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Choosing a school – What Makes A School The Right One for my Child?

Choosing a school – What Makes A School The Right One for my Child?

by Lis ONealApril 6, 2017

To some extent, choosing your child’s school is not dissimilar to choosing a home.  In this case, you will probably want to consider location, budget, facilities and perhaps, the reputation of the developer.  You may want a particular style of home. You will probably identify several options and have a check-list of requirements in mind before you arrange a viewing.

Often, the home seems to meet your needs, but when you visit it, somehow it just doesn’t fit…And then, eventually, you find the one that is somehow…just right. This is often a more emotional decision than purely a practical one.

In choosing a school, you will probably also go through a similar process.  Irrespective of all the research you may do, the recommendations you may find, and the “paper” match with your requirements, often, it is not until you visit a school that you get that sense of it just feeling… right.

However, we appreciate that not all parents are able to visit schools before making their choice. Most school websites will tell you all the information that you may feel you need. You can find out much through checking the Reviews and School Question and Answer responses on our sister site,  and then narrow down your choices on with our unique Compare feature.

If you are planning a move to the UAE, read our Guide to the Rules and Regulations for Enrolment.

If you a considering a change of curriculum for your child, read our Guide to changing schools and curriculum.

This guide will give you those criteria, in addition to the curriculum, that we believe are likely to be among your priorities. Once you have thought through your views on these topics, you will have the start of a check-list that you can use to narrow down your options to a short-list of schools to which you will want to apply.

We have compiled a check-list of questions that you can download to take with you on school visits at the following link – School visit checklist.

The criteria mentioned here are not exhaustive and you may well have others that you wish to add, but we hope that they will act as a starting point towards your road to choosing the right school for your child.

One of the key decisions will be location. The school location maps on sister site are particularly helpful here.

Whether you already have a home in the UAE or a planning a move here, location will be one of your first considerations. Dependent on the age of your child, you will need to consider whether you want to take your child to school each day and collect him/her (or make arrangements) for the return journey, or if you are willing for your child to travel by bus. Many, but not all, schools provide transport services. The journey can be a long one, depending on the number of stops on the way.

Whichever option you choose, location of the school will be an important factor. Don’t overlook that as your child gets older, s/he will probably want to be involved in extra-curricular and after school activities – something that schools and we would strongly encourage. Do check that if you are not able to arrange the late pick-ups, the school bus services cater for this.

Bear in mind too, that just because there are schools located close to your home, there are no “catchment areas” in the UAE with priority entry for local residents. Almost all expatriate children are obliged to attend private schools and many of the more established ones in larger cities are heavily over-subscribed. For this reason alone, it is worth starting your search well ahead of the time when you expect your child to start school, so that you have flexibility to move if you feel this is the best option.

Your budget is likely to be another important factor in your decision. Fees vary enormously between schools with older established schools often being more affordable than newer ones, but the former are also likely to be less accessible due to high demand and limited availability.


Overview – your framework to choose
NEXT: Acceptable fees – what does that mean?
Reputation and school ratings
Accreditation, why that matters
New versus established schools
Teachers and staffing
Specialist subjects
Additional Language, or Learning Needs

About The Author
Lis ONeal

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