Should you care about your child's school's KHDA ranking?

The KDHA rankings were released today. The rankings have been a hot topic on the radio as well as the Facebook groups and coffee shops we, as mothers, inhabit. In a world in which we are constantly plagued by the question, “Have I picked the right school for my child?” it can feel refreshing to see schools placed side-by-side with a simple grade.

This clarity, however, is accompanied by questions for many parents. Are all schools within the same rating band delivering the same experience for their students? Should I move my child to a school with a higher rating? Should I even care?

I’ll take the last one first. The answer is yes...and no. If your child attends a “Weak” or “Acceptable” school, you should absolutely care...and ask questions.  If your child attends a good, very good, or outstanding school, the rating matters a lot less than your child’s experience.

I have many friends who send their children to a costly school that has been rated “Good” for each and every inspection. Several have even approached me to discuss whether or not they should consider moving their child to a school rated “Outstanding.” Conversely, several parents I know have moved their children from a school rated “Outstanding” to a new school that has not yet been rated. They did so because their children were not well-suited to the particular curriculum which was taught at the “Outstanding” school and they have been happy with this choice.  

So, what should a parent do?

  1. Decide what matters most to you and your family.  My family values play and creativity as well as personal and academic achievement. As a result, we moved our children from an “Outstanding” school on the other side of town to a not-yet-rated neighborhood school. This has allowed for more playtime before and after school and more independence for our children who now bike to and from school. I also love (I mean really love) not doing the school run.

  2. Measure what you treasure. Yes, the KHDA ratings are based on a thorough inspection conducted by world class professionals, but they may not measure everything that matters to you - or weigh all areas in the way you might. Read the full report. Your child’s school may be a “Good” overall, but may be “Outstanding” in what matters most to you as a family such as pastoral care or leadership.

  3. Consider the curriculum - and your child. Some children thrive in the content rich CBSE curriculum. Others prefer the consistency of the French curriculum, the inquiry approach to IB, or the specialization offered in the A Levels of the National Curriculum of England, Wales, and Northern Ireland. There are outstanding schools in each curricular category, but a child’s experience will vary greatly based on the curriculum - as will a parent’s!

  4. Check international benchmarks. Find out what international benchmarks your child’s school is using, how they are administered, and how your school’s results stack up to schools in your home country and beyond.

  5. Find out what is next. Ask your child’s school how they will use their report. Do they have an improvement strategy? Can this be articulated by teachers as well as school leaders? If they are already “Outstanding,” where do they intend to grow?

  6. Ask your child. Is your child happy to go to school every day...or most days!? Does his or her learning feel relevant and engaging? Does he or she feel challenged and supported? If his or her answers are yes, there’s a pretty good chance that your child is in the right school...whatever the rating may be.