The key to finding the right school is to know what you want, know the options available to you and to do plenty of looking. This can be the most daunting experience for any parent. Our children are, most certainly, the most important life-long investment a parent will ever make. Any parent wants to give their child the best education they can afford. What then is the right formula for choosing a great school?

A school should offer an environment in which each student has the right to his or her place in the institution and the right to learn in an intimate yet dynamic learning environment where every student will feel at home. A school where learners enjoy a happy, nurturing, stable, secure and clean environment in which to learn.

For me the essential ingredients of a great school are the following:

  • Good lead­er­ship and management.
  • Quality teachers. When a school employs teachers who see their task as a vocation; who have made a promise to themselves, to the learners, and ultimately to God to teach, shape and mould their pupils into fine, upright, good citizens, then we shift teachers from a labour mentality to a calling.
  • High aca­d­e­mic stan­dards and a world class curriculum. A world class curriculum that is stable and will produce independent thinkers who are also autonomous learners. A curriculum that will ensure that learners are groomed for success at university or college.
  • Effec­tive Mathematics, Science and English depart­ments.
  • Effec­tive learn­ing envi­ron­ments: good dis­ci­pline, indi­vid­u­al­ized atten­tion, pas­toral care and safety. Every child in a school needs to know that they are known and respected.
  • Strong values-base: where pupils can learn the impor­tance of eth­i­cal behav­iour, per­sonal respon­si­bil­ity, a sound work ethic, team­work and good citizenship.
  • Access to good learn­ing resources and facil­i­ties. Com­puter, Art, Drama and Music facilities.
  • Holis­tic bal­anced edu­ca­tion com­pris­ing a wide range of cul­tural and sport­ing activities.
  • A school with a quality reputation.

Visit the schools you’re interested in during a regular school day. Ask to observe teachers in class so you can get a feel for how they treat the children, parents and one another.

And lastly, follow your instincts. For instance how transparent and diverse is the school?

No school is perfect, and if you go looking for perfection, you’ll end up disappointed and needlessly anxious about your child’s education. Likewise, once you’ve made your choice, don’t check out, but you do have to trust the professionals at the school.

Carolina van Heerden

Principal of Mountain Cambridge School.

Mountain Cambridge School follows the international acclaimed Cambridge curriculum and is a member of Thinking Schools South Africa (TSSA) and ISASA.