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Your little one has reached school going age and it’s time to choose schools for them. This is one of the toughest decisions you will ever make as a parent.

Remember that your child will spend a good portion of their lives in the care of the school you choose and there are many things that you will need to take into account. If you have waited until they are actually at school going age you may have waited too long. If you want to send your child to a good, private or even government school, you will need to start making decisions before they are even born. Most good schools in

South Africa have waiting lists all the way to 2025, so as soon as you find out you are pregnant you need to put your child’s name down at the school of your choice. If you have chosen single sex schools you will need to put your surname down at both schools, and change this once you know the sex of your baby. It might even help to put your name down while you are trying to conceive your baby.

Private vs. Government
At any dinner party you attend you will find that conversation will eventually turn to the state of our country and its public services. This will invariably include public schools, a lot of what you hear may be true. You can’t base your decision on hearsay and private schools are a very expensive option, so it will help you a lot to check out the differences between the two.

Private Schools:
Attendance:
In a private school it doesn’t matter what area you live in if you can pay the fees you don’t necessarily have to live or work within the school’s feeder area.

Class Size:
Private schools usually have a smaller classes which usually consists of an average of about 18 children per class. If the class is larger a teaching assistant is usually put into place so that a ratio of 1 teacher to 18 learners is kept.

Fees:
A good private school could cost you anything from R5 000 per month depending on the school.

Extra-Murals:
Most private schools offer extensive extra-mural programmes. Each school is different, so investigate this before you enrol your child.

Government Schools:
Attendance:
If you want your child to go to a specific government school you will need to live or work in the feeder area around the school. If you don’t you will need to get special permission for your child to attend the school

Class Size:
Government school classes are larger and work on an average of 1 teacher to every 33 learners.

Fees:
A state aided school could cost anything from R6 000–R15 000 per year. Fees are decided by the school’s governing body and depend on the level of state funding available. If a parent can’t afford to pay the school’s fees they can get a fee reduction or exemption.

Extra-Murals:
A government school’s extra-mural programme depends on the level of funding available from parents and the state. Some schools are more limited than others.

How to Find a School
The contact details of most schools in South Africa are available in the South African Schools Guide on our website. Make a short list of schools that you might want to send your child to. Once you have done this go and visit the schools, talk to the staff members and be sure to see the grounds and facilities. This will give you a good idea of the schools culture and ethos. It would be disastrous if you chose a school based purely on reputation only to find that it goes against all of your views on child rearing. Once you have seen the schools and have a good idea of what they are all about choose 2 or 3 of your favourites and put your name down at these. Once again, it is very important that you do all of this before the baby is actually born.

What to Consider
While you are making the decision on schools for your little one take the following into account;

Discipline:
Does the school’s belief system on discipline match up with your family’s? This is very important in order to prevent arguments with teachers and the school as a whole at a later stage.

Religious and Ethical Beliefs:
Does the school have the same belief systems as your family’s? This will help your child fit in.

Teaching Methods:
Does the school teach in a way that you find acceptable? Different schools have different methods of teaching and it is important to investigate this in order to determine if the method is acceptable to you.

Co-ed or Single Sex:
You will need to decide if you want your child to attend school with children of the opposite sex. There are pros and cons to both systems. Many parents feel that children should go to co-ed primary schools and single sex high schools.

Primary or High School:
Does the school have a high school or will your child have to change to a school that does? It is important that your child is able to continue their high school education with friends and teaching methods that make them feel comfortable, so often it isn’t advisable to change schools.

Cost:
Will you be able to afford the school’s fees in the long term? If you do not think that you will be able to afford the school fees in the long term take others into consideration. It is not fair for your child to be pulled away from what they know because you can’t afford the fees, although this can’t always be helped.

Final Word
At the end of the day the school that you choose must suit your requirements. This makes it a very personal decision, so do not rush into it and end up making a mistake that will be too late to change.

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