Although not quite what we might consider convenience food, you may have seen the effects of overly-processed fast food in the documentary film Supersize Me, where Morgan Spurlock ate nothing but McDonald’s for a month with devastating effects on his health.
We all know the dangers of convenience when it comes to food, and yet when it comes to choosing a school for our children convenience is so often a primary consideration. I can see why convenience is important – parents are very busy and so having a school which is close to home and being able to send all the kids to the same school play a huge part in their decision. However, when you consider this more closely this doesn’t seem quite right. How to educate them is probably the most important decision you will ever make on behalf of your children. It is also probably the most significant financial decision you will make on their behalf, whether this is paid for by you or by the state. It is therefore a decision that is worth very careful consideration.
Of course lots of parents do undertake very thorough research, searching websites, ordering prospectuses and visiting schools. However, it seems most parents will only visit two schools before reaching a conclusion. How many of us would only visit two houses when we are looking to buy a new house?
I think there is a further analogy here between fast food and choosing schools. We buy fast food because it is not only convenient, but also because it is instantly gratifying. Fast food chains are attractive because they are clearly successful businesses with bright and shiny buildings and a significant market share. It doesn’t seem to matter to us that the customer service is often poor. When choosing a school it is important to see past bright and shiny buildings and look at its customer service and its pastoral care. Does the school communicate well with parents? Will your child be well looked after and treated as an individual? As in any area of the service industry it is not always the most successful schools that will offer the best for your child. A large marketing budget and a glamorous infrastructure can paper over any number of cracks.
Don’t get me wrong, a school’s facilities are important. However, when you look at a school be sure to look at the people in that school. Are the children happy? Are the staff friendly? Does the learning appear to be purposeful and fun?
I cannot claim to be superior to any of the parents who choose schools for convenience. My daughter has always attended the same school as one or other of her teacher parents. However, I am acutely aware of the central role her school will play in shaping her future. Not only will the school prepare her academically, but it will shape her character, it will set her social and cultural references and it will determine her network of friends.