But then there are those practical concerns that fall into grey areas. Are you prepared to make certain sacrifices to send your child to a particular school if its other attributes make up for it?
Parents’ lives can be significantly affected by the school their kids go to. This is where my favourite theme, “will somebody pleease think of the parents?” comes in.
My kids have moved schools a few times and while I generally wasn’t 100% strategic when it came to choosing the best school for me as a parent, I wasn’t blind to noticing certain advantages and disadvantages.
School/after school hours
What is the earliest time the kids can arrive and the latest they can leave? In my case, I chose a school that had the most generous hours compared to the other schools in the area. Even though it was only 15 minutes on either side of the school day, those precious extra minutes bought me additional employability, not to mention a slightly more relaxed work day.
(I found out later that the school also has a disproportionately high number of pupil-free days each year. Oops.)
A decent before and after school care program is also a godsend for full-time working parents who don’t have a reliable network of babysitting relatives. Even for those of us working part-time or not working outside the home, having before and after school options can save your sanity and be useful for emergencies. And there’s no need to feel guilty – kids have a ball in these programs!
Another cool trick to extend those supervised hours? School buses! If the school offers a bus service that takes your kid from near your place to the school’s front gates, take advantage of the extra time they’ll be sitting on a supervised bus.
Are the uniforms easy to clean? Surprisingly, there are schools out there who think that white shirts are a good idea. If you don’t like spending loads of time in the laundry, consider schools with darker uniforms, or uniforms that are easy and cheap to buy in bulk.
Canteens and other lunch options
Canteens can be a saviour for disorganised parents, parents who want a break from the lunch-preparing routine, or for those mornings when the bread you’ve been planning to use for sandwiches has turned green overnight and you have no time to go to the shops.
Image: Flickr/Taylor Herring
The best school canteen I ever encountered was open every day and offered healthy, homemade and cheap lunches that could be ordered on the spot. On a lazy or hectic morning, all I had to do was throw down a few coins and I could rest assured that the kids wouldn’t starve in the day (or worse yet, buy only lollies).
Some schools have canteens that open only a few days a week, some require pre-prepared lunch orders and others offer last-minute online ordering options to make things easier for parents.
What is the drop-off/parking situation?
If you are going to be regularly dropping off and picking up your little ones from school, the ease of drop-off zones and parking can make a huge difference to your day. If you don’t want to break out in nervous hives every morning as you prepare to duck and weave through narrow streets without smashing any side mirrors or mowing down children, consider a school where the drop off and pick up situation is less stressful.