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Questions to ask-Year 7 high school open night


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#1 BugMama

Posted 29 February 2012 - 02:46 PM

So, my eldest is off to High School next year oomg.gif . DH and I are undecided as to which HS our eldest will go to. I prefer not to see our eldest to the closest school for certain reasons and the other option is about 15 mins drive away. I don't know if the would take our child because they other HS is so much closer.

I am stuck as to what questions to ask, I honestly have NO idea. DH won't be able to help me out with questions either as he will still be at work when the open night starts.

Anyone have any ideas?

TIA

#2 mumto3princesses

Posted 29 February 2012 - 06:40 PM

I had no idea when we went for DD1 (she's in year 8 now). I had to go on my own with DD1 as DH had to stay home with DD2 & DD3. But in the end I don't think I was really left with any possible questions.

They gave out tons of information about what subjects they will cover, the camp and their creative arts options. They also covered their uniform policy, zero tollerance to bullying and no mobile phone policy on school grounds. They can have the phones but they must be off or on silent and most definately no phone calls or text messages or they will be taken off them.

They had current students take us on a tour which was good. As they had one classroom in each department set up with samples of work. They made sherbet in science and saw current students doing woodwork samples or cooking. They had language rooms set up with work and information on what languages they can choose from etc. Umm there was maths puzzles set up, current students doing art work and creative arts displays. All sorts of things really.

DD1 helped out in the Art room last year when they did the tours and I think she has volunteered to do a tour this year.

#3 BugMama

Posted 29 February 2012 - 07:44 PM

We went although for the first half it was all 3 kids then. thankfully DH came and took the youngest 2 home. We weren't able to see everything due to the rain but, we were both impressed original.gif

Thank you for your reply. Everything you said is what was covered as well original.gif

#4 i-candi

Posted 29 February 2012 - 09:04 PM

The biggest question is "what can your school offer my DD/DS?"

My DS has a lot of quirks and his current school offered so many ideas how they could cater for him. The other school I applied to told me that the teachers wouldn't care about one child if he didn't have a diagnosis  ohmy.gif

I am glad he got into the school we wanted him to get into. The other school did offer him a place.

#5 DA_Phoenix

Posted 02 March 2012 - 02:40 PM

I've given this some thought today. We have a bunch of school 'interviews' coming up and heres a starting list of questions I'd *like* to ask (but no doubt wont). OH seems to think they are grilling us to see if we're suitable and we have to make sure DD is 'up to scratch' - I think its more likely they who are do the *selling* to us and we have to be discerning, informed, cynical and suspicious consumers before dispensing with our vast sums of cash.


High School Interview Questions (in no particular order)
=====================

These may sound like job interview questions rather than questions to ask of a school but since I am effectively interviewing you for the post of ‘educator, confidant and counsellor’ for my children it is important to get a sense of what you as a school  ‘bring to the table’ for the role.

-Bullying-
There is potential for bullying in all school environments, possibly more so in a single-sex school. In any school it will be the shy, the economically disadvantaged, the less mentally agile, the physically un-coordinated or the socially non-compliant students who cop the brunt of these issues. Who in your school has the toughest time with bullies and what measures have you successfully implemented to bring about satisfactory resolutions?

-Religion-
If your school teaches that religion (specifically Christianity) lies at the root of morality, how to you encourage tolerance and understanding of those who have a different source for their morality? Do you think its right to encourage students to believe their own cultural heritage is inherently superior or more ‘correct’ than another alternative heritage?
How much compulsory RE time is there in your school and are there any options to ‘opt out’? If not, how do you handle the potential discomfort of those who don’t share the Christian view of the world? Is there any objective ‘comparative religion’ in amongst the parroted Christian dogma or is ‘monoculture’ the desired outcome?

