questions to ask when choosing a World Class school

As parents, we all know that selecting the right school for your child is critical to ensuring their long-term successful development and happiness. It goes without saying that all parents want the very best for their children and, with the choice of schooling options available in India, the path to finding the right institution may sometimes feel a little daunting.

More than ever before, the advantages of a global education is pertinent in today’s society. A multicultural environment and a global mindset, coupled with strong academic credentials, third-language capability, and access to the world’s best universities and colleges make a World Class School like Wellington College could be a compelling choice for parents.

Increasingly we are presented with wide range of domestic and international school brands, each with their own strengths. Progressive, future focused parents will, rightly, do meticulous research when compiling a shortlist of schools: conducting visits, meeting teaching staff, observing the learning environment and culture to ensure their chosen school sets their child on the best possible path for success – not just in education, but on into adulthood.

Here, we share with you some insider secrets for what to look for and key questions to ask when deciding on your choice of school.

1. Does the school have a genuine network, or link with a mother school overseas? How does the network enhance student development and international culture?

There is a wide choice of international schools in India, including many standalone schools and recently some top-quality branches of highly-respected UK and US schools. Without a doubt, a school with an outstanding global network has an advantage in reputation and credibility. A long-established ‘mother school’ with successful alumni has great name-value, especially in terms of educational standards. Parents should understand the power of a school's network, the strength of its links with the mother school overseas, and how all that enhances the quality of their child's education. Wellington College Pune’s relationship with our mother school in the UK is uniquely strong. Take one piece of that relationship: Scott Bryan, Senior International Director at Wellington College International (UK), sits on our Board and is a regular visitor to India, supporting our development in numerous areas. Iain Henderson, Deputy Head at Wellington College (UK) takes care of all academic and CPD activities for partner schools including the coaching of teachers, provision of workshops for parents, and the mentoring of our scholars. Students in the Senior School have the opportunity to spend time as a boarder at Wellington College UK to experience a true British Boarding School and make contact with influential peers around the world.

2. How does the school recruit and retain the best teachers?

Besides the high-quality curriculum that a school delivers, teachers themselves are an essential and high-value part of your child's learning. Each school has different approaches to its teacher recruitment. A good school should have a very detailed teacher recruitment process, which looks beyond just the application form or job interview. The school should conduct an additional evaluation on the teacher's actual classroom skills, for example, by observing their teaching at their current school and having a conversation with their referees to find out more about capability and attitude. At Wellington, this is something we have always done. Teachers go through a rigorous selection progress, including a teaching observation and multiple interviews with leadership teams. As a result, we have some of the most highly qualified and experienced teachers in India – with British teaching qualifications and experience, gained in some of the best schools in the UK and around the world.

3. How does the school’s curriculum prepare students for higher education?

Most parents hope that their child will find success at an outstanding university. A good school should have a strong curriculum foundation that prepares students securely for university. For example, if you aim to support your child to continue their studies in the UK, it makes sense to look for a school that offers IGCSE and A-Levels or IB Diploma. And then to examine, in detail, how the school supports students on their university pathway – with examination preparation as well as enrichment activities, which provide students with a broad range of experiences to make them into precisely the sort of well-rounded, interesting students that universities want to see in the application process.

At Wellington, we have a strong history of supporting students to reach the academic institution of their choice – and helping them in their career paths after that. Our university counselling capability, shared across all wellington Colleges across the globe; our mentoring programme with Wellington College in the UK; and our very powerful alumni network, supported via the ‘Wellington Connect’ global platform, ensure a student at Wellington remains a Wellingtonian for life.

4. What are the school’s outstanding features?

Top schools generally have similar facilities, including sports fields, swimming pools, attractive dining options, and professional-type performance spaces and theatres. Beyond these facilities, though, parents must look for strengths that distinguish one school from another: seemingly minor details may well significantly impact students' learning development. For example, a small number of world class schools have dedicated ‘Harkness’ classrooms. Harkness is a teaching and learning method involving students seated at a large, oval table to discuss ideas in a dynamic, open-minded environment with only occasional or minimal teacher intervention. It encourages the practical development of critical thinking, a set of skills that will benefit any future leader or CEO. At Wellington College Pune, our approach is to develop this method from the tender age of 8 or 9, and we have built dedicated Harkness rooms to cater for this type of learning.

5. How does the school keep students happy?

A good education is not solely about academic excellence. It should also give due weight to each child's happiness, alongside and within the processes of learning and skill development. Besides looking at how well-equipped the classrooms are, parents should consider the school's campus and facilities as an environment, designed to support every aspect of development, from pure recreation to the honing of social skills. And what are the school's social and cultural approaches? For example, how does the school train their staff (and students) to head off bullying effectively before it develops? How would the school instil good behaviour and the right attitude in your child?

The Wellington College, Berkshire was the first school in the UK to introduce Wellbeing into the curriculum, as a focus for learning and study. We know that being happy can be enormously beneficial for a child’s success in education and – needless to say – life, and we strive to ensure this is the case with all students in our care.

6. How can parents participate in their child’s school life?

Parents should find out about how the school approaches the importance of real partnership between teachers and parents. It is useful to understand what a school has to offer in terms of parent community, and dedicated parent support workshops and information sessions aimed at helping parents support their child’s learning experiences. Although a school may offer an excellent curriculum, parents these days should be aware of, and have access to, the learning experiences their children are undertaking. Ensuring that your chosen school has a senior leadership team which is unfailingly open to listening, and genuine dialogue with individual parents (not just groups) is critical.

7. How much weight is given to sports and the arts?

Einstein said, "Imagination is more important than knowledge”. A school that offers a range of activities to stimulate and inspire your child’s conceptual and creative imagination tends to have more successful students. Next time you conduct a school visit, be sure to ask about the co-curricular offering. Parents should look out for genuine commitment to the arts, to culture, to languages, to a wide range of sports, and to other activities that will enhance both learning development and personal motivation. Like many world class schools, Wellington offers an exciting and broad range of such opportunities, through its expansive co-curricular programme.

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