As most of you know, I have suddenly realised I am behind in the whole finding a school thing. I jumped hastily onto the bandwagon and started reading up on schools, getting suggestions and feedback from friends and family, and my head started spinning.
Worse than the overload of information, I realised that it wasn’t what I needed to know anyway when approaching a place to leave the most important part of my heart day after day. These are the people who will shape my child in terms of her attitude and approach to school; these are the people who will encourage her and nurture her academic growth, these are the people who will be responsible to keep my child safe from herself and others as she learns and explores her world.
The questions that came to me all seemed overly dramatic and … So I turned to the Interwebs for advice – and boy did they ever come through.
So here it is; the top 65 questions you should ask the playschool you are considering sending your child to…
(I will be sending this list in a spreadsheet to everybody who is subscribed to my blog on Friday, so be sure to sign up if you are interested)
- Is your school properly registered?
- What kind of security do you have in place?
- What is the safety of your play area like : location, monitoring, equipment upkeep – rust, splinters, cracks?
- Which pre- or pre-primary schools are you affiliated with?
- Do you test for school readiness?
- Parental feedback : Do the children receive progress reports; are there parent-teacher meetings; do teachers communicate with the parents during the week; how often does any or all of this happen?
- What is your bullying policy : Detailed policy on how it is monitored, how offenders and victims are managed, notification of parents.
- What is your accident policy : Detailed policy on how injured children are treated, emergency policy, when parents are notified.
- What is your discipline policy : What form of discipline is used, examples of things children are disciplined for, notification of parents on any and all discipline.
- What is your screen policy : Are there screens in the classrooms, how often are they used, what exactly are they used for?
- What is your child collection policy: Multiple collectors; collection outside of designated people; timings; where are they collected; who monitors all of it and how?
- What is the traffic like to and around the school?
- What is your birthday policy: Do the children bring a cake or snacks; is there a celebration of some sort; is there a policy on party invitations?
- School concerts: How often do they happen and how many attendees can we have?
- Fundraising : How regularly do you fundraise; what specific things do you fundraise for?
- What qualifications does each staff member have?
- What is the ratio of children to teacher in each class?
- Who looks after the children if the teacher is sick?
- What other staff or non-staff members are allowed on the school premises?
- Do you get police clearance of all staff?
- What is your staff smoking policy?
- What are the school hours for all age groups?
- How strict or flexible are you on arrival and collection times?
- Holidays: When are they; do you provide holiday care; what additional costs are involved?
- Taking your children away during the school term : Is there a policy on this; what is the procedure we would need to follow?
- What is the daily routine at each level – is there a work/play balance?
- Naps : What times do the children nap; are naps enforced; how do you go about getting the kids to fall asleep; what do you do with those that won’t sleep?
- Is there a registered nurse on staff?
- What is your policy on medications and my child?
- What is your illness policy : What are the parameters with sick kids; are they allowed at school; will parents be notified of contagious illnesses?
- Do the staff have First Aid qualifications and are they kept up to date?
- Do you have a medic alert system in place?
- Contact of parents : At what point are parents notified of any symptoms?
- What is your hand washing policy : For staff and children?
- Sharing bottles and food : Is it monitored and by whom?
- How often are things cleaned : Classrooms, toys, bathrooms, kitchens, playgrounds?
- What is your lice policy?
- Exactly what food is served – fresh, frozen, organic, processed, etc?
- What are the meal portion sizes?
- What happens if my child asks for more food or is hungry during the day?
- What do you do if my child doesn’t eat?
- What additional food / snacks do we need to supply?
- What foods can’t we bring?
- Please may I have a copy of monthly meal timetable?
- What are the total fees for the year/ term / month?
- What exactly do the fees cover?
- What is not covered by the fees? (i.e. What additional costs can be expected?)
- What toiletries will we need to provide : Detailed list broken down annually, per term, per month, per week?
- What stationery will we need to provide : Detailed list broken down annually, per term, per month, per week?
- What extra murals are offered?
- Where are extra murals held?
- How much do extra murals cost?
- Are extra murals ever held during school hours?
- What do the children do that have not paid to take part in extra murals?
- Who changes the children’s nappies?
- Do the people changing the nappies know how to clean baby properly, front to back, etc.?
- How often are the children’s nappies changed?
- Where are the children’s nappies changed?
- Do the people changing nappies wash their hands between each child’s change?
- Do you ensure you only use my child’s products on my child? (To account for sensitivities and costs)
- Toilet training : Do you do it? When do you do it? How do you do it?
- Toilet procedures : How often do the children get taken; do teachers accompany students (if so, ratio); how many kids at a time; are the toilets co-ed?
- Please may we view all the bathrooms?
- Please may we view the kitchen (preferably when people are working in it)?
- Please may I meet the teacher that would be with my child?
Of course, there was tons of other advice from the wise mommies of South Africa ~ trust your gut and your instincts when you visit a school; just because a school is well-known doesn’t mean they are doing things right; keep your eyes and ears open on a tour – what were the teachers doing, how do they interact with the kids, how do the children react to them; be conscious if a school won’t allow you to spontaneously drop in, viewing things in a controlled way may not give you a real sense of the school’s daily workings.
I know some of the questions seem over the top; but the ones that are were from personal experience. Stories of making kids who haven’t paid to participate in extra-murals during school hours sit on the sidelines and watch; giving a child medication that wasn’t approved by a parent; punishing or humiliating a child who asked for more food at lunchtime; a cleaning staff member with a criminal record; a smoking teacher who handled babies in the clothing she smoked in (why this is bad here)… The stories were terrifying and made me want to keep Charly at home until she was 50.
Not much can really be done to take away our fear of letting our children go; of sending them into something we can’t experience with them, or handing over a tiny bit of our daily responsibility to a stranger. These are things we have to do, for ourselves and our children. To teach them independence and confidence and social skills and to educate them better than we ourselves can. So I will take my giant list of questions and I will mark each one off before I move onto the next; not only will the answers set my mind a little at ease, but how the person I am meeting with responds to them will tell me a lot about them as well.
Are there any obvious things we have left out?
I would love if you would share your own stories in the comments of this post.
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Sending all the love xx