Choosing a School
– Key things to think about:
We’ve highlighted just a few important points here. You’ll find lots more information and helpful answers to common questions in our ‘Advice for Parents’ blogs. There’s a lot to consider so, if you’d like a little more help, just get in touch with our education consultants. They’re experts at supporting families like yours with decisions just like these.
You can get a lot of information from a prospectus or a telephone conversation with a registrar or head teacher. However few things can replace the experience of walking the grounds, seeing how pupils interact with each other and their teachers in the classroom, and meeting the teachers who might be responsible for educating and supporting your child.
The school visit is your opportunity to meet staff and pupils, ask questions and get a feel for the atmosphere of the school. It’s a chance for your child to experience the environment and give their own feedback too. The right school should welcome your questions, give you comprehensive answers and encourage your child to feel a part of the process from the start.
Are school reviews relevant?
While ‘insider’ information from parents’ forums and school review publications can be illuminating, it is often highly subjective, or commercial in its relationship with the school. It should never be relied upon in isolation. We suggest keeping your research as objective as possible – it’s one of the reasons we place so much emphasis on school visits.
Day school or boarding school?
It’s a big question and the answer will depend on each individual child as much as it does on family circumstances. Boarding can be the perfect solution for families who live abroad or where there are no good schools within easy reach. It can also allow children to make the most of academic, sporting, music or other facilities they might otherwise not be able to access. In other circumstances maintaining a close connection to home makes the right day school the best option.
Thankfully the choice is no longer quite so binary as many schools, particularly those closer to London, now also offer weekly boarding or flexi-boarding. These arrangements can offer increased flexibility and more time at home alongside the immersive education, campus-style facilities and other benefits that boarding can offer.
Single sex or co-ed?
There have been many attempts to answer this question, but the debate rages on. Do boys do better when educated alongside their female peers? Are girls more likely to get more involved in sports and STEM subjects without boys around? Or, as the Scandinavian experience suggests, do both boys and girls do just as well academically when they’ve spent their early years learning to socialise with the opposite sex? Family dynamics also come into play – for example, do you want all your children to be able to go to the same school?
In most cases, the right answer comes down to the individual child and that’s why we spend so much time learning about your family and your child so we can suggest schools that will be right for you all.
Are a school’s results the most important thing to consider?
Surprisingly a school’s general performance can be largely irrelevant to how well your child might do. So, no matter how tempting it might be to judge a school on its league table position, you need to look deeper. Factors such as fit with the school, wellbeing, happiness and baseline IQ are far more likely to have an impact on your child’s results. Your own relationship with the school is also important, as is the school’s ability to really understand how your child learns best and what makes them thrive academically and pastorally. It’s important to question your chosen schools on all these points to work out which school will be the best match for your child.
The value of extra-curricular activities
Part of the appeal a private education is the range of extra-curricular activities and the high standard of facilities available. These activities play an important part in developing your child into a well-rounded, self-motivated character.
If you or your child are passionate about particular activities, then it’s important to take those into account. Looking beyond the ‘big name’ schools often enables you to discover specialist options that will nurture and encourage your child’s interests at every stage. You can search for anything you are particularly interested in School Finder’s, ‘Search Key Term’ filter.
How does good pastoral support make a difference?
Any child, no matter how bright or able, can suffer temporary setbacks along their educational journey. What sets the good schools apart is how they support a child and their family through those times. So ask the ‘what if’ questions during your visit and make sure you’re happy with the answers you receive.
What if my child doesn’t settle into their new school as well as we all hope?
In the long-term results and a well-rounded student are more important than continuity of school. We encourage parents to be brave in situations like this. A move to a new school or a period of home-schooling with the support of a tutor or mentor can often get things quickly back on track.