What should you look for when choosing a school

When choosing a school, the relationship between your child and their teacher is very important. So, a key to choosing a school is whether you and your child feel comfortable with the staff you meet and the atmosphere in the classrooms when you visit. Visits may be on an information day/night or in some cases by appointment. Most schools in Adelaide have a website or information portal: a first feel for the school’s ethos can often be garnered by having a look at what they are doing as a community, as well as educationally.

The links and information below will help guide you to the choice of school sectors in South Australia and help you create a list of questions you will need to ask when determining if a particular school will meet your child's needs.

South Australian schools belong to one of three sectors:

  • Department of Education and Children’s Services (DECD)
  • Catholic Education
  • Independent Schools


For a state run school: This link takes you to the DECD website. https://www.sa.gov.au/topics/education-skills-and-learning/schools/choosing-a-school

You may apply for entry to any government primary school, however acceptance of an enrolment in an out of zone primary school depends on whether the number of enrolments at that school exceeds the number of places available.https://www.sa.gov.au/topics/education-skills-and-learning/schools/choosing-a-school/choosing-a-primary-school

High Schools on the other hand are zoned, although you can apply to go to one out of zone. Acceptance will depend on enrolments.https://www.sa.gov.au/topics/education-skills-and-learning/schools/choosing-a-school/choosing-a-high-school

Catholic Education

For a Catholic run school go to: http://www.cesa.catholic.edu.au/our-schools/school-directory

This site includes a map that can tell you which catholic schools are in your area.

Independent schools

For an Independent school: http://www.ais.sa.edu.au/about-our-schools/search-our-schools

This site allows you to search for independent schools by location, gender, religion, and/or year level.

Features of dyslexia friendly schools

To help parents identify the features of schools that are dyslexia friendly, we suggest that you go to the following link for the British Dyslexia Association’s Dyslexia Friendly Schools Pack, abridged version.


Making a list of questions to ask the school

Making a list of the features that you consider most important for your child will help you formulate questions to ask when visiting prospective schools.

Ask the school how their best practices will include support for your student with a specific learning diffculty, such as dyslexia.

When creating a list of questions, you might also draw on:

  • recommendations from a psycho-educational assessment (if your child has been formally diagnosed)
  • observations highlighted from an “is my child at risk” checklist - find a few here.
  • comments in school reports about achievements in areas such as literacy and numeracy
  • your own observations of how your child is coping with their school work
  • your child’s strengths. How much time is allocated? eg to drama, sport, music, art, technical studies, etc.

Questions you may find useful:

  • Does your school use a phonic approach to early literacy teaching? See Appendix 3: Structured Synthetic Phonics: A guide for Teachers and Parents from the AUSPELD Understanding Learning Difficulties Guide
  • Will my child receive any one on one or small group support?
  • Does your school celebrate individual achievement in a wide range of activities including music, art, drama, sport and achievement of personal academic goals?
  • Does your school support the use of computers by all students in the classroom? From what year level? Can they use assistive technologies in the classroom?
  • In what areas do you encourage parental involvement?
  • What is your homework policy? Can we negotiate timed homework periods?
  • How many students receive accomodations and adjustments in a typical classroom?
  • Does your school work to whole school policies around the curriculum and strategies used to support struggling students?

There is no ‘one size fits all’ list as each child’s needs are unique. However, it is important to be prepared and the more specifically related to your child your questions are, the better informed you will be. Ask if they can provide specific examples of how they support students with learning difficulties in the classroom environment.

SPELD SA Services

SPELD SA, Adelaide, has many services that may be useful in supporting the education of your child. We also have a comprehensive website www.speld-sa.org.au that includes a lot of free information, and free resources, that can be accessed worldwide.

SPELD SA offers a tutor finding service click here to find a tutor.

Wherever you are, a tutor can help your child by explicitly teaching them skills they have not yet developed to an appropriate level. Importantly, these lessons should be followed up, at home, with 5 to 15 min sessions (based on age and concentration span), five days a week, so that the student has time to practise and consolidate the skills that have been taught.



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SPELD SA would like to acknowledge the support of the Douglas Whiting Trust in the development of this website.

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