Choosing your Secondary School – it doesn’t start in P6

Is your child in Primary School now? It doesn’t matter if he’s not in P6, steps to choose a secondary school can start now… and I’m not being kiasu or nor am I a Tiger Mum. After my experience with Nicole, I realised parents don’t have to wait till the PSLE results are out, to make that decision.

Here’s some background information!

Your child will get to choose which secondary school to go to, after the PSLE results are out. This is a huge step forward compared to my PSLE days! (Then, we had to make our choices before the results are out, with close to zero clue where we stood in the entire island of 12 yr olds)

 

It is absolutely vital your child is involved in the process, after all, the student going through those 4 or 5 or 6 years of secondary school life ain’t you! We must realise that even if your child is only looking at superficial stuff like how nice the uniform colour is, or this principal is really so old and boring, or I really like the canteen stall options, we have to give them a chance to make that decision, and have a say in what’s eventually submitted in that form!

Now, before you go on reading, I must list 3 qualifying statements behind my thoughts. Choosing a secondary school isn’t that simple, and I came up with my views based on these few circumstances that we are in. Thus, if you or your child are not in the similar situation, please adapt accordingly! (such disclaimers are very important!!)

#1 My girl doesn’t have an affiliated secondary school to go to.

Ok. to be perfectly honest, she does have an affiliated secondary school, but she doesn’t want to go there. And I don’t really want her to go there too. haha plus with a discounted affiliated cut-off point at 250, that’s as good as no affiliation! 

If your child has an affiliated secondary school, this post may not be applicable to you. Cos the decision would be relatively easy to make! 

#2 We don’t have any strong family preference for secondary schools

#3 I’m a BIG believer in casting vision, even for kids

#4 We have no Direct School Admission (DSA) options to consider

 

So what are some steps we can take to choose a secondary school for our kids?

A. Check out this School Information Services website by MOE

This website allows you to view schools based on your personalised criteria. You can choose to just view schools in selected geographical locations, or by their specialities, or by the aggregate score from last year’s Sec 1 intake. This would lead us to step 2!

See the cup marks? This book has been thumbed many times too!

B. List out possible schools for your child based on broad bandings of aggregate scores

We got Nicole to look through the List of Secondary Schools and their T-scores (this book <Choosing your secondary schools for admission to Secondary 1 in XXXX> will be given to the kids after their PSLE) or you can use the website listed above. When she scrolled thru, we got her to list out which schools interested her based on their cut-off scores. She would have schools listed in the 5 Broad categories:

  1. More than 250,
  2. More than 240 less than (1)
  3. More than 230 less than (2)
  4. More than 220 less than (3)
  5. More than 210 less than (4)

If her eventual score is less than 210, the options available would be limited, thus we felt it won’t be necessary to make such a list.

I gave her very simple instructions, read through what the school has, the location of the school based on nearest MRT, and if you like what you read, put it in the list. Of course, she doesn’t really know for sure if Lor Chuan MRT or Telok Blangah MRT is near us, but she does know Lakeside MRT and Pasir Ris MRT are on two opposite ends. hahah!

Now for this step, Edmund & I also did our own list. We did it based on what we know (from our own experience), the people we’ve met, and of course it helps we work with youths, so we get to ask them for their inputs too!

Do note there are some shocker T-scores as you flip through the book. For example, we saw at least 2 schools which are highly regarded with really astonishing low cut-offs. Later we found out, it was because the schools were going thru some transitions–like moving to a holding school while original premises was going thru renovation. This means when your child make that decision, the cut-off may or may not remain so low! 

We then merge her list with our list to have about 1-2 schools per banding (usually one for each end of the spectrum of 10 points)

Her List vs Our List

C. Go visit Open Houses

MOE has this website that gives us the various dates for Secondary School Open houses. Do note that some Open Houses happen in March, some in May but most in Nov. Not every school is listed in the website. What I did was to go into the individual school’s website and there’s usually a huge announcement about Open House there!

This is when I’m going to propose something that Nicole suggested! She told me, I should have brought her to these Open Houses before PSLE began! She said, then she has something to work towards, and know that the hard work would amount to a great reward. She was beginning to regret the times when she got lazy! (Wah! you can imagine how surprised I was when she came up with these conclusions!)

So I’m going to bring Nathan for some Open Houses in P5. I realised, asking the kids to study hard, nagging about PSLE or even bringing in all that road sweeper job arguments doesn’t work. A child has to be motivated on his own. If he sees the possibilities and what he can look forward to, that self-enforced motivation can do wonders!

I know the politically correct way to go about it is to agree with MOE’s stance that all schools are equal. But I am not prepared to discuss this now. Just visit the Open Houses and you can make your own decision about this.

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At the end of the day, I remember what someone once told me when Nicole was in K2.

We parents can do our best, which is plenty, when we choose the Primary School for our kids. We volunteer, We join alumni(s), We move. But when it comes to which Secondary School to go to, mummy and daddy can’t help much…

It’s so true cos of the meritocracy system here. It all boils down to that final wretched PSLE T-score. This post is not about pushing kids with tutors and enrichment and which forum groups to join. This post strives to help parents make a more informed decision about secondary schools’ admission, and to include your child in this possibly biggest decision in his life thus far.

All the best in this exciting journey ahead!