23 November 2016
How do you choose the right school for your child? This is a question parents may begin to ask themselves early on in their child’s life, sometimes from the child’s birth, but usually from Year 4 or 5. Many factors contribute to the ultimate decision - the more practical issues of proximity to the school, parents’ place of work, finances, logistics regarding work and siblings’ schools, local friends, etc often influence the first step into making the choice. Parents sometimes relocate to be in the catchment area or to ensure easy transport links. Researching the school’s credentials via its website and prospectus, ISI or Ofsted reports, and publications such as The Good Schools’ Guide and Tatler Schools Guide are a good starting point.
My advice is to research several schools in your chosen location and attend their open days, and, in addition, make a personal appointment with the Head. It is imperative to have a tour of the school and experience it on a working day for you to absorb the feel and atmosphere. The ethos of the school and interaction between the staff and pupils, the pupils’ behaviour and their happiness are important factors which cannot be gleaned from a prospectus or website.
Whilst most schools offer a broad curriculum and extra-curricular activities, some are more nurturing, maybe because of their small size, and others are sport or music focused. Children’s personalities, abilities and talents need to dovetail into the school’s ethos and provision. For example, a child who is of average academic ability may feel intimidated at a school that is listed high in the league tables which may impact them detrimentally in the long-term. However, this child would flourish at a good state school or well-chosen independent school, as they would feel comfortable with their peers and happy with the right level of teaching, and therefore more open and receptive to learning.
Children with drama, artistic, sporting or musical talent may be better suited to a school which has a strong department in these areas, and some independent schools offer scholarships in these subjects where there is a greater provision of resources and opportunities. Single sex, co-educational and faith schools are also factors to consider and each have their merits and advantages. Learning Support is also a considered area for pupils requiring support and it is advised to also meet with the Learning Support Manager (SENCo) to ascertain appropriate personalised interventions are provided.
Parents obviously know their children very well, and teachers also know the child well, and, with research and consultation, the right fit can be found for the unique individual. The Croft has links with many local schools and some schools further afield and is therefore well placed to provide impartial advice. The aim is to find the school that matches the profile of the pupil, rather than the pupil matching the profile of the school. I am happy to meet with parents of Year 5 pupils, should they request guidance, regarding the schools that my colleagues and I recommend through unbiased opinion.
The Croft also hosts a Year 5 Parents’ Evening Talk about the 11+ and secondary education, followed by a biennial secondary school open evening exclusively for Croft parents, the next one being on Tuesday 7 February 2017. The event is like a one-stop shop attended by local secondary school representatives who are pleased to discuss their school and offer advice to parents.
Talking to schools, listening to recommendations and doing your own homework will go a long way to drawing a shortlist. We all want our children to be happy in their education, from nursery to university, and together, we can help to ensure that the most important choice is the right choice and the right fit.