For expert advice on a wide range of questions related to choosing a school, read our comprehensive choosing guide. You can also read our parent interviews on choosing a school, as well as our in-depth advice guide on getting into a private school.
On school red flags
“High staff turnover is a bad sign. You want strong leadership too, so if the principal, headmaster, or board of directors is changing every couple of years, this points to a lack of stability. If my child is in grade 2, I’d like to know there’s continuity from grade 2 to 3.
What are the goals of the school? What are their priorities? How do they approach the curriculum? If a school can’t answer those questions, this is not a good sign.”
—Ann and Karen Wolff, Education Consultant, Wolff Educational Services
“Bad schools aren’t transparent: they don’t communicate clearly or they do so with a spin. You should also avoid schools that give you a high-pressure sales pitch: schools that accept your child and try to get you to sign on the dotted line right away, and that want all the money up front. Of course, this is different than a school that sends out a letter that says ‘We need to know in 10 days, because we have a waiting list.’”
—Janyce Lastman, Education Consultant, The Tutor Group
“The biggest red flag is a lack of commitment to understanding your child. And that might mean not doing initial testing, not looking at a child’s assessment, or not meeting for an in-person interview. And you want to make sure that communication goes both ways. It’s almost like a dating service: you need to vet the school out, and decide if it’s the right fit for your child.”
—Una Malcolm, Director, Bright Light Learners
“I wouldn’t recommend a school that didn’t have good practices. Practice, leadership, education philosophy, execution, teachers, parent community, a joyful learning environment, parent participation, a solid admission process… It’s all about good practice, and if it’s not all there, to me it can’t be a good fit.”
—Elaine Danson, Education Consultant, Danson and Associates