Education: seven criteria for choosing a school

Not all families have several primary schools on hand. In the city, the offer is generally wider than in the countryside. But even those who only have to decide between two schools should do so conscientiously. If the child has special skills or needs support, it is important to consider which concept fits best. The following criteria can help in choosing a school:

1. Distance

Closer is often an advantage: the bigger the family, the more the school has to adapt to the daily routine. Location is therefore an important consideration. “The further away from school, the more often parents have to accompany their children to friends who also live elsewhere,” says parents’ coach Viola Herrmann from Berlin. She herself is a mother of four children. If you initially accompany the six and seven-year-olds to the school gate, this will no longer be necessary later on. If children can walk or cycle to school, you help them expand their autonomy over the next school years, says Herrmann.

2. friends

It works even without familiar faces: As a second aspect, parents often name friends. “The children already know in kindergarten which schools there are and who goes where,” says Viola Herrmann. School psychologist Uwe Sonneborn claims that friends from kindergarten go to school. So the baby is not alone. “But this shouldn’t be used as the only point of reference,” he says. Viola Herrmann observed how it works without a best friend. “In first grade, kids often only need ten minutes on the playground before they make new friends,” she says. The concern that children are very lonely there is often not confirmed.

3. Pedagogical concept

How is the child supported? Primary school director Christiane Mika recommends examining the pedagogical concepts of schools in advance. These should express whether to “think from the child’s point of view”: are there concepts of open learning? How does each child achieve learning success? And how is performance evaluated and reported? These are questions parents need answers to. Handicaps such as learning difficulties or obvious social behaviors should be discussed with the school in advance. “During a conversation, you can usually see how the school deals with it,” says psychologist Sonneborn.

4. Type of school

A good school is possible everywhere: “There is no fundamental difference in quality between state and private schools,” says Andrea Preussker of the Robert Bosch Foundation. Each year, your committee awards good schools with the German School Prize. Lessons and performance are assessed, as well as school climate and diversity management. Anyone who feels even better in a private school should check out what he promises. As a rule, there are things that improve the quality of the lessons: more staff, better technology and equipment. “But you can’t rely on that,” says head coach Viola Herrmann from personal experience.

A model school may be suitable for your child if you want to better support his or her talents and preferences. “A Waldorf school welcomes the musical, creative and playful elements of children,” says Uwe Sonneborn. However, subsequent training and study systems are not designed for Waldorf students. “This therefore requires a high degree of adaptation,” says the psychologist.

Non-graded classes offered by the Waldorf and Montessori schools can also be helpful. But: “Some children need the pressure of the notes,” says Viola Herrmann. “They think it’s great to be challenged and confronted, but other children suffer from it.”

5. Care

Especially important in the first grades: Parents should also know who takes care of the children during the transition to primary school. “Social education professionals are absolutely necessary,” says director Christiane Mika. They support children in their new daily school life. “But what parents have to say goodbye to is close supervision with few children per specialist such as in kindergarten,” says Viola Herrmann. This dissolves immediately in first grade, so children have to become more independent.

Supervision questions also include whether the school offers lunch and whether the children get help with their homework in the afternoon. For working parents, a full day offer may be useful. According to Christiane Mika, the school should allow this to be shaped in terms of content and organization. This is “an important decision-making factor”.

6. Services

Before the decision is made, the school should be visited at least once with the child. A good opportunity is the open day. From inside it is much easier to see if the classrooms are suitable for children and if the equipment is modern. “A varied playground that promotes fine motor skills also speaks for a school,” says Viola Herrmann. On the day, the teachers give a short introduction to the school. “Parents should pay attention to the first impression: is what is being described authentic? Or a show?” Advises Uwe Sonneborn. Parents should use the opportunity to ask questions, but not get bogged down in details. “Like the seating arrangement or when the school trip takes place,” she says.

It is best to think about supervision or plan questions for the first year in advance. Here you can already see if the teachers see the single child or are more interested in the transfer of knowledge, that is, the lessons.

7. Attend the lessons

If you still have doubts about your choice of school, you can ask the school administration to take you part. “In the lesson, parents and children see at least a small part,” says parent coach Viola Herrmann. It is not just about the content, but also about the relationship. “A teacher must be able to win over children,” she says.

Friendliness, empathy and competence are particularly important. This means that it is fair and communicated without being loud or offensive. “Children attach great importance to this,” says Herrmann. Uwe Sonneborn also confirms that relationship work is an important indicator of “whether a school is suitable or not”.


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Parents should therefore share their impressions with their child. In the end, however, it is the parents who have to decide on the choice of school. Anything else would overwhelm the baby, says Uwe Sonneborn. When the decision is finally made, “parents should not report any doubts about their choice of school”. On the contrary: “You should give the child a sense of security when he goes to school,” says the school psychologist. (Dpa)

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