Whatever age and stage of education your child has reached, planning their next school can be a confusing and sometimes even daunting process. Dodging the minefield of gossip at dinner parties can be tricky, not to mention handling passionate advice from family members who are keen to relate their own experiences. Below are a few tips from our education consultant team, gathered through years of experience supporting parents with their future school choices. Whatever your dilemma or concern, chances are we have heard it before and can offer an independent perspective on how to move forward in the best interests of your child as an individual.
Academic level of the school MUST match that of your child. It should present them with challenge to aim high, but be realistic.
Boarding school pros and cons. It’s important to understand 21st Century boarding rather than thinking boarding is still as it may have once been when you were at school.
Curriculum strengths differ on a school by school basis. For example in areas such as Science, Sport, Music, Drama, Art. These need to match those of your child so they will feel engaged and inspired.
Dyslexia or other learning support. Does the school use teaching methods and styles to suit the individual child’s needs?
Extra-curricular opportunities which will match the talents and interests of your child. Inspiring your child to try new things is an important part of an all-round education.
Full-boarding should have a 7 day a week programme, particularly if you live overseas.
Guardianship policy. Does this give you the reassurance that someone is looking out for your child while you are overseas?
Head’s philosophy of education and strong leadership is important. Do the school ethos and values match yours?
Information technology should be noticeable on a tour around the school. Is it gathering dust or is it being used creatively to compliment work in the classroom?
Keep your options open with the range of schools you short-list. On the other hand, try not to visit too many or you will get confused.
Location in relation to home must make school runs practical if day school is your preference. Does the school have lessons and sport on a Saturday and how will this integrate with your family life at home? If your child is boarding, would they prefer a rural countryside campus or perhaps a school located in a town or city? Do you need to be close to airports or train links?
Meet the Head when you visit and ideally try to go on a normal school day when you can see the school in action rather, than when it is on show, perhaps on an Open day.
Nurturing self confidence and self-esteem vs. a more competitive, driven environment. Your child’s personality must suit the environment for them to thrive.
Option blocks for subject choices at GCSE and in the sixth form. Are some subjects compulsory?
Parent portal on the website. Does this provide easy access to information about your child and what is happening at school day-to-day, to enable you to monitor their progress whilst at school, especially if you live overseas.
Qualifications offered for example 11+ CE, GCSE, IGCSE, A Levels, IB, EPQ. PreU
Reporting, evaluation of effort and progress. How does the school ensure parents are kept informed?
Single sex vs. Co-ed and which suits your child?
Teachers’ specialisms and classroom ‘feel’ and atmosphere. Does the school appear traditional or present a more in-formal approach to learning?
Uniform policy, colour and style. Is this worn in both the lower school and sixth form?
Visit the schools at least two years before the September of entry. Places can fill up quickly, so allow enough time to meet the criteria of what can sometimes be a lengthy and competitive admissions process.
Wifi and the use of ipads, laptops and smartphones. Technology is now a crucial part of education for the future.
‘EX’eat and weekend policy in boarding schools - how often will your child be permitted to come home and if you live overseas how often will they need to stay with their guardian?
Your gut feeling about which is the right school is the one that matters. Try to put aside dinner party banter, family input and tradition or league tables. None of these consider schools from the individual perspective of your child.
‘Zeek’ advice from your current school Head, Housemaster or tutor. They know you and your child well so can suggest schools which match your academic aspirations, as well as the skills and interests of your child.
Do you need advice with choosing the right school? Our team of education consultants can help.
Visit our website for more information by clicking the link below.
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“I have been singing your praises to anyone who would listen and will happily spread the word. I wanted you to know that through all the oscillation, deliberation and concern, my husband and I have gone back to your crystal clear words of wisdom. It helped so much coming from someone with intelligence and experience on this confounding subject and has helped us take this giant leap of faith. Thank you. I believe we are finally on right path for our daughter.”
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