Sometimes it can be a challenge as a parent to truly know what the best course of action is when it comes to whether or not your child should transfer to a new school. Whatever the reason, you think your child should switch schools, but you just aren’t sure. Is it truly necessary? Would your child benefit from a change, or would it only make things more complicated?
Should you wait it out, or go with your gut?
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Though there isn’t a cut-and-dry answer for every family and every child, there are some general guidelines that can help parents determine whether or not switching schools is a necessity. Here are the top four reasons that switching your child to a new school may be the best option for you.
Editorial Note: We have added a section to this article specifically addressing questions around COVID-19. To jump to that section, please click here.
1. Your child is unhappy.
Does your child enjoy going to school? Are they excited to tell you about their day, and about what they’ve learned? Do they come home deflated, or beg you to stay home even when they’re not sick? Have you noticed an increase in disciplinary actions due to distraction or acting out?
All of these can be signs of an underlying problem that is holding your child back from being the best student that they can be, and may point to concerns that you should take action to resolve..
No parent wants their child to be unhappy. Unfortunately, sometimes that is unavoidable: Friends move, family dynamics change, toys break. But when feelings of unhappiness are being caused specifically by your child’s time at school, it is essential to get to the bottom of what is happening so that you can rectify the situation before it spirals out of control.
If you have noticed that your child is truly unhappy at school, social concerns like bullying, peer pressure, and other challenges may be coming into play. These issues can often be settled by partnering with your child’s teachers and school, but sometimes parents will need to take action and remove their child from the situation completely by switching schools. A new school may be the fresh start that your child needs to be truly happy.
In a case like this, you should evaluate new schools specifically based upon how they would handle a situation similar to the one your child is currently in. If your child is being bullied and harassed, for example, understand the new school’s policies on bullying. This will ensure you are making a switch that will actually lead to a positive change for your child.
2. Your child’s current school just isn’t a good fit.
If you start to notice that your child just isn’t thriving at their current school, it’s important to pay attention and try to understand why. Is there something going on at home, or with friends, causing your child to be distracted or otherwise not perform to the best of his or her ability?
Sometimes you’ll find that there is an underlying cause that can be addressed and that, once resolved, leads to improvements in your child’s performance. But other times the answer won’t be so straightforward.
It’s not that there’s anything wrong, per se. The school just isn’t a good fit for your child’s needs. Maybe the environment is distracting. Maybe your child learns better when a different teaching strategy is used. Maybe there are social aspects at play within your child’s peer group that is causing disruptions.
Unfortunately, because of the bureaucracy and regulations typically involved in the way public schools operate, it can be difficult to address issues related to “fit.” In these cases it is often in the best interest of the child to find a school that is better equipped to meet your child’s unique educational needs.
If your child learns better through action than dictation, for example, seek a school that emphasises hands-on learning. If your child is a creative soul and their current school doesn’t offer many creative outlets, seek a new one that makes room for creativity and curiosity. If your child has proven adept at memorizing facts and figures, but has a hard time integrating lessons between classes, seek a school that specializes in thematic learning.
3. Your child stops developing or progressing.
Parents send their children to school for a reason: To learn, progress, develop, and grow in ways that would be difficult for them to achieve at home. On all levels—academically, socially, emotionally, intellectually—that incremental progress is incredibly important.
When parents notice that their child has stopped progressing in any of these areas, it is often because their child’s current school is no longer challenging them enough to force them to grow. (This can be especially concerning for fast learners or gifted students.) Other times, it is because your child’s needs simply aren’t being met in some way or another.
Sometimes these issues can be resolved by placing your child in more advanced or different classes, such as AP classes, within their current school. But sometimes this isn’t possible, or it just isn’t enough.
Staying put may be the easy thing to do, but it likely isn’t the best: When children stop progressing, parents would be wise to begin searching for a new school that can better encourage them to continue to progress and grow.
4. You have concerns about your child’s safety.
It really goes without saying that if you are concerned about your child’s emotional or physical wellbeing—whether because you’ve noticed an increase in accidents, a lack of attention by faculty, or you’ve seen concerning actions such as screaming, shoving, or other kinds of inappropriate contact—you should take immediate action to remove your child from the situation and, if necessary, report the behavior to the proper authorities so that it can be reviewed.
If you approach your child’s teachers or school administration with concerns and they brush you aside, that may be another red flag that it’s time for a change in school.
Switching Schools Because of COVID-19
Many parents who were previously happy with their child’s current school have had to rethink that evaluation during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic that emerged last spring. While the pandemic came as a surprise, and schools understandably needed to act quickly to protect their students, some schools fared better—and some worse—than others.
Are you less than happy with how your child’s school handled the pandemic? Are you considering making a switch specifically because of how the school performed during the crisis? While this is naturally a personal decision that all families will need to make for themselves, below are three signs that it might be time to make a change:
- Your child isn’t thriving: If your child was previously thriving at school but is now showing an indifference or even a disdain for school, it’s important to understand what has caused the change. While a certain level of stress is natural and to be expected, taking steps to address it now can help you salvage your child’s love of learning. If your school cannot help you figure out a path forward, then it may be time to make a switch to a school that can.
- There’s no “community” anymore: Your school’s community is a big part of why your child loves going to school. Social distancing guidelines have understandably changed what this community looks like. Clubs and teams might, for instance, be meeting virtually instead of in person, but they are hopefully still connecting. If your child’s school has been unable to facilitate this community during the pandemic, then your child is likely missing out on an important part of school, and you might want to consider a school that prioritizes community as much as you do.
- Your child isn’t progressing: Just as this would be a concern during “normal” times, it’s a concern during COVID-19. Keep an eye out for clues that your child has stopped growing academically, socially, and emotionally. There may be steps that you can take to keep them engaged and to limit the amount of learning loss they experience over the summer. But if we are going to experience more of the same come fall, it may be time to find an alternative school.
Doing What’s Best
Every parent wants to make sure that they’re doing what’s best for their child, but it can sometimes be a challenge to know what, exactly, the best thing to do is. Luckily, when it comes to knowing whether or not you should switch your child to a new school, the above guidelines can help you make a better, more informed decision.