Choosing your child’s school is an important parental task. Check the various schools’ admission criteria and take into account the following guidance.
As a parent, you’ll want your child to go to the finest school. But your neighbours want that for their children, too – and the finest schools have a limited number of places!
To find the best school for your child, do some research on the school and its quality, carefully check the school’s admission criteria and take care with your formal application.
The first decision is: private or state schooling?
In a recent poll of parents, the top 3 reasons for choosing private education were:
Many fee-paying schools offer scholarships and bursaries to cut costs. Contact the school to ask about eligibility.
Schools have rules about who they will accept as pupils. Ask your local council; check schools’ websites; or contact them directly for information about their policies.
Every child is entitled to a free education in state schools, but most schools will prioritise your child if:
In the case of selective secondary schools (grammar schools, and most independent schools) your child will usually need to pass an entrance exam or 11-Plus.
Local authorities generally steer you to the nearest school – which is why house prices near good schools are often inflated!
Visit https://www.gov.uk/help-home-school-transport for a link to your local council, and discover if your child qualifies for free transport. If not, how will your child travel, and what will it cost?
Remember – if the school is distant and your child doesn’t get home until late, they will still have homework to do – so there won’t be much time to read or spend time with friends or family.
Ofsted reports are invaluable for comparing schools. Reports are freely available online at http://reports.ofsted.gov.uk/, so read them and make sure you understand how they work.
If a school didn’t do well in the last Ofsted inspection, don’t dismiss it. Find out if changes have been made to improve it. A new head teacher might make all the difference!
Take a look at the school performance tables, where you can compare exam and test results.
Involve your child, as far as possible, in choosing their school. They will have their own ideas about what they want. Listening to their opinions and discussing options helps them to feel included.
Does your child want to attend the same school as their friends? Most children move up from infants to the same junior school; or a ‘feeder’ primary school to their local secondary. If you choose a completely different school, your child will need to make new friends. Confident children will thrive, but if your child is less emotionally resilient, they may prefer familiar faces. A smaller school might suit a less confident child. A larger school will usually offer more facilities, clubs, activities and a greater choice of subjects.
All good schools are pleased to answer your questions because they appreciate parental involvement.
Visit all the schools you are interested in. Most secondary and independent schools have open days, parents’ nights or ‘transition’ days for upcoming year groups. Look around, see the facilities, meet the teachers and ask questions. If you’re considering a primary school, or are moving school mid-year, arrange to meet the head teacher or one of the management team to discuss your child’s needs and find out more.
Some schools have certain specialisms and staff with particular expertise. If your child excels in Music or Maths, will their needs be met? Will they be challenged enough to progress further?
Some schools offer different subjects and opportunities. If your child loves to play a particular sport or instrument, or wants to learn Chinese, will they be able to do this? What clubs and other activities are offered? How big are the classes? Generally, the smaller the better.
These decisions will affect your child’s life for a long time.
Engaging with the school about your child’s education will undeniably give a boost to their academic achievement.
Can YOU work well with the school? You will get to know them very well!
Now for the quiz…