-In-class extension-
Ability ranges within any classroom will always vary and newly implemented National Curriculum guidelines indicate that learning is to be further standardised for all students of a given age. Given that those towards the upper end of the ability range will likely meet targets within any lesson time early what measures do your teachers take to ensure gifted students are not struck with boredom and left to go ‘off the rails’. If ‘extra-work’ is issued to address this how can you expect brighter students to remain motivated and engaged when their reward for swift completion of a task is simply to be given more of the same to complete?
To assist with curriculum differentiation a ‘classic’ solution is to stream classes with students at the higher ability range grouped together to work on more sophisticated subject matter whilst classes with those less able are given time and assistance required to grasp the fundamentals.
Do you have streamed classes? Given the small size of your school how do you manage to effectively stream? Do you combine year groups in a ‘composite’ arrangement in order to effectively manage numbers?

-Class Sizes-
What is the average class size in your school?
What is the smallest class size in your school?
What is the largest class size in your school?
Do different subjects have different size ‘quotas’? (i.e. smaller classes for subjects that require more interactive teacher-student contact)

-Teacher Assessment-
Recent studies have shown that schools with firm teacher assessment strategies and a commitment to continuous monitoring and improvement consistently produce excellent results. What measures do you take to ensure your teaching staff are working the best way they could be?

-Extra-Curricular Participation-
Todays school students  are increasingly over-scheduled with a near continuous stream of activities filling their personal timetables.  Your school has a wide range of extra-curricular activities, many of which are conducted at times of the day which make transport difficult to manage. To what extent is participation in extra-curricular activity ‘compulsory’. In particular if school attendance is supported via a scholarship (in particular a musical ‘general excellence’ scholarship) does that scholarship come with a proviso of participation in extra-curricular groups and how many groups must a student belong to before that condition is deemed met?

-Curriculum Flexibility-
As a 10 year old there are very few of us that have a clear idea of our life’s ambition and career direction. Throughout our school years we are likely to slowly reveal a preferred direction and develop and idea of which areas of the curriculum we might like to specialise in. Being such a small school how are you able to ensure sufficient curriculum choice and opportunities to change in the future.

-Differentiators-
There are several schools in and around Brisbane that, based on published numbers alone meet or exceed the academic standards you have, for fees of a similar level and mention similar nurturing ideals  in their attractive promotional materials.
Is there anything that fundamentally separates your school from others, or do you believe quietly that you and your competitors are essentially offering the same value proposition just with a different coloured badge?

Edited by DA_Phoenix, 02 March 2012 - 02:44 PM.


#6 liveworkplay

Posted 04 March 2012 - 02:35 PM

Are your specialist teachers qualified in the subjects they teach? Especially Science and Maths.

#7 Guest_Wombat Wife_*

Posted 04 March 2012 - 03:09 PM

QUOTE (DA_Phoenix @ 02/03/2012, 03:40 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
-Religion-
If your school teaches that religion (specifically Christianity) lies at the root of morality, how to you encourage tolerance and understanding of those who have a different source for their morality? Do you think its right to encourage students to believe their own cultural heritage is inherently superior or more ‘correct’ than another alternative heritage?
How much compulsory RE time is there in your school and are there any options to ‘opt out’? If not, how do you handle the potential discomfort of those who don’t share the Christian view of the world? Is there any objective ‘comparative religion’ in amongst the parroted Christian dogma or is ‘monoculture’ the desired outcome?


If you are talking about enrolling your child in a faith based school, and if I were the enrolling officer, then I would be asking you why you are thinking of sending your child to this particular school. I would do this before I addressed the rather offensive assumptions that lie beneath your questions - intolerance, parroted dogma etc.

If you are talking about enrolling in a state school I would assure you that public schools do not teach that religion lies at the root of morality. Then I would address the issue of SRE, which is not part of the state curriculum and not taught by any of the school's regular teaching staff. I'd also raise a mental red flag and hope you'd take your child somewhere else.

