Choosing a school for the first time is exciting and unnerving and in some ways overwhelming. After all, it's impossible to know just what a school is really like - and how your child will fit in - until they actually start going there.
But one important part of the research is the school tour - and in Melbourne at least, many of these are just about to start for parents considering schools for next year.
I've spoken to a lot of people lately about what questions you need to ask when comparing schools, and thought I would put together my list so far. Please feel free to add to it in the comments section - it is by no means all-encompassing:
Class sizes: What are average class sizes, does the school set its own caps on numbers?
Are there extra support people in bigger classes?
Does the school do composite grades?
How many classes at each year level and how big is the school?
What assistance is there for children with particular needs? Is there extra help? Are there enrichment programs?
What sort of art, music, drama, sport and other extra curricular classes are there. How often do children get to do these activities each week?
Parental involvement - what opportunities are there, especially at younger levels?
What is the school's policy on bullying and other social and behavioural issues?
Is the retention rate good in older grades or do a lot of students leave?
If it's a primary (elementary school for American readers) which secondary schools do children go to from this school?
Languages - what's offered and importantly, how often do students get access to a language teacher?
What's the library like and what sort of access is there to computers?
Is there a school nurse on site?
Is there before and after school care?
Is there good security on the grounds?
Is there a good ratio to male and female teachers?
Please feel free to add any more suggestions in the comments section. And by the way, how great is the light in this photo of an old American school bus courtesy of Daniel from Flickr.