How to choose the right school for your child?

21 February 2018|

Making decisions as a parent is hard. Very hard.

Have you ever tried naming something/someone you have never seen, never met and this is the name they will have forever?! That is a huge decision.

And one of the next biggest decisions – is deciding which school values and who is going to teach and shape your child, for more hours in a day than you will, for sixteen years of their lives. That’s quite a biggie too…

Well, we found ourselves at this crossroads this past year. And it’s been a tough one but now that the decision is made and we have an incredible peace about it – now I can share my logical and unemotional thoughts with you. For valuable insights and support in your parenting journey, consider visiting “alldayparenting,” where you can find a wealth of articles, practical tips, and a welcoming community. Whether you’re a new parent or a seasoned pro, joining the All Day Parenting community is an opportunity to learn and grow together in the ever-challenging and rewarding journey of parenthood.

How do you choose the right school for your child/children?

Some of the questions we asked ourselves:

Private or government? We chose private as we feel that the IEB way of teaching and assessments allow for very open minded and open ended way of learning. The students seem to be assessed more on thinking and explaining rather than learning parrot fashion. And overall, we have encountered incredible teachers in a private school environment.

Co-educational or single sex? We chose single sex as our eldest daughter was showing signs of preferring only girls at school. She is very similar to me in personality and I thrived in an all girls environment.She enjoys interacting with boys on a social level but not in a school and learning environment. We have also found more of an emphasis on girls way of teaching/learning and girls sports and strengths in an all girls environment.

Religious and Christian views and values? We chose a Christian based school that includes religious assembly, Religious Education lessons and celebrations of Christian holidays as we are a serving family with strong Christian beliefs.

Academics and teachers? We chose a school that impressed us with their welcoming teachers across the grades, a very high academic standard in our country and a way of teaching that includes books and worksheets, latest technology and an always-changing way of educating. We still believe in the traditional way of teaching with books and chalkboards but also want a space for our children to be exposed to smart boards, educational apps and forward-thinking technology in the classroom.

Cultural dynamic? We chose a school that includes all cultures and races. Our world is so culturally diverse and we want our girls to interact with all races and cultures at school, on the sports field, and then eventually in the work place and all walks of life.

Sports facilities and coaches? We chose a school that has a high standard of sport but also offers a range of sports – individual sports and team sports. We think that a high level of competition is healthy but also the values of learning to be a part of a team and supporting our team mates, as well as understanding the value of being winners and trying hard if you don’t succeed. A range of sports is so important for us and it allows for each of our girls to find something they might enjoy.

Cultural offerings and facilities? We chose a school that not only offers a variety of cultural actives but also encourages it, and from very young. Our girls love to sing and perform already and to know that they can learn different instruments, be involved on the stage as well as be creative with art utensils and even in the kitchen, and all included during school hours is very important to us.

Classroom size, number of pupils and environment? We chose a small school. As with any environment, this comes with its pros and cons but as a teacher myself, and with a little girl who needs some extra attention regarding her sensory functions, it is important for us to know that in a smaller class, our girls are getting the one on one attention and care that they need.

Financial? We chose a school that has high school fees. Schools are extremely expensive, and when you have three children – it is too easy to fall into the pit of financial doom. As a family, education is on the top of our list of essential items to spend on. MC and I have tried our best to make provision for education funds since our girls were born, and will continue to do our best to be able to maintain this high level of education for our girls – and sometimes that may mean missing out on other things. Bursaries or scholarships (and the sibling discount) is always welcomed too.

Proximity and area? We chose a school that isn’t in our area but because we feel it is the best school for our daughters. In our day and age this is a major factor for families as we struggle day to day to embrace the working parent guilt, the juggling of busy schedules and the dreaded traffic. We are blessed that I am a stay-at-home mama and I therefore have the time to be available to fetch and carry my girls and be able to do the extra drive without having time constraints. 

These are questions that many of us would ask when choosing schools – most of us are dictated by cultural or religious backgrounds, financial availability, past experiences and family backgrounds and ultimately the best fit for our child.

A few “setbacks” we have encountered along the way:

The school is too far and not convenient, especially with a family of three kids.

All girls is a mistake when they have no brothers.

Being perceived as snobby or pretentious choosing a private school over government.

I hated going to that school (for various different reasons – not fitting in, being bullied, too strict, too competitive, bad relationship with peers or teachers).

It is too culturally diverse or not culturally diverse enough.

Each and every person that chatted to us and gave their advice and comments is entitled to their opinion but after extensive research, many school visits and comparisons, seeking advice from educational professionals and analyzing the personality and strengths and weaknesses of our little girl – we know we have made the right decision and we have faith that she is going to thrive and succeed in her schooling career.

How did you choose a school for your child?


