The (long) brief for picking a school

In a recent conversation with a Melbourne Parent, we discovered their understandable panic and concern for the choice of their child’s Foundational School Year in 2021. She was stressed about: 

a) Her research of schools only being online.

b) An inability to ask her kinder teachers, as kinder is currently cancelled.  

c) No school tours during covid. 

d) Making the right social choice as well as the right academic choice. 

e) Pressure from family and friends. 

Firstly, it will be ok! 

For a long time we have been taught that; Good education is the pathway to a good university degree, which is the pathway to a good job. It’s this ‘forever’ idea that places the pressure on the decision. Or perhaps the dialogue of family and friends… “If you don’t pick this school, then they won’t get into that high school. And if they don’t get into that high school, then they won’t get into the right university, and if they don’t”… and so on. Try not to get caught up in this cycle. There’ll be plenty of time for life decisions as well as plenty of room for change. 

Take the time to stop and think about your individual child. Think about what their interests are and what activities make them happy. Seek a school where they may provide education accordingly. If your child requires special needs or special interests, this should be your priority. Speak with your local schools about the programs that they offer to support your child. 

Secondly, have faith! 

In Australia we are lucky to have a solid education system. The Foundational Year is built for foundational skills. It is the year for them to learn to read, write, count, add and finally complete these skills independently. Their teachers will be ready to teach them accordingly (knowing what they would have missed in 2020) and we hope it will be a fantastic year. 

If it turns out that there is a significant misfit between your child and the school, you’re not locked in and have the right to move them. We hope this is not the case, if so, perhaps seek extra support first. 

The System

Frameworks for primary schools within Australia are to provide strong literacy and numeracy programs, followed by units of study (Sciences and Humanities) and completed with their offering of specialist subjects (Sports and The Arts). When investigating each of the schools, ask them about what extra subjects and programs they do provide other than literacy and numeracy. This will give you an idea of what extra curricular management values.   

They’re likely to discuss the pedagogies they use (models of how to teach). To put very briefly; most pedagogies in Education are based on the 21st Century Learners (the industry terminology for the kids of today). It’s believed that 21st Century Learners will need to be equipped in the 4Cs: Communication, Collaboration, Creativity and Critical Thinking/Reflection. The hype around the 4Cs is simply that…

“These are the uniquely human skills that must be nurtured in order to thrive in the modern workplace and beyond.” 

…making us positively stand out in the future workplace when up against A.I. Scary, right! We won’t go into the predicted job skills of the future, however if you’re keen we recommend a google. 

Many education researchers have written many text and theories around the 21st Century Learners but (put simply) the learning characteristics of the 4C’s is what they tend to have in common.

Charles Fadel (one researcher) created the below table to briefly explain the need for the 4C’s. When researching your choice of schools, perhaps hunt for some of the ‘buzzwords’ in the table below. The other popular buzzwords that will be going around are; PYP, inquiry learning, provocation in learning and visible learning. Hint… these are good buzzwords and relate to the 4C’s.  

Mrs LD’s Quick Tips

…for asking question on school tours (online or not).


  1. Is there a culture that supports student voice?
  2. How does management interact with parents? 
  3. Are there leadership programs that encourage a community connection?
  4. Are there community partnerships?
  5. What platforms of communication are used within the school for students, parents and teachers?
  6. Does the pedagogy support and encourage group work or cross-curricular programs?
  7. Is wellbeing important in the school?
  8. Does your school offer a counselling service if need be?
  9. What are your policies around behaviour?


  1. Does the school offer social programs; like lunchtime clubs or after school sports teams?
  2. Is there a culture that encourages family participation within the school?
  3. How does differentiation work in the school?
  4. Does pedagogy support innovative programs that require group work?
  5. Is there a culture of exploration and facilitation amongst learning?
  6. Is there a culture of inclusion and respect amongst all students and staff?
  7. Is diversity within the school celebrated and acknowledged?
  8. What are your policies around inclusion and or bullying?
  9. Does your average classroom allow learning noise and discussions?

Creativity and Critical Reflection/Thinking: 

  1. Do you have a pedagogy that encourages a ‘process of thinking’ that includes analyzing and interpreting?
  2. Do you have open-minded outcomes in parts of your learning?
  3. Do you encourage pedagogies that support a growth mindset?
  4. What does problem solving look like in your school? 
  5. Are children guided to explore and engage with their lessons?
  6. Do students engage with feedback about their learning taking place; such as being included in the grading process?
  7. Is feedback facilitated between student-student and teacher-student?
  8. Is learning ‘visible’ amongst students; such as learning intentions and outcomes?
  9. What Art programs do you provide?
  10. What STEM programs do you provide?
  11. Can children choose to be a part of ‘bigger initiative’ programs?
  12. What is the Digital Technologies curriculum?

Know that you do know your child and will instinctively have a list of questions that you want to ask. These questions are designed to give you the confidence to ask questions that will specifically encourage conversation about culture, curriculum and pedagogy. 

Essentially a happy child will always be willing to learn. Therefore look for a school where the children, parents and staff seem happy. And remember, if you invest time in their education at home, they will achieve. 

Reference and Resources:

© Positive Teaching

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