Choosing the right school for your son or daughter is one of the most important decisions you have to make. In considering a school, parents will want reassurance that their son or daughter will thrive at their chosen school. This will mean getting the match right between the school’s provision and the child’s abilities and interests. It will also be important that your family is comfortable with the school’s ethos and values.
Plan of Action
To choose a school look first at the prospectus and website to get a feel for how the school wants to present itself. Check Ofsted Reports and League Table Results, recognising that they present useful but limited data and insight into any school.
There is no substitute for visiting the school in person so you can see what the facilities, the Head, the staff, the pupils, and even the other parents are really like.
Most schools have Open Days where you will be shown around by a pupil. Pupils tend to give an honest account of the school (or at least you can tell when they are lying!), and spending time with a pupil gives you good insight into what the children are like. Don’t be afraid to ask passing children questions.
Make an appointment to meet the Head personally and prepare carefully in advance. A personal tour offers the chance to investigate the school’s approach and performance in detail. Resist referring to your list of questions till the end so you can concentrate on what is said as you go round, and ask probing questions spontaneously as they occur to you.
Making the Decision
Think carefully about what sort of environment is right for your child – would they thrive best in a school which is creative or competitive or academic? If you are not sure – after all its hard to tell if they are only 3 or 4 years old – go for a rounded school which covers every base.
Beware of projecting your own ambitions onto your child through your choice i.e. choosing a school that is excellent at sport because you loved it, when your child could turn out to loathe sport.
Trust your instincts – choose a school where you feel comfortable rather than one that everyone else says is ‘the best’.