8 Steps to Finding the Perfect School for Your Child
Choosing a secondary school for your child is one of the most important decisions you will ever make, but the choice can be overwhelming at first.
Fortunately, there’s a process you can follow which will make it easier to narrow down your options. These seven steps can help you find the ideal independent school placement for your child:
1. Start with what is possible and preferable
Do you need a day school or a boarding school? A state school or a fee-paying one? Your family circumstances and finances will make that decision for you, but what about the choice between a single sex school or a co-ed? That’s very much a personal preference, but you know which will best suit your child.
2. What does your child want and need?
Think carefully about your child’s strengths, talents and aspirations. Does she need strong discipline, or would she thrive in a more laid-back atmosphere? Is he the sporty type or a budding musician? Each school has a different ethos and a different area of focus, and this will help you rule some out straight away. It’s no good putting little Lucas into a sporty school if he hates sports and would rather blow things up in the science lab!
3. Prioritise the practicalities
Journey time is a major factor, so don’t be dazzled by an amazing school that would mean your child having to get up extra early every day, arrive home late and exhausted and then try to cope with homework – for the next five or more years. Try to find a balance between distance and desirability.
4. Results matter
Make sure to take a close look at results, league tables and OFSTED reports. Don’t only look at the most recent, as these could be unrepresentative. Look several years back and look for a trend – is the school improving, or sliding down the rankings?
This can be a good indication of the quality of the school, reflecting the quality of education your child is going to receive there. Don’t settle for subpar!
5. Look to the future
Where do pupils from each school tend to end up? Do they get good university places? What kind of careers do they go into? Remember that school is just a means to an end.
“The right school will act as a springboard for your child’s future prospects,” says Steve Spriggs, MD of William Clarence Education. “It’s not only about whether the facilities are excellent and how good the results are. Does the school have the right links with higher education, or with business?”
6. What happens away from the academics?
Look at the range of extra-curricular activities on offer in each school. Your child might desperately want to join a horse-riding club, or to develop her interest in photography, but remember that her interests will change as she matures into a teenager.
A broad spectrum of extracurricular activities is a good sign, as it means there will be something to interest your child both next year and in later years, as well as plenty of opportunities to learn new skills.
7. Go and see for yourself
You should now have a list of no more than around half a dozen schools, and it’s time to put in the leg work. Go and visit each school. You might want to attend an open day or make an appointment to visit during an ordinary school day – there are advantages and disadvantages to these, or you could even do both, once with your child and once without.
Soak up the feel of the school and pay close attention to the attitude of the staff and the children. “It’s the subtle things you should be looking for on a school visit,” advises Steve Spriggs. “Are the children happily engaged with learning? Is behaviour good? Are they dressed smartly and interacting politely? Is this somewhere you would be happy to leave your child, and can you imagine your child fitting in?”
8. Trust your instincts – and your child’s
Visits should help you narrow your choices much further, down to perhaps just two schools. At this point, instinct kicks in. You’ll almost certainly know which one “feels” right to you, but it’s important to respect your child’s input too.
They’re going to have to live with your decision, and if you’re confident that they’ve reached their choice maturely and for the right reasons, (not just because that’s where their friends are going) then it’s important to give your child a voice in his or her future.
How William Clarence can help
If you’re looking for expert advice on securing an independent school placement, our team of experts is here to help.
William Clarence Education is the leading education consultancy service in the UK. With an unrivalled reach into the UK Schooling and University network, we help and advise families from around the world to reach their maximum potential and gain access to the very best of British education.
William Clarence put the student’s needs and welfare at the centre of every programme of study we deliver with a focus on integrity and discretion. Services include UK School Placement, University Placement, Residential Tutoring, Oxbridge Applications, US College Admissions and Homeschooling.
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