Summer schools in Malta: How to choose the right one
by Mr Yellow
As you're scoffing down the very last Easter egg to your heart's content, you just realise that school is almost out for summer and you start wondering what is to become of your kids while you're off to work or busy running errands, your household and younger children or babies. Offering the perfect social environment where they can mingle with other kids their age, summer schools can satisfy your offsprings' need for creative expression and physical activity while being encouraged and motivated by a number of professionals.
Yet, researching about the different summer schools and going through price lists to eventually choose the one that offers the perfect mix of enrichment and entertainment, can be a somewhat daunting undertaking. But don't despair. Here are some tips that will help make the process a little easier.
Say hello to bags of fun and goodbye to rigid academics
Summertime means a break from the usual routine, time off from homework and academics and a lot of free time on hand to lazy about and do nothing. So chances are that when you propose summer school to your kids, you'll likely get a load of eye-rolling and protesting in return. However, with benefits abounding, summer school does not need to be a drag.
Typically, these programmes do not offer any academics and instead, provide educational experiences through activities and play, as well as outings. These may include team sports, arts and crafts, music, drama and team building to name a few, which can instil a sense of creativity as kids get their hands dirty trying new things, while they can also reinforce independence and empowerment.
And who says that summer schools don't offer mental stimulation just because there are no academics involved? In essence, the activities mentioned above can help keep kids going both mentally and physically, avoiding the dreaded brain drain. Lastly, attending a summer school can help your child increase their confidence and social skills since it offers the opportunity to make new friends and interact with teachers and carers they're not used to.
What should you take into account beforehand?
Before you even consider deep diving into researching your options, there are a number of factors you must take into consideration, often involving your kids themselves.
Consider your child's interests
Remember that summer school is for your kid and not you, which means that you must match their interests with the establishment you will pick to ensure that they will enjoy the experience. As a result, discuss the idea with them and let them articulate their interests and expectations. Ask them whether they would like to try something new or they would rather improve pre-existing skills. For instance, does your child enjoy computers or programming? Do they like art or music? Or would they rather spend the season practising sports? Balance is key here since you want to challenge your kids to try new things, but you don't want to dishearten them in the process. How would you feel if you'd had to sit through weeks on end of back-to-back craft classes when you'd rather be doing water games or cookery? So, avoid making this the worst or most boring summer of their lives.
Take into account the summer school's focus
If your child has clearly expressed an interest in art, there's no use in choosing a summer programme exclusively focused on computing or programming. Likewise, kids who have not shown a preference for a particular interest might be better off being sent to a general summer school that offers a variety of activities, keeping them on their toes constantly since they will have the opportunity to experience new interests. Doing so means that they will be able to meet like-minded children and enjoy themselves to the full, making it a worthwhile experience.
Review the summer school's size
Just like any other regular school, summer schools also vary in size from one to another. If your child is a social butterfly who doesn't mind meeting new people and likes mingling with a sea of other kids, then a larger establishment will do, however, if your child is the shy type who would rather stick to a small class just like at school, go for a summer school that can offer individual attention. Having said that, a place that has a large number of children may help your child challenge their social strengths.
Keep in mind your budget
Some private summer schools come at a hefty price, but you don't have to break the bank to offer your child an unforgettable summer. If you're considering a private establishment, double-check what services are included in the fee. For instance, are special activities and equipment included? How about transportation? Is this at an additional cost and is it something that you need to take care of yourself?
It's time to do your research
The majority of summer schools have their own website and social media pages such as Facebook and the likes, whereby you can read further on the services and various programmes offered, while you may have a look at images and videos of past summers. Make the most of summer schools' websites, while if you have any questions ensure you get in touch with them to clear things out. Some questions you might want to consider include the following:
- Are the staff screened and trained?
- What is the teacher/carer to child ratio?
- How do you handle conflicts? What form of discipline methods are used?
- What are your safety and medical procedures? What happens if my child needs to take medication?
- Can you offer a daily schedule of activities sample?
Once you've done some research, you might want to look into a number of online reviews, although your safest bet is to speak to other parents who can share with you their experience of sending their own children to that particular summer school. Lastly, you should visit the premises in person since doing so will help you determine the quality of the premises themselves, the programmes available, while it will be a great opportunity to introduce yourself and your children to the staff.
What are your summer school options in Malta and Gozo?
