Choosing the right school for your child can often be a difficult decision for a parent. Parents often feel overwhelmed with the amount of information provided, and it can sometimes be hard to differentiate between one school and another. However, take a look at the following tips, which may make life easier when the time comes.

  • Start early – it’s never too early to start gathering information on school options. If you put your child’s name down at a number of schools from an early age, the schools will then keep you updated about open days and school events.
  • Consider the location; often it is more convenient if a school is within an easy commute of your home or workplace. Ensure that the school has the breakfast clubs and after school care provision and access to holiday clubs that meet your requirements. As a parent you may become a taxi service for your child, so being more local to your child’s school may make life easier when driving them round to visit friends or taking them to sports fixtures.
  • Do your research; order a prospectus, look at the school website and check the official school social media sites. Twitter and Facebook often give an excellent insight into the everyday occurrences in a school, such as events, trips and sports fixtures. Read the school newsletters to get an idea of activities and achievements.
  • Visit the school – remember official Open Days are the times where the school showcases its best features. Many schools offer Open Doors during the working day and this is a great opportunity to see what goes on in a normal working day. If you prefer, ring to arrange a visit to look round the school – most head teachers would be happy to accommodate this.
  • When visiting the school how does the school feel? Is it a vibrant and buzzing, warm and friendly? Some parents want a studious and academic environment, others want a nurturing and caring feel. Consider where your child may be happiest.
  • Ask about the curriculum on offer. Independent schools can choose their own curriculum. Consider the different subjects taught, class sizes, teacher-pupil ratios, specialist teaching, if and when they stream pupils, what exams are taken and when. When looking at external results of secondary schools take into consideration the value added as well as the grades, the numbers of pupils at the school, and their requirements at entry level as all these give a more accurate picture of a school’s results. Which universities does the school regularly send pupils following their A-levels?
  • In addition to speaking with the Head teacher, also talk to the other staff and the children – they are the most honest! Find out what the children like best about the school.
  • Look at the facilities, lessons and activities that the school offers. Why not prioritise the importance of features such as sports pitches, music and drama facilities, language provision and extra-curricular clubs and activities?
  • Many independent primary schools are linked with or attached to a secondary school, with most pupils moving into that secondary school. This is certainly worth considering, as it may be beneficial for your child for a smoother transition to secondary school or it could be better for your child to have a fresh start at the end of year 6.
  • Finally, take the time to enjoy your school search. Starting a new school is a very exciting time in a child’s life and it is often an inspiring experience to see what opportunities are available for your child’s education.

You are making the decision to place your child into the care of others. After finding out everything you can, you will probably have a feeling of which school you trust and which you think would best suit your child. Go with that feeling – you know your child best.

Helen Stiles – Headteacher.