QUOTE
-In-class extension-
Ability ranges within any classroom will always vary and newly implemented National Curriculum guidelines indicate that learning is to be further standardised for all students of a given age. Given that those towards the upper end of the ability range will likely meet targets within any lesson time early what measures do your teachers take to ensure gifted students are not struck with boredom and left to go ‘off the rails’. If ‘extra-work’ is issued to address this how can you expect brighter students to remain motivated and engaged when their reward for swift completion of a task is simply to be given more of the same to complete?
To assist with curriculum differentiation a ‘classic’ solution is to stream classes with students at the higher ability range grouped together to work on more sophisticated subject matter whilst classes with those less able are given time and assistance required to grasp the fundamentals.
Do you have streamed classes? Given the small size of your school how do you manage to effectively stream? Do you combine year groups in a ‘composite’ arrangement in order to effectively manage numbers?

-Class Sizes-
What is the average class size in your school?
What is the smallest class size in your school?
What is the largest class size in your school?
Do different subjects have different size ‘quotas’? (i.e. smaller classes for subjects that require more interactive teacher-student contact)

-Teacher Assessment-
Recent studies have shown that schools with firm teacher assessment strategies and a commitment to continuous monitoring and improvement consistently produce excellent results. What measures do you take to ensure your teaching staff are working the best way they could be?

-Extra-Curricular Participation-
Todays school students  are increasingly over-scheduled with a near continuous stream of activities filling their personal timetables.  Your school has a wide range of extra-curricular activities, many of which are conducted at times of the day which make transport difficult to manage. To what extent is participation in extra-curricular activity ‘compulsory’. In particular if school attendance is supported via a scholarship (in particular a musical ‘general excellence’ scholarship) does that scholarship come with a proviso of participation in extra-curricular groups and how many groups must a student belong to before that condition is deemed met?

-Curriculum Flexibility-
As a 10 year old there are very few of us that have a clear idea of our life’s ambition and career direction. Throughout our school years we are likely to slowly reveal a preferred direction and develop and idea of which areas of the curriculum we might like to specialise in. Being such a small school how are you able to ensure sufficient curriculum choice and opportunities to change in the future.

-Differentiators-
There are several schools in and around Brisbane that, based on published numbers alone meet or exceed the academic standards you have, for fees of a similar level and mention similar nurturing ideals  in their attractive promotional materials.
Is there anything that fundamentally separates your school from others, or do you believe quietly that you and your competitors are essentially offering the same value proposition just with a different coloured badge?

From all of the above, I sense that you are talking about a fairly expensive private school? If not, I have a feeling that a barrage of questions like those you have outlined will be considered OTT at your local public school. I'd narrow down the field to those issues that are most important to your child's education and social well being. No school is perfect. We need to find the school of best fit for each child.

#8 somila

Posted 04 March 2012 - 06:27 PM

In the PP's defence, WW, she did say that these are questions she would like to ask but probably wouldn't. original.gif

#9 Guest_Wombat Wife_*

Posted 04 March 2012 - 07:59 PM

Yes, I did note that but I wanted to warn her about laying it on too thickly. Best to narrow the focus a little and be seen as an interested parent than to bombard the teacher and be classed as a potential threat.

#10 DA_Phoenix

Posted 05 March 2012 - 08:42 AM

QUOTE (Wombat Wife @ 04/03/2012, 07:59 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
Yes, I did note that but I wanted to warn her about laying it on too thickly...


Yeah yeah - obviously I get that. Clearly those questions presented like that would make me look like an arrogant pompous idiot. However, the points remain valid - and perhaps with the exception of the words "parroted" and "dogma" I would like to know the answers to all those questions.