So not sure where to begin? If you're new to the whole summer school concept, it's good to know your options. Locally, summer programmes are either offered by public centres which are government-run or by private entities such as these listed on Yellow. The majority cater for school-aged children between the ages of 3 and 16, though independent childcare centres offer their own version of a summer school in their premises for new and returning students ranging from 3 months to 3 years.
Private Summer Schools
Private options are plentiful and many schools select a particular theme on a yearly basis that runs through the whole summer. Activities vary from establishment to establishment, however, some popular ones include storytelling, cooking activities, dance lessons, water games, sand play, science experiments and much more. Also, depending on the size of the school, some may have a fully equipped gymnasium and an outdoor pitch area, whereas others may even have trampolines, bouncy castles and climbing towers.
Enrolment and pricing:
Parents and carers have the option to choose between a two-day, three-day or five-day programme. Each package carries its own pricing, yet, expect this to range anywhere between €250 and €800. Having said that, many summer schools run an Early Bird offer for those who apply as soon as applications are open, while many also provide discounted fees to siblings.
If you're interested in a particular private summer school, an application form can be downloaded from its website which must then be returned together with payment to the school. Note that a cancellation fee may apply if you change your mind.
State Summer Schools
Known as Skolasajf, the 8-week, government-led programme, is offered in numerous centres across Malta and Gozo and exposes children to cultural, artistic and physical activities ranging from arts and crafts, games and sports, to amateur dramatics, storytelling and cookery, as well as outings and educational talks. A specific theme is also selected on a yearly basis, with that for summer 2019 set to be 'My Travel Journal'. Core hours run from 8.30am till 12.30pm, however, an extra hours service runs both before and after, ideal for working parents who need them.
Enrolment and pricing:
Enrolling your children is a relatively easy process since all you need to do is simply visit the Foundation for Educational Services (FES) portal, fill in the digital form, pay and submit your application. Alternatively, you can print the application form at one of the many stationers found across the island and take it to your nearest Maltapost branch. Seeing that this summer programme is run by the government, registration fees are just €25 and €0.80 per hour is the cost for the extended hours. Outings and extra activities are at an additional charge.
Specialised summer schools
Is your child interested in something specific? Then one of the specialised summer schools will be ideal. These usually centre on a specific area be it sports such as SportMalta - On the Move, science like the numerous Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Mathematics (STEAM) programmes or robotics held at these computer schools. Do your kids have a knack for the theatrics? Opt for a drama school with a summer club instead. For adventurous kiddos, perhaps a programme that involves wildlife and exploration might be better suited. For instance, BirdLife has its own summer course held at the Simar Nature Reserve, whereby kids can enjoy the flora and fauna found there and get immersed in environmental issues.
On the other hand, if you're an expat who has just landed on the island with your family, you might be interested in sending your kids to English classes to improve their fluency and confidence just before the new scholastic year commences. Duration of courses and pricing varies, so it's best to get in touch with the numerous language schools that have mushroomed in recent years across the island.
A quick tip: all options are worth getting in on as early as possible since subscriptions close before the end of the scholastic year, while places at many centres tend to fill up pretty quickly. And for the love of God, avoid unnecessary commute and frustration for all the family by sending all your kids to the same location, if possible.
Biggest pitfalls to avoid
As parents, we all want the best for our children, however, in the rush of it all, you might make mistakes. We made things easier for you by sharing some of the pitfalls you should avoid.
Disregarding your needs
If you're expected to be at work at 8.00am and you're considering enrolling your child to a summer school located on the other side of the island whose doors open at 7.45am, clearly, this might not be the best option. The same applies if the programme ends early in the day when you're unable to pick your kid up or there are certain obligations that are bound to make your life even more stressful. So, if you're the one responsible to ferry the kiddo back and forth, you need to take into account commute time and other factors. Remember, summer should be a time to relax and if getting your kid to school stresses you out, this might reflect on your child's happiness and overall experience.
Allowing your kids to stick to their comfort zone
Whereas some form of resistance to change is understandable and expected most especially when it comes to younger children - think of your 4-year-old wanting to hear the same bedtime story every single night or eat the same blunt pasta dish day in day out - pushing your kid to step out of their comfort zone will help them grow. With this in mind, it's important your selected summer school introduces your children to new and fresh experiences on a daily basis.
As the summer months are fast approaching, it's time to start thinking about helping your child discover a tonne of new stuff, take their imagination to new heights and keep their brain engaged and ready to start the next scholastic year on a good foot. Get in touch with summer schools across Malta & Gozo and set yourself to success in finding the perfect match for your child.
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