The relationship between parents and a private school is as meaningful as that between the school and its students. Since tuition can be a significant financial investment for families, parents will almost certainly hold schools to account regarding all aspects of their child’s experience. The small size of private schools makes it easy for staff to connect directly with parents and for parents to remain engaged with the administration, faculty and each other.
Sometimes called “enrolment marketing,” a private school’s efforts to reach out to prospective parents can take many forms, be it a comprehensive school website, social media feeds, information sessions or recruitment trips abroad. “Being a small, family-run school means that we get to know each family individually right from the start,” says Davide D’Alessandro, director at Canadian College Italy, a Richmond Hill, Ont.-based boarding school with a campus in Lanciano, Italy. “Having this connection is key for building trust and confidence, which is so important when sending your child to an international boarding school.”
Before a student even enrolls, many private schools invite families to explore the campus, meet faculty and tour facilities, either through scheduled appointments or broader open-house events. It’s a prime opportunity for the school to answer questions from parents and provide in-person insights into student life. “Some examples of events we host throughout the recruitment cycle include open houses, virtual lunch-and- learns, information sessions, and individual or group tours,” says Hilary Riley, director of admissions at the York School in Toronto. “We encourage prospective families to visit our campuses to see the school in action.”
Parental involvement in school events— be it a fundraiser, science fair, field trip or community-outreach project—is encouraged and typically expected at private schools. It gives parents a chance to gain firsthand experience working alongside school officials. Some private schools require parents to commit to a certain number of volunteer hours. Most host groups and associations are specifically designed to offer parent-to- parent knowledge-sharing. “There are count- less volunteer opportunities and many social events for parents,” Riley says. “Over the summer, student and parent ambassadors also reach out to incoming new students and parents to offer support and connection.”
Frequent communication both ways between teachers and parents is par for the course at private schools. Parents are afforded easy access to faculty and administration and kept fully up-to-date on their child’s progress as well as goings-on at the school—from upcoming events to the cafe- teriamenu. At some schools, there is an app dedicated solely for parents. “We have an all-school electronic newsletter with information and updates from the head of school and divisional principals to keep parents informed through a centralized channel,” Riley says. And drop-in classroom visits by parents are usually more than welcome. “It’s always a great pleasure to have parents come and visit our pretty little campus in Italy,” D’Alessandro says. “Family is at the heart of everything we do.”
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