The schools we're looking at talking to are all reasonably pricey private schools which unfortunately all have christian associations. It seems in Brisbane at least you have a choice of state schools with a small amount of christian preeching (which you can opt out of) - or private schools with MORE christian preeching. The only alternative (for girls within an hours travel of us) is BGGS which is outside the affordable range and offers no scholarship opportunities ($240K for 2 kids). Clearly the christianity thing bugs me - but I know plenty (the majority perhaps?) of others ignore it and their kids manage to survive the ordeal - I'd like to know how? Theres a good chance that as of the 2012 census "No religion" could be the largest belief group in Australia (if not - then its only a matter of time) - that being so, isnt it a shame that the majority of our kids waste so much precious school time being taught 'religion according to christians'?


It may be that a school could provide answer to all these questions that would placate me and have me feeling more comfortable about the schools - but any institution that is unable to offer even an ATTEMPT at an answer is clearly not interested in addressing parent concerns (they must surely realise they are in a competetive business and need to appeal to their customer-base) and as such could forfeight the chance to have my business and will miss out on all the many and varied benefits they would otherwise get from my childs attendence at their school! tongue.gif

#11 unicycle

Posted 05 March 2012 - 09:49 AM

If, after the evening i was interested in the school, the question i would ask is : do you offer small school tours during school hours? I would then be looking at transitions: eg end of recess and into the start of the next class. Do these transitions occur smoothly? I wouldn't be looking for perfectly behaved classes, but ones with a sense of mutual respect and liveliness. This would help give me a good insight into whether the school's policies are working. A school which doesn't offer an opportunity to see the school in action would ring alarm bells.

#12 Guest_Wombat Wife_*

Posted 05 March 2012 - 06:22 PM

QUOTE (DA_Phoenix @ 05/03/2012, 09:42 AM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
The schools we're looking at talking to are all reasonably pricey private schools which unfortunately all have christian associations. It seems in Brisbane at least you have a choice of state schools with a small amount of christian preeching (which you can opt out of) - or private schools with MORE christian preeching. The only alternative (for girls within an hours travel of us) is BGGS which is outside the affordable range and offers no scholarship opportunities ($240K for 2 kids). Clearly the christianity thing bugs me - but I know plenty (the majority perhaps?) of others ignore it and their kids manage to survive the ordeal - I'd like to know how? Theres a good chance that as of the 2012 census "No religion" could be the largest belief group in Australia (if not - then its only a matter of time) - that being so, isnt it a shame that the majority of our kids waste so much precious school time being taught 'religion according to christians'?


It may be that a school could provide answer to all these questions that would placate me and have me feeling more comfortable about the schools - but any institution that is unable to offer even an ATTEMPT at an answer is clearly not interested in addressing parent concerns (they must surely realise they are in a competetive business and need to appeal to their customer-base) and as such could forfeight the chance to have my business and will miss out on all the many and varied benefits they would otherwise get from my childs attendence at their school! tongue.gif

Having taught in state schools and one catholic school and having had children attend both state schools and Anglican schools I would say forget the faith based schools. There is too great a mismatch between your personal values and the ethos of the school. As long as you see a christian education as an "ordeal" rather than a benefit, you will continually find what happens at the school an affront. There is nothing wrong with providing your children with a secular public education. Your children will benefit from not being torn between your values and the values being espoused by their teachers.

#13 bluesurrender

Posted 06 March 2012 - 02:11 AM

QUOTE (DA_Phoenix @ 05/03/2012, 06:42 AM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
...The schools we're looking at talking to are all reasonably pricey private schools which unfortunately all have christian associations. It seems in Brisbane at least you have a choice of state schools with a small amount of christian preeching (which you can opt out of) - or private schools with MORE christian preeching. The only alternative (for girls within an hours travel of us) is BGGS which is outside the affordable range and offers no scholarship opportunities ($240K for 2 kids). Clearly the christianity thing bugs me - but I know plenty (the majority perhaps?) of others ignore it and their kids manage to survive the ordeal - I'd like to know how? Theres a good chance that as of the 2012 census "No religion" could be the largest belief group in Australia (if not - then its only a matter of time) - that being so, isnt it a shame that the majority of our kids waste so much precious school time being taught 'religion according to christians'?...


