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Choose your school wisely

By Tim Middleton

It was interesting to read recently that a soccer referee overseas was reprimanded by the governing body for not having a coin to toss at the start of a match and for using, instead, the trusty old game of “Rock, Paper, Scissors”.

It is interesting as both methods are just as effective in leading to a random decision! What was wrong with “Rock, Paper, Scissors”? “Rock, Paper, Scissors” is in itself an interesting method as each object has value and each object has an advantage as well as a disadvantage over the other two.

Rock can blunt scissors (and therefore be stronger), but it can be wrapped up by paper (thus being weakened); scissors can cut paper (and so be more effective), but they can be blunted by the hard rock; paper can enfold rock, but be cut by scissors. On the count of three, we have to choose which one of the three we go for, not knowing how it will pan out against the others. There is no right choice per se, but only a right choice in the circumstances.

The same might be said when it comes to choosing a school for our child. Some schools might be like the rock, others like scissors and others still like paper. Let it be noted that some schools are like the rock; they present themselves as strong, immovable, hard, with a clear commitment to strict discipline, zero tolerance, firm policies and unwavering tradition. They can hold things down, keep things in place and be effective in building a solid future. Who would not want that? Such a school offering a strong robust curriculum would stand up against any other school —except perhaps one that envelops the whole child and wraps them in care, compassion, confidence, individuality.

Some schools are like the paper. They are all-encompassing, all-encouraging, all-enfolding, all-inclusive, all-enriching. They can be decorative, are practical, adaptable,
useful and protective. Who would not want that? Such a school offering a broad covering curriculum would stand up against any other school — except perhaps one that focuses keenly on the cutting edge of modern technology and thinking.

Some schools are like the scissors. They develop insightful, piercing, penetrating, sharp pupils with clear critical thinking and gifted ability. They can be creative and constructive yet defensive and deliberate.

Who would not want that? Such a school offering a neat, clean, immediate curriculum would stand up against any other school — except perhaps one that has a hard edge that blunts the thinking, spirit, individuality and effect of a child.

Which then is the best school? Which school should we as parents choose? Of course, some parents are always very keen to say that the school they went to, or they send their child to, is the best school; they simply choose to send their child to the school they went to, without considering how a school has changed in those 30-odd years.

Others will choose the school based on their own reputation, on what people at work or at the golf club will think of our choice.

Others will think that if a school works for his friend’s child or his relative’s child it must work for his child.

If parents take away their personal prejudice, they may seek to determine the best school by the resources, results and reputation, none of which really make a major impact, other than on the parent’s own ego.

It can be argued that in one sense, it does not matter to what school we send our child; our child will come out with the same academic qualifications and sporting achievements no matter which school they attend, in that many schools offer the same subjects with teachers with the same qualifications as well as the same sports with the same experiences and coaches.

However, they will come out a very different child dependent on the character and environment of the school.

As we have noted in previous articles, there is no best school, as they are all different. However, there is a best school for our child.

Therefore, we need to know, first of all, our child and, secondly, all the options available. Above all, we need to know whether rock, scissors or paper will suit our child.

Some parents have reduced the choice of choosing a school to the toss of a coin; however, this is far too important a decision to do that.

This is not a matter of basing our choice on our reputation, our ease, our friends, our other children or even our pocket.

It is about our child. This is not a random decision.

We need to choose the school wisely — and we will certainly not be reprimanded for that.

Tim Middleton is the executive director of the Association of Trust Schools [ATS]. The views expressed in this article, however, are solely those of the author in his private capacity and do not necessarily represent the views of the ATS.

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