Friday, 26 September 2014

Why all #girls' #schools nurture, motivate and inspire. @BedfordGirlsSch

I had a truly fantastic visit to Bedford Girls’ School this week. Spending a morning observing girls engaged in a whole breadth of educational experiences from science experiments to food tech to hockey to I.T. reminded me of the distinct advantages of choosing a single sex school.

Here are my top 10 reasons to choose an all girls’ school for your daughter:
  1. A Head and teaching staff who are specialists in nurturing and inspiring girls to aim high and achieve more across a broad range of curriculum subjects.
  2. Teaching styles that are suited to girls, who are un-doubtedly wired differently to boys when it comes to learning.
  3. All investment in facilities and resources is tailor-made for girls.
  4. An absence of make-up and shortened skirts presents a tidy, business-like school environment with a clear focus on study rather than socialising skills.
  5. An ability to dip in and out of co-ed learning experiences through partnerships with local boys’ schools for school plays, CCF and through the extended curriculum.
  6. Careers advice which encourages girls to break stereotypes and explore all avenues including engineering, the sciences, medicine and entrepreneurship.
  7. Opportunities to develop leadership skills and to experience role models in an environment where career aspirations are a priority.
  8. Girls with a tendency to be self-conscious or lack self-esteem are surrounded by opportunities to shine.
  9. Girls and boys mature at different rates so pastoral support can be tailor-made to suit the needs of individuals.
  10. Girls’ schools are not about equal opportunity, they’re about all opportunity.
For advice on choosing the right school for your daughter, please give our team of friendly, professional consultants a call on 01865 522066 or email

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Making the most of a #school open day - 10 questions to help #parents.

Choosing the right school can be a confusing process. Reviewing websites and listening to advice from other parents on the dinner party circuit are a great way to start your research. There is however no substitute for visiting each school to meet key staff and take in the atmosphere for yourself. You know your own child and whilst others can advise you, gut feeling often leads to the best outcome.

Many independent and state schools have open days in the coming weeks. How do parents make the most of these fact-finding missions, seeing through the ‘marketing speak’ to make important school choice decisions?
  1. Meet the Head. How accessible they are to prospective parents can be a guide as to how the school is run. It is crucial their philosophy for education meets yours. Do they come across as a capable leader, respected by staff and pupils alike and are they in touch with the day-to-day school life?
  2. Observe staff relationships with pupils within a lesson environment. Is it formal or more relaxed and which will suit your child? Do all children appear engaged and included?
  3. What curriculum areas are strengths for the school? Do these match your child’s interests and capabilities? Do the quality of teaching staff, achievements and facilities reflect this?
  4. How is progress measured and reported to parents?
  5. Is I.T. being used constructively, to support excellent and engaging teaching, not as a substitute for it?
  6. If learning support is important for you, how is this organised and how is progress monitored?
  7. Are pupils smartly dressed and belongings tidily stored around the school?
  8. Are walls and furniture in good decorative order and does the site appear well looked-after?
  9. Can pupils speak confidently to visitors and talk knowledgeably about their school, outlining its strengths?
  10. Do noticeboards give a picture of a busy school with a breadth of educational opportunity across all academic subject areas, sport, music and creative arts?
For advice on choosing the right school please give our team of friendly professional consultants a call on the following number +44 (0)1865 522066 or email 

Sunday, 14 September 2014

10 tips for #parents asking is private or state #school for me?

The cost of private education is now at such a level that many parents, particularly those with more than one child, are beginning to consider how and when it is best to invest and when it might make sense to consider state school options instead. Combining private and state education at different ages is becoming more common place and often makes good financial sense. There are many parents for whom finding the cash to pay school fees is not easy, choosing to forgo annual holidays abroad, expensive cars and the latest technological gadgets in order to invest in their children’s future, through giving them the best education.

There is no one answer fits all to the question of whether private education is for you. State and independent provision can vary significantly depending on where you live and the personalities, strengths and weaknesses of individual children mean that each one needs careful consideration as to what might be the best option for them personally. 

Parents usually make the choice of private education for three reasons. 

  • The ‘best’ state schools in the area are academically selective and parents are unhappy with the alternative, if their child does not gain entry.
  • There is a need for additional support for an educational reason such as dyslexia, EAL, gifted or a particular interest such as music, and parents feel their state school option is not equipped to deliver this support.
  • Both parents work full-time, so have less time available to offer supplementary provision at home. 

With the above in mind, here are 10 tips in how to evaluate if private or state education suits you.