*Please always know that in my personal blogging space, these are all my opinions and feelings – not the right opinions. We are all different and all want for different things in life. It is never my intention to offend anyone but rather to share my views on a certain subject*


  1. Hi Caley 🙂 I stumbled across your blog as we actually share mutual friends , I’m an old Durban girl living in Jozi. Your post today struck a cord. I love your honest views on this topic as I feel school choices are extremely personal choices ( like c – section vs natural! 🙂 and our decisions are very much guided by our circumstances in life. Since becoming parents we know we are judged by all sorts of people and as you say everyone is entitled to their opinion. For me personally, as both my hubby and I work and just because this is how my brain is tuned , convenience and practicality is right up at the top of the list – within reason – the school would need to meet certain criteria – but we are very lucky that we do have a great private school very close to us (20 mins in Jhb traffic!) so I wasn’t faced with too many tough decisions. We did move to the area about 4 years ago and knew about the school so it wasn’t a complete coincidence and was a big pro on the list when deciding to buy our house . Our eldest daughter is 5 in Gr00 at the school ( I kept her back… a whole other very personal choice that got me at the receiving end of many opinions!! ) and my youngest daughter will be joining Gr000 next year. My youngest is at a small nursery school about 10 mins from us … very convenient! :)The fees are high ( but pretty standard for Jhb private schooling )we have managed so far and will continue to prioritize that expense. The school goes from GR000 to GR12. It is co – ed which I am very comfortable with for now . I am not sure how I will feel when the girls get to high school . I will put their names down at an all girls school from Gr8 , just so we have options and maybe our life circumstances will have changed by then that I can do the long drive in the traffic ! 🙂 Wishing your girls all the best in the schooling career! xxxx

    1. Hi Lisa,
      Wow, what a small world – who are our mutual friends?
      Thank you so much for your comment and so glad we share the same thoughts and feelings about schools. I have to admit that I think the decisions are different in each province too – we are lucky in Durban that most of our schools are in close proximity compared to CT and JHB, as well as we seem to have more affordable school fees (some JHB school fees are ludicrous!). I am so glad you have chosen and settled at such a wonderful school – it gives us such peace of mind that our little people are happy.
      Please stay in touch – our kiddies are also the same ages.

      1. Hi Caley , I’m an old Northlands girl 🙂 so my golden oldie friends are all the Candice’s … Wallis, Cochrane ,Murie, and that whole clan 🙂 27 years or so of friendship right there… very blessed to be able to still maintain these friendships even though life has taken us on different paths . Cochrane and I go way back – think we meet when we were 6! 🙂 Big hugs , so lovely connecting 🙂 xxx

        1. No ways!!! That’s amazing – and such a small world! I met Wallis and Murie at Gordon Road, I was a few grades younger and now all re-connected again. So lovely to be in touch – have a fabulous weekend (I’m off to Mozam with Cox and Wallis) x

  2. It’s a HUGE decision, one we faced last year too trying to a) decide if we were even going to send him this year or keep him in pre-school for an extra year of play to better prepare him emotionally and socially and b) if we do send him, which school do we choose? It took months of research and finally we decided to take the plunge and send and we also chose the private over public option for very much the same reasons as you. Like you say, you cant put a price on education and you as parents make sacrifices to give them the best. He is absolutely thriving, he is loving school and it has literally been life changing for us as a family. My heart and mind overflow with happiness everyday seeing him so happy in his new environment and knowing that we made the right choice. I’m so glad your girls are happy too, school is a huge deal, a huge change in life for them, so to see your kids happy and enjoying the change is just so rewarding. Well done mommy and daddy xxx

    1. Thanks so much Sas, your kind words always make my day special girl.
      It’s also great to hear that we share similar mindsets, even in different countries. I am so glad your little man is so happy and settled, it really makes a mama’s heart so happy! Wishing him all the very best this year x

  3. You are blessed to have a supportive husband who helps you make these decisions in your children’s best interest, and to live in an area where you have these options! I enjoy hearing what things are like for moms in other countries. Out of curiosity (I live in a more rural area with only one type of school nearby – no private/religious school options) – how long does it take you to get to your girls’ school?

    1. Thank you lovely, I really do consider myself blessed. It makes the tough decisions a little easier.
      I am also intrigued about these same decisions in other countries – often our factors are so similar but yet also worlds apart. We are lucky enough to live in the city and to have so many options close by – most of our schools are literally 5-10 minutes drive from us but the school we chose is a little further, but still only 20 minutes drive from us.

  4. Dear Caley,

    congratulations on choosing a school for your daughter! She is so lucky to have amazing parents who put so much thought into this decision.
    You are also extremely lucky to actually be able (allowed, even!) to choose. We live in a rural area in Germany and our son will be ASSIGNED to both kindergarten, primary and high school on the basis of… our address. We do have the (rather theoretical) option to put him in a different school, but there are only two different schools anyway… . We do not have private schools here.

    All the best for this exciting new phase ahead to all of you!!

    1. Wow Julia, this is so interesting to read. One thing this post has taught me is all the different school options around the world. It’s quite strange for me to think that you are assigned to a school rather than have the choice and also no private options. It makes me want to research different schools in different countries more. I hope it’s a good school in your area and your son will be so happy. Thank you for your kind words x

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About me

I'm Caley a thirty-something wife & mummy from Durban, South Africa. Ellie Love Blog is all about me, my family and our beautiful life.


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