I believe you mean preaching, not preeching.

I went to an Anglican, all-girls school (which is in the top fee bracket etc in WA which means it costs over 200k for a child to go from Kindy- Yr 12 and over 110k per child for high school) and I don't recall any preaching. We had chapel once a fortnight (45 mins) and three periods of Beliefs and Values (totaling 2hrs, 15mins) over a fortnight, too. In Beliefs and Values we learnt about the fundamental tenants and practices of Judaism, Buddhism, Islam and Hinduism, in addition to ethics and philosophy. We practiced guided meditation, discussed current social issues and our responses to them and discussed questions of morality that challenged more traditional Christian values- aka GLBTI rights.

Christianity was certainly not the only religion discussed and it was certainly not expected that we were religious or Christian by any means- in fact, opinion and perspective was often asked explicitly from girls who were non-religious or non-Christian for the sake of diversity and the generation of class interest.

In Chapel we sung songs, listened to 'sermons' that were generic yet relevant (aka sharing and being kind to others, illustrated both by bible stories and current real-world events), did 'housekeeping' type things (year notices etc) and took communion IF we wanted to. We weren't expected to participate beyond sitting and standing (when appropriate) quietly- demonstrating what I consider to be a basic level of respect for being in a holy place.

We had certain masses during the year (for ANZAC day, Easter, our schools patron Saint) but they were along fairly similar lines- nothing too arduous and confined to a certain time-period.

Obviously being from WA I'm not sure what your prospective school is like but from my experiences (and the experiences shared with me by others who have/are attended/attending similar schools) it is pretty standard from this type of school and totally non-invasive. You'll be glad to know that many of my friends remain happily non-religious (though not anti-religious), having survived through 5/7/12/15 years at the school.

I do think, though, that you need to be willing to support the ethos of the school to at least some degree (aka not want to stop your child attending compulsory events which have religious elements) if you are to send your daughter there. If you simply are not then you will need to find another school for you, her and the schools sake.

#14 DA_Phoenix

Posted 06 March 2012 - 10:17 AM

QUOTE (bluesurrender @ 06/03/2012, 02:11 AM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
.... We had chapel once a fortnight (45 mins) and three periods of Beliefs and Values (totaling 2hrs, 15mins) over a fortnight, too. In Beliefs and Values we learnt about the fundamental tenants and practices of Judaism, Buddhism, Islam and Hinduism, in addition to ethics and philosophy. We practiced guided meditation, discussed current social issues and our responses to them and discussed questions of morality that challenged more traditional Christian values- aka GLBTI rights.

Christianity was certainly not the only religion discussed and it was certainly not expected that we were religious or Christian by any means- in fact, opinion and perspective was often asked explicitly from girls who were non-religious or non-Christian for the sake of diversity and the generation of class interest....


*THIS* is the information that I need from schools on this subject! Instead (so far after reviewing published literature) I'm left with non-specific general statements that dont actually explain how they manage to resolve the inherrent conflict in promoting a particular faith as the basis of morality AND promoting multi-cultural harmony and tollerance (which it seems all schools claim to promote).

Anyway - I *do* accept that strong faith based schools are probably not going to be a good 'fit' for me. BUT Religion is only one factor in a choice of school. There are many other needs to consider and as I previously stated in Western Brisbane it seems that its a choice of a 'little' a 'lots' of faith in your schools (unless you pay for BGGS) - there is no secular education option (our current state school has a regular 'happy clapper' session where DD sits on her own in the libraryand do something constructive instead).

Perhaps state high-schools would be less invasive about their christianity? I dont know... Anyway - state high schools around here have other issues which current teachers and psychologists have flagged whilst suggesting they may not be a good fit for DDs particular blend of needs.

