"Moving may be stressful and challenging, but it can also be an excellent new beginning – it can give you the chance to build a happier life and a brighter future for yourself and your family. And if you have school-aged children, this means giving them quality education so they can thrive in a competitive, evolving world – and achieve a bright future.
So, when moving, you’ll want to make sure that your kids will be able to go to a good school – a school that will help them develop their potential and succeed in life. However, finding the right school for your child can be a significant challenge – especially if you’re moving to a new city or country and aren’t familiar with the educational opportunities in the area.
You need to consider a number of essential factors and carefully research your options in order to find a school that fits your kids’ needs and your family’s lifestyle. And once you’ve made a choice, you need to know what steps to take when transferring your child to another school.
What to consider when moving and changing schools
When moving to a new place, you’ll be thinking about what will be best for you and your family – in terms of location, home features, school districts, affordability, etc. You’ll have to assess your lifestyle, needs and preferences, budget and goals, and make wise decisions about your move and the place where you’re going to live.
1) Identify your child’s needs
Different children have different needs and thrive in different environments. To find the school that will be the perfect fit for your kids, you need to consider their abilities, interests, and learning style:
Find a school that will provide a friendly and motivating learning environment for your kid and help them develop their full potential:
• Will your kid feel more comfortable in a small school or a large one? What about the class size?
• Do they thrive in a structured learning environment with clear rules, strict schedules, and strong discipline, or do they prefer to have more independence and study at their own pace?
• Does your child require special education services or need any tailor-made programs such as gifted learning, language immersion, or mentoring?
• What subjects hold your kid’s interest? Are you looking for a school that focuses on science, technology, mathematics, languages, humanities, or the arts?
• What extracurricular activities (sports, music, theatre, art, etc.) does your child enjoy? How important are these activities to your kid?
• What is the end goal? If your kids want to go to college, they’ll need a curriculum that will get them ready. If they prefer a technical skill or trade, it’ll be best to find a vocational school that offers career-focused courses and practical training.
• Determine what’s important to you in a school, what kind of education you want your child to receive, and what kind of learning environment will be best for your little one, so you know what to look for when choosing a new school for your kid.
2) Coordinate your school-related wishes with your housing requirements and your family’s needs:
When education is of primary concern, people first find a school they like and then start looking for a house or apartment in the neighbourhood. More often, families move to a specific place for a reason (lovely house, good neighbourhood, proximity to workplace, affordable costs, etc.) and then try to find the best school in the area.
If you prefer your child to go to a private school, you’ll have more flexibility about the location of your new home, as you won’t need to take school districts into account. If you want your kid to go to a public school, though, school boundaries will be crucial in your decision on where to live.
Whatever the case in your situation, you must carefully coordinate your needs and wishes, so you don’t end up enrolling your child in a great school only to find out that you can’t afford to live in the area (home prices in top-rated school districts tend to be relatively high) or buying a great home only to find out that there are no good schools nearby.
How will your child get to school? It would help if you considered transportation options and commute times as well – your child may need transportation to and from school, your preferred school district may be very far from your workplace, etc.
3) Decide on the best time to move
If you have the liberty to choose the time of your move, the summer months are your better option – it will be much easier to switch schools during the summer break, and your kid will be able to begin the new school year in their new school. This way, the transition will be easier as your little one will be already used to their new surroundings and their new life and may have even met – and made friends with – some of their new classmates during the summer.
On the other hand, moving during the school year will give your child an opportunity to meet new friends and adapt to the new environment more quickly.
The best time to move schools depends on the age of your kid, their attitude toward the move (and toward their current school), and many other factors (participation in school events, extracurricular activities, etc.) – talk to your child and decide what will be best for everyone.
How to find a good school when moving
Once you’ve identified your kid’s needs and the needs of your family and specified your requirements (what a school must have) and preferences (what would be nice for the school to have), you can start searching for the best new educational institution for your child. Take into account both the traditional considerations (test scores, student-to-teacher ratio, after-school programs, teacher training, subject matter focus, discipline, safety, etc.) and the more modern ones (diversity, learning environment, support programs, fostering creativity, etc.):
1. Ask for recommendations
Your first step when looking for a new school for your kid is to try to find some first-hand information about the educational institutions in your new area:
• Your child’s teachers will be able to tell you what kind of school will best suit your little one;
• Seek advice from your child’s current teachers – ask them whether they can recommend a school in your new location that they think will suit your son or daughter;
• Tell everyone you know about your move and ask friends, relatives, coworkers, neighbours if they have any information about the schools in your new town or city;
• Ask your real estate agent. Realtors know how important school ratings are to homebuyers, so they gather comprehensive information on all local educational facilities and can give you specific facts, statistics, and details about the schools in your new area. You can usually find information on nearby schools on real estate listings as well;
• If you have already chosen a neighbourhood to move to, talk to people in the district who have schoolchildren and ask them about their opinions. You can speak to them in person or meet them online in communities like Nextdoor or Facebook discussion groups. You may also find parent reviews online that will help you compare schools in your new area.
2. Use online resources
Thanks to the Internet, you can easily find detailed information on every school in your new location – and compare the educational institutions so you can pick the right one for your child.
School district websites provide a list of all public and private elementary schools, secondary schools, and higher education institutions in the district, together with their contact details, enrollment procedures, school schedules, and information about after-school programs.
Individual school websites provide all kinds of information about the respective educational institution – its history, mission statement, students’ dynamics, awards and achievements, special programs, school calendar, etc. You may even find photo slide shows, videos, and virtual tours of the schools that will give you a pretty realistic idea of what to expect.
Good to remember: While it’s essential to know how a school performs academically, keep in mind that there is more to a school than test grades – you need to consider the overall educational environment with all its aspects (teaching style, expectations from students, teacher-student relationships, student-student relationships, behaviour policy, school culture, school surroundings, on-site facilities, etc.) when choosing a new school for your child.
3. Visit the schools in person
Having researched the educational institutions in your new area, you’ll be able to narrow down your choice to three or four schools that you think will best suit your child. If possible, try to visit each of these schools in person – it is the only way to get a true feeling about the school’s learning environment.
• It’s best to call the school beforehand and schedule a tour – meet with administrators and teachers, check out the school facilities, watch teachers and parents interact, etc. As you walk the halls, look for displays of students’ work (to get a sense of the type of projects typically assigned in the school) and pay attention to how well the facility is maintained.
• If allowed to, bring your child with you on tour to experience the school atmosphere first-hand and provide you with their helpful feedback – what they liked most about the school and what they didn’t like at all. This will make your kid feel involved in the process and will ensure a smoother transition to the new school later on.
• When going on a school tour, have a list of important questions to ask the school administrators and the teachers – questions about academic issues and non-academic concerns that will allow you to get a sense of the school environment.
• If you have the chance, talk to some students too – find out how they feel about the school, if they’re excited about classes, whether they like the teachers, what after-school activities they attend, etc. Hearing parent and student perspectives will help you “see the whole picture” and get a realistic idea of what to expect from a school.
• If you can’t visit any schools in your new area before the move, contact the educational institutions you’re considering for your child and schedule phone calls with the principals (or other primary administrators), so you can still ask your questions and get the answers that will help you make an informed decision about the best school for your son or daughter.
Knowing how to change school when moving house will take some of the relocation stress off your shoulders and help your child transition easier. And the new school will play a significant role in your kid’s life, and future – the kind of friends they make and teachers they have, the practical knowledge they gather and the important lessons they learn are all interrelated factors that will shape out their future and define who they are and who they will be."