Choosing a suitable school for your child may well be one of the hardest decisions you’ll have to make as a parent. Where do you even begin?
From catchment areas and exam results to OFSTED reports and primary school league tables, there is just so much to get your head around.
So much depends on individuality, such that it’s difficult to find a definitive guide to choosing the right school.
Nevertheless, following these tips below can help you narrow down your options as you continue to sleuth for that perfect school:
What are the different types of schools?
The first step to making an informed decision is to understand the different types of schools that your child can attend. This way, you can focus your research and arrive at a shortlist much faster.
1. Single-Sex Schools
In the UK, it is not uncommon to find an all-girls school or an all-boys school. In fact, until the 1960s to 1970s, virtually all children went to single-sex schools.
Today, however, only about 6% do as more schools have opted for co-ed, especially for students in their sixth forms (years 12 and 13).
Still, a single-sex school can be a great idea, as supporters believe that it helps students become more focused on their studies and that it can also lead students to be less self-conscious about potentially gender-orientated decisions.
2. Specialist Schools
These are schools that focus on a particular subject area, such that they’ve become local centres of excellence in their chosen specialism.
There are ten recognised specialities — arts, technology, language, humanities, sports, engineering, mathematics and computing, business and enterprise, music, and science.
These specialist schools are still required to meet national curriculum requirements and provide a balanced education to all students.
They are also obligated to follow the same admissions process as all maintained schools.
There are some schools specifically for children with special educational requirements. For example, there are specific autism schools and schools for pupils with moderate/severe learning difficulties and physical difficulties.
3. Arts Schools
Like the name suggests, art schools offer formal education in various aspects of art and design. These schools deliver structured lessons that are designed to take your child on an artistic journey from an early age. Lessons are usually age-specific and provide a holistic approach to exploring the nuances of drawing, painting, and art history.
4. Boarding or Day Schools
Another decision you’ll have to make when choosing a school for your child is if it should be boarding or a day school.
In boarding schools, pupils live and study within the school premises during the school year. The most attractive feature of this school type is that the learning never stops.
Your child is immersed in an educational environment that delivers crucial lessons and skills to help them become more independent and ready for real life. Social skills, teamwork, communication, and problem-solving are just among the many learning experiences that await them through superb extra-curricular opportunities, as well as learning to cohabit with other students.
If you prefer to send your child to a normal day to day school, you must be committed to their social life. You get to see your child every night and help them prepare for the next school day. The tuition is also much cheaper than boarding schools.
Visit Schools and Check-Out Open Days
Open days for schools are a good way to get a ‘look-see’ visit to the school and learn more about their approach to education.
This is important as it is a surefire way to quash doubts, answer niggling questions, and whittle down your options on the best primary schools out there.
Sometimes, it’s a gut feeling and not based on anything that you’ve seen or heard about the school, that made you attend the open days for primary school or secondary school.
Either way, once you and your child see the school for yourselves, meet the teachers, and gain insight into lesson plans and extra-curricular activities, you’ll be fairly sure if this is where your child should spend the next few years of their educational journey.
Meeting the teachers and headteachers is important as it will give you an indication as to how friendly the staff are. It says a lot about the school if the staff are friendly.
What is the OFSTED rating and how should it impact your choice for your child’s school?
OFSTED is an abbreviation for the Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills. This independent department reports directly to Parliament. Among its many functions, the members must perform the OFSTED inspection, scrutiny that is used to promote improvement and to hold staff and teachers to account. After the inspection, parents and other stakeholders in the education sector receive the OFSTED School Reports and a rating system, which they can use to make informed decisions. The OFSTED rating system is how the department indicates the quality of an institution. There are four OFSTED ratings:
- Grade 1 – Outstanding
- Grade 2 – Good
- Grade 3 – Requires Improvement
- Grade 4 – Inadequate
Needless to say, this report and rating system can quickly help you identify ideal school options for your child.
Another important indicator is the school exam results. In order for your child to pass each class and be promoted to another class in the next academic year, they’ll have to pass promotional exams.
So if a school reports quality CEM or 11 plus results or has good rankings in the primary school league tables, then chances are it’s a school worth considering.
School reviews are not everything and you should factor in your personal feelings to the school when making your decision.
Where to find OFSTED school ratings?
OFSTED inspection reports and ratings can be found on their official website.
The Importance of Location
When choosing the right school for your child, you’ll want to go for something that isn’t hundreds of miles away from where you live.
It is only practical unless of course, you want to send your child to a boarding school.
Location is one of the easiest ways to streamline your options with a simple Google search. Try some of these key phrases and start building your shortlist from there.
- schools near me
- best primary schools near me
- primary schools near me
To get a true picture of what it’s like to have your child at the school, what better way to get feedback than asking parents who already send their child to the school?
Parent school reviews are usually the most candid an account you can find.
Schools are unlikely to flag any of the negative points about the school and you can gain useful feedback from other parents which will help guide your decisions.
Ofsted has a useful resource called Parent View which acts as a survey about schools.
This resource is compiled of Parents’ feedback and can give you some indication of what parents think of the school in question. Here you’ll be able to see the plus points, as well as any complaints about a school.
Does your child like the environment at the school?
You know your child better than anyone else, so this places you in the best position to decide on the next steps in their educational journey. It is important to be able to trust your gut on decisions like these instead of relying strictly on cold facts.
Remember, you are looking for a school that will make your child’s educational experience as rewarding as possible, and for the most part, that involves listening to your child too and taking their feedback into account.
Choosing the right school for your child need not be a daunting process. Simply follow the tips discussed above and Bob’s your uncle.
Every school has a different environment and feel, and the most important aspect to consider is your child’s happiness.
Can you imagine your child in school? Does your child seem happy at school? These are important questions to factor in when picking a school.
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