ANY school choice will involve compromising some beliefs or needs. I just have to decide which set of beliefs or needs is the easiest to bury and overcome. - In the end the religious aspect may well be the easier 'bitter pill' to swallow particularly as its a problem with the vast majority of schools.

Edited by DA_Phoenix, 06 March 2012 - 10:55 AM.


#15 Apageintime

Posted 06 March 2012 - 10:31 AM

DA_Phoenix

I went to one of Brisbane’s top Catholic schools, there was no forced religion in the senior years, and junior years RE was more about discussing social issues like refugees and bullying.

There was chapel weekly, but it was voluntary. There was prayers read at assembly, but no more than 2 mins.

In senior the RE was 'study of religion' that taught about various faiths (I think we covered, Judaism, Hinduism, Islam and Buddhism).

I think you might be over estimating the religious content tbh.

Edited by A.page, 06 March 2012 - 10:31 AM.


#16 somila

Posted 06 March 2012 - 07:15 PM

DA_Phoenix - I don't know what your child's special circumstances are but there are certainly excellent state high schools in the western suburbs of Brisbane.  (I am a current teacher.)  WRT religion I'm pretty sure the only place she would come across it is if she opts in to specific chaplaincy-based activities (lunch hour fellowship group or similar) or studies it in history, the arts or philosophy.

I think a sensitively-phrased question about inclusivity and tolerance of other faiths in the context of a Christian school is perfectly acceptable.  Why don't you email to ask how it is handled in the schools you are interested in?

Good luck.

Edited by somila, 06 March 2012 - 07:22 PM.


#17 DA_Phoenix

Posted 14 March 2012 - 10:53 AM

One interview down.....



...and it looks like one school has got itself dropped off (or at least pushed WAAAY down) our list.


The interview was cursory at best and felt rushed. They were clearly in a hurry to get rid of us and not wanting to engage in any significant discussion (so no opportunities for me to make a fool of myself asking awkward questions). One 'red flag' was when we were told blunty and with a straight face "we dont have any bullying in our school, so dont need a specific policy to deal with it" - to me this means they clearly dont know whats going on - theres ALWAYS bullying - it may not be serious, may not be a huge problem, but its always there.



Anyway - we were marched around the school rapidly and shown the bits they were proud of (which revealed a lot by ommision). The classes in progress did look well mannered and focussed and the sports facilities indeed very impressive, but we left with the overall impression that this school doesnt quite have priorities that match ours and that the only thing they seemed bothered about from us was how soon we could start paying them - it felt a like a speil from a cheap second hand car salesman.


So... one down, about 4 or 5 more to assess!

#18 bluesurrender

Posted 14 March 2012 - 04:56 PM

QUOTE (DA_Phoenix @ 14/03/2012, 08:53 AM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
One interview down.....



...and it looks like one school has got itself dropped off (or at least pushed WAAAY down) our list.


The interview was cursory at best and felt rushed. They were clearly in a hurry to get rid of us and not wanting to engage in any significant discussion (so no opportunities for me to make a fool of myself asking awkward questions). One 'red flag' was when we were told blunty and with a straight face "we dont have any bullying in our school, so dont need a specific policy to deal with it" - to me this means they clearly dont know whats going on - theres ALWAYS bullying - it may not be serious, may not be a huge problem, but its always there.



Anyway - we were marched around the school rapidly and shown the bits they were proud of (which revealed a lot by ommision). The classes in progress did look well mannered and focussed and the sports facilities indeed very impressive, but we left with the overall impression that this school doesnt quite have priorities that match ours and that the only thing they seemed bothered about from us was how soon we could start paying them - it felt a like a speil from a cheap second hand car salesman.


So... one down, about 4 or 5 more to assess!


Wow, that doesn't sound like a school I would want to send my daughter to! It sounds to me like a school under pressure, too. Perhaps they've not be receiving as many applications as they were like, or something has gone wrong and they're short on money?

Definitely best off elsewhere (regardless of religious aspects).




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