Choosing the right school is probably one of the biggest, toughest decisions you will ever make for your children, getting the right start for them is paramount in their journey to success. Independent schools can offer children a great start in life. By providing a high standard of education, a wealth of extra-curricular activities and a dedicated, nurturing environment. Independent schools can help your child achieve their full potential both academically, and as an individual.
Nowadays internet and school marketing mean that many parents are faced with the daunting task of ‘sifting’ through copious amounts of information, on some of the most beautifully presented websites – all in an effort to get to grips with the important details, which will enable them to weigh up which school might offer the best environment for the individual needs of their own children……. Now let’s add in the views of other parents and family members, or following family traditions, attending countless school open days and reading through piles of prospectuses, choosing the right school for your child is highly likely to be a difficult, stressful, and perhaps confusing process.
Not all children have the same needs and abilities. Some flourish in a more competitive environment, whilst others do better in a smaller, more homely setting where the emphasis is more on nurturing creative, and communication skills… Rather than aiming for the likes of Eton. There really is no “one best school” that suits all children equally. Like the great Albert Einstein said “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”
What are your child’s interests, strengths, weakness? Are they academically bright, athletic or a good all-rounder….
It’s important to find out what a school’s philosophy or vision is. You want to make sure this is consistent with your own educational beliefs and values. Often, a school’s philosophy is reflected in its mission statement, and is carried out through what is called a “strategic plan”.
Student life is an important part of education. You want your child to be happy, productive, and engaged at school. And you want them to develop and maintain strong friendships and peer relationships.
Location, Location, Location – look at what works best in terms of location in relation to travel links, airports, family units etc.
What facilities are available at the school, and do these match up with your child’s abilities, and interests?
Does the school offer specialist learning support for those who need it?
Do I need to consider whether A levels/BTEC are also offered at sixth form? This may not seem important if at present your child is only age seven or eight, but are you happy to consider a change of school at sixth form?
What is the provision for boarders at weekends? Will the weekend plans, when day pupils are not there, provide a stimulating, challenging and enjoyable environment where your child can continue to be nurtured, and grow as they would if they were with you at home?
Having decided which school you would like to learn more about, now is the time to visit. The right schools are all about people and atmosphere, so visiting the school is a key part of the decision process. Some schools may look impressive on the web, having an incredible marketing team, yet on arrival may seem stale and lifeless. Equally, some schools may not plough money into marketing, and use their budget on resources, and extracurricular….. It really boils down to what you feel fits your family.
Open days are a great start but remember to get a true reflection of a school, the best option is to have an individual appointment to ensure you can view the school operating on a normal day. Go armed with a list of questions you have prepared in advance to ensure that you cover all basis.
Remember to look at the boarding houses, these will be of huge importance if your child is to feel at home whilst in school. Also ensure that there are plenty of activities to occupy your children out of school hours.
Hopefully, you have a firm favourite after your visits, one that gave you that feeling your child/children would be happy there…. Maybe it’s a warm, welcoming feeling, happy students or great results.
There are so many things to think about when choosing an independent school, seeking advice from a reputable, experienced educational consultant can be a highly valuable, and a reassuring tool to support the family in making this important decision.