31 Aug 2017

How to choose a secondary school for your child

From Nine To Noon, 11:23 am on 31 August 2017
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Photo: 123RF

The New Zealand secondary school system can seem like a minefield of jargon and acronyms to some parents, but, generally speaking, teachers and principals are keen to hear from parents, says education consultant Bali Haque.

He’s written the book New Zealand Secondary Schools and Your Child to bridge that gap and help parents navigate the system.

Many parents agonise over choosing the right high school for their child, and it is a biggie.

In New Zealand's school system, your local school should be fine, but if you are analysing other options, do your homework as schools are complicated places, he says.

Judging the quality of a school by its National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA) results is more complicated than it may seem, and you need quite a deep understanding of how NCEA itself works.

It’s a good idea to also check out the school’s ERO report (which can pick up safety issues) and NZQA report and also investigate the way the school reports to parents and its attitude to parents’ involvement.

Talking to other parents and students is powerful for finding out about how bullying is handled in the school and its overall culture.

While the decile does tell you something about the school, it’s too complicated to judge solely on that – “Low-decile does not mean low-quality, high-decile does not mean high-quality”.

It's often a good idea to choose a school which offers a range of both academic and vocational programmes.

Your 13 year old may well be unsure which direction their education should take so it's good to keep their options relatively open, he says.

Bali Haque has been the principal of four secondary schools, is a past President of the Secondary Schools Principals Association and has worked at the NZQA.

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