When it comes to educating our children, some of us decide to opt for a private school due to reasons like smaller class sizes, enhanced learning opportunities, or personal reasons. Not all parents who decide to enroll their children into private schools are necessarily financially well-off but make a personal choice based on religion, desire for same sex schools, or to take advantage of excellent school facilities.
Canada has a large number of excellent private schools but not all private schools are excellent. As my daughter was bullied at a private school that subsequently did nothing to protect her or resolve the matter, I felt it important to share with parents the types of things they should consider when choosing a school.
- Ask your peers
The best starting point is to ask as your peers who have children attending private schools and ask for both positive and negative feedback on the school they are attending. They will be able to provide you insightful information and answers to questions you may not be able to find on the internet or in school brochures.
- Reviews and information can be bias
If you do not have peers that attend the private school you are interested in, find parent forums online where parents are able to freely comment on events, updates, and ask questions. Make sure that the pages are not run by the school itself as they are likely to be monitored and cleansed of negative commentary. Also keep in mind that parents can be biased so look through the collection of comments as a whole rather than just one or two.
A helpful guide is Our Kids, a resource that provides information for the best learning and living experiences for children. Our kids compares schools, provides short bios on staff, and even finds schools within different neighborhoods. Remember that the information provided to Our kids is usually by the school’s own marketing and public relations department. However, this is still a great resource to start your search.
- Know the Principal and the Board of Governors
The culture of the school is set by the people at the top. The culture in the principal’s office or at the boardroom table will filter down. This is particularly true in private schools where teachers are not unionized and do not want to go against their superior’s wishes.
Board of Governors have the responsibility to review and set overall policy. They also have the power to appoint and remove the principal. It can be helpful to research the Board of Governors and check that the other school boards they sit on have a good reputation as well. Next, research the principal to see their previous work experience and contributions to the community to have a better understanding of the person who may be your first point of contact if an issue arises. While social media has been detrimental to society in many ways, one of its redeeming features is its usefulness in learning more about the experience, past work, and views of the administration of a particular school.
- Finding information about private school staff can be difficult
The Ontario College of Teachers is the governing body and provides an overview on every public school teacher, including their qualifications and current standing. You can access it on their website. However, the Education Act, except for extremely limited circumstances, does not apply to private schools. Teachers at private schools are not governed by a professional body and their disciplinary record is not made available publicly. Therefore, it can be difficult to find relevant information about teachers at public schools.
- Bullying is not just in public schools
There is often a misconception that bullying only occurs in public schools. However, when families from different backgrounds and financial positions come together at a private school, the bullying can be even worse. This fact has been well-documented in Rogerson Law Group’s lawsuits against Havergal College, a private girls school in Toronto.
Private schools can be an excellent choice for parents who want their children to be in smaller classes, have more structure, and have experiences that may not be available in public schools. Sadly, students are not always safer at a private school. Students can suffer undue pain from lack of support from their school or administration and there is little recourse for families. That’s why Rogerson Law Group has taken on the case of Jane Doe vs. Havergal College. Jane Doe suffered relentless bullying to the point that she tried taking her life on two separate occasions. Her case reminds us all of the importance of making an informed decision about your child’s private school to ensure their long-term success.