they had their catchment area! They can get really strict about this, luckily we already lived near our chosen schools, but it was never guarenteed! There are private school dotted all around us, but ridiculously expensive in every way! #LibertyBack2School

  11. Wow. Time flies…great tips Lynne. Ethan started Grade R this year. Wished I invested in his future before he was even born

    • Aww little Ethan – yes he is inbetween my two in ages 🙂 Congrats @vicelize and it is great to see you here again!

      • Hopefully I can be on more. Ethan’s little brother takes alot of free time

      • Geez yes I am sure! Having more than one child just makes it a whole new ball game doesn’t it? How old is your youngest?

  12. Very usefull tips thanks. Need to put my son in a creche end of Feb. So will definitely use this tips!

  13. Thank you for this.
    I followed a similar process in choosing my son’s nursery school. It was quite an intense learning experience. I visited

  14. Thank you for this!
    I followed a similar process for finding a nursery school for my son. I actually wondered if the school principals thought I was weird sitting down with a list of questions to ask them! It is so true about following your gut, too. Some of the school’s got crossed off my list just because they didn’t feel right.

    When I finally settled on a school, I also took my son to visit and see as much as he was allowed to. This actually made him excited to start there. Unfortunately, it didn’t turn out to be a good fit initially, and I had to move him, but he is quite happy where he is now.

    This year we are repeating the process for Grade R. I find it daunting that a lot of public schools fill up fairly quickly and that it would be a lot more difficult to move him should he not cope at a school I choose, but I am also looking into options should that happen.

    He does struggle with being in big crowds, but unfortunately at this stage the option of smaller classes or private schooling is not open to us. At the same time he has grown considerably over the past year at his nursery school, so he might surprise me.

    All the best to other mommies looking out for schools!

  15. I was extremely lucky with my sons pre school, I went to visit them unannounced with my son and within 5 minutes of being there mu son started to play with the other kids and did not want to leave the teacher once we were done. It was very important for me that he is comfortable in the school and being a first time mom I was kinda freaking out a bit to leave him with people I don’t know.
    But he is still there a year later and very happy, some afternoons when I pick him up he runs away because he is simply not done playing.

  16. This has opened my eyes to many things thank you Lynne.

    We are still a few years from schooling, but now I can take this and start looking early enough so we don’t just pick a school out of pressure.

    With the increase in amount of children attending school I sometimes wish I could home school my children, but is that the best choice? Keeping them away from friends and holding them to your dreams. I think that school is very important and it gives our children a chance to choose who they want to be and what they want to do when they grow up.

    I really look forward to start with the process looking at schools with my husband, and I think I will remember this for the rest of my life.

  17. I just had this conversation with someone this week. My son is only in Grade RR now. He is however in a school that goes from Grade RR to Grade 7.

    It’s weird how a mother’s mind starts racing when another mother says that her son that is now in Gr R can count to 100.

    My little one shows no interest in numbers at all. Counting is not one of his strong points.

    I can now see that he enjoys arty things (like mommy and daddy.) He loves colors and drawing. He loves telling stories. His passionate about all things practical.

    My first thought was, will he be OK in school?

    Honestly, I think yes. Each child develops at their own speed.

    I endeavor to make him count more often at home, but he shows little to no interest. Hopefully, he will develop one soon.

  18. Great article – this subject has been weighing heavy on my mind recently as well. I think it’s crucial to do a school tour – what is in a school prospectus versus the reality is very different …

    Some schools ( those that accommodate from Grade R to Grade 12) even allow matric pupils to do school tours for their friends and families. This is a great way to get an authentic feel for the school

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