So, you want to send your child to a private school. You’ve decided to make the investment, you’re ready for a decade or so of laundering white shirts and you’re already picturing how cute they’ll look in their little knee socks and tie. There’s just the small matter of deciding which school you’re actually going to send them to—and in a city like Toronto, where your options can feel endless, that’s no straightforward task.
With insight from leading educators at Toronto’s top private schools, we’ll help you take some of the overwhelm out of this decision, in the form of three to-dos:
1. Focus on the fit
Unlike public schools, private education is not one size fits all. Choosing a private school for your child is an opportunity to tailor the environment to suit their unique needs and interests. Would your child benefit from a smaller school that prides itself on feeling like a family? Would they excel in an academically competitive environment? Would a school with a strong sports program—or theatre or math—help feed their passions? “This is going to be different for every child,” says Julie Champagne, head teacher at Park Street Education. “But the best fit is a school where your child feels like they belong, where they feel known, supported, and encouraged to reach their full potential.”
2. Ask yourself, “What makes a good education?”
At private schools, academic rigour is table stakes. “We like to think we tick off a lot more boxes than simply delivering curriculum,” says David Trehern, elementary principal at Unionville Montessori, where students are taught a grade-advanced curriculum. “Our focus is to not only nurture the academic lives of our students, but also provide them with an experience that allows them to understand their community, both at home and globally, in a much deeper, more meaningful way.” Different schools will approach this idea differently—think everything from religious edu- cation to wellness programs—so it’s important to consider what kind of influence you want your child to receive. “This is a critical time for your child’s personal development,” says Tracy Grisdale, principal at Central Montessori school. “The school’s philosophy and approach help to develop your child into the adult they will be.”
3. See the school facilities
You can look at brochures and websites all day, but you won’t really get a feel for a school without doing some homework. “We have open houses three times a year for parents to visit the school, meet administrators and teachers and ask questions,” says Treherne, adding that “This year, we have created a number of videos accessible through our school website.” If you want to dig even deeper, make an appointment for a one-on-one chat and a private tour with a school’s representative, and ask them if it’s possible to speak to any current parents, or even some school alumnae. Pro tip: Because smaller class sizes mean fewer spots, it’s worth starting this process at least a year beforehand to make sure you don’t miss out when you do find that perfect private school for your child.