  1. Speaking to other parents about local schools will help, but remember their views, although passionate and enthusiastic, are not independent and a variety of opinions around the dinner party table can often confuse. Speak to an independent education consultant, read independent reviews in publications such as The Good Schools Guide and read the schools’ latest Ofsted or ISI report.  You will usually find these on the school website. Alternatively, they can be found at or for an independent school or at
  2. Ask yourself how involved you want to be in supporting and supplementing your child’s education. Choosing a state school will sometimes mean devoting significant time to your child’s learning or extra-curricular activities outside school, helping with homework, perhaps even employing a tutor for some extra tuition in Maths or English. You might want them to learn extra subjects such as French or Latin. This support is usually an inclusive part of the academic provision at a private school, where smaller class sizes and more specialist subject teachers make more individual attention and a wider curriculum possible.
  3. Consider whether you have the time to organise and provide transport for a busy programme of extra-curricular activities, such as attending coaching sessions at local sports clubs, piano or ballet lessons outside school. Invariably, the majority of the above will be provided within a private school’s holistic approach to education, with longer school days providing opportunity for an inclusive activity programme. Your role will be more one of watching school concerts and plays or cheering loudly from the side lines at school matches. 
  4. Do both parents work? State school working days tend to be shorter than those at a private school meaning more childcare may be needed.
  5. Do you want to get up early on Saturday mornings for the school run? Many private schools have Saturday morning lessons, particularly those which offer boarding. There will also be a busy programme of school matches on Saturday afternoons which you will need to commit to. Longer holidays compensate for this, but the commitment of 6 days a week in term-time does not suit all families.
  6. It is not always necessary for siblings to follow the same path through education. A shy child may need to build their confidence through the small, nurturing environment of a private school, while a sibling may be out-going and confident, so attending the right state school may suit them just as well.
  7. Do you suspect that your child might have a particular weakness or struggles with their learning in some way? Investing in a private school may mean that issues such as dyslexia may be identified earlier than in a state school, where class sizes are larger. Consequently the correct support with their learning can be provided at an earlier stage, to ensure they progress alongside their peers.
  8. Good state schools are often competitive in terms of entry criteria and the academic educational programme they deliver. Will such a competitive environment, which focuses mainly on academic achievement, suit your child? If your child is self-motivated, confident and bright, the answer is probably yes. If they lack confidence, they may struggle to settle.
  9. If your child just scrapes into an academically selective state school, by being tutored to pass the 11+ and consequently makes set 7 or 8 for Maths and English, what will this do for their confidence and how will you monitor and address this? Consider if it might be better to be at the top of a less academic state or private school and hence gain confidence as a high achiever?
  10. Some parents move from state education to private education or vice versa when their child reaches 16+. There are opportunities to gain scholarships for entry to a private school at sixth form, especially if your child has done well at grammar/state school for the preceding 5 years. On the flip side, some believe that moving from private into state education for sixth from may make gaining a place at university easier, although this theory is to date unproven. Care must be taken to ensure that your teenager will cope with such a transition into a learning environment with different teaching styles, as they need to hit the ground running with only 2 years to gain top grades at this stage of education.

For independent, professional advice on choosing the right school options for your child at all ages, give our team of friendly consultants a call on 018865 522066 or email

Saturday, 6 September 2014

Countdown to 11+ - a few last-minute tips for #parents

For year 6 classes of 2014, that long anticipated day has arrived and the annual parent ‘nail-biting fest’ begins. Here are a few tips to ensure your worries for the outcome do not transfer to your child, who should take the tests in their stride and know that whatever the result, you will be very proud of the effort they have made.The most important thing is that your child goes into the test feeling positive, motivated and relaxed. Having worked through copious practice questions in the months leading up to today now is the time to stop the preparation and trust that their natural aptitude, supported by the exam skills and techniques you have been working on, will shine through. Boost their confidence through encouragement and praise.

Avoid discussing fears over the result with a partner or friends within your child’s earshot. This will raise the pressure they feel and lead to raised stress levels around the test. Your child should know that the test is a gauge of their knowledge and capability right now and use of the word fail should be limited. Your child must know that whatever school they go to next year, you will make sure they have access to the opportunities that will lead to success in education.

A relaxing evening followed by a good night’s sleep and a healthy breakfast on the day of the test will help them perform at their best. Last-minute cramming into the night will not allow their brain to switch off and they will probably have an unsettled night, meaning they will be less fresh for the test day.

Plan a treat or buy a small gift to celebrate their efforts over the past few months of preparation and the test being over. Whether you also plan a treat for results day is up to you, but now is your chance to just reward their effort, whatever the outcome.

For advice on choosing the right senior school, give our team of consultants a call on 01865 522066 or email