Choosing the right school for your child is a very important decision for every parent who should make a choice based on what suits the child rather than the reputation of the school.
Schools sometimes trade off good reputations they had in the past, with few people looking critically at what the school offers today. Equally schools can have bad reputations that they find difficult to shake off, even when they have actually changed enormously over the years. Reputations are meaningless if a school is not right for your child.
Be realistic about your child. You need to think about whether they will fit in anywhere or whether the social make-up of the school matters to you and them. Most children are adaptable but what kind of individual do you want them to become or are you simply interested in exam results? Will they be happy in a very pushy, exam results-driven environment or will they be happier in a school that encourages them to develop a broader range of interests and in a more diverse school community?
You also need to think seriously about whether or not your child is self-motivated and highly academic. Some schools have very competitive entrance exams and if you need to push the child to take endless private lessons just to sit the school entrance exam, how will they cope when they get there?
Most private schools have entrance exams, which are designed to identify the highest achieving students. It is not an indication of whether or not the school can meet your child’s individual needs. When a school selects the highest achieving students, it is easier for the school to produce decent results.
If you have an older child, it is important to make sure that the school offers the subjects that your child is interested in. Often small schools have limited choices at GCSE and A Level or IB. It is important to know therefore, which subjects are offered in combination with other subjects.
The best way to get an idea of what a school is like is to pay it a visit. Walk round a school when teachers are teaching, observe the interaction between teachers and students, look at the school walls – is work displayed and clearly valued? Ask about the teaching methods employed. Are lessons interesting and interactive, or does there appear to be a lot of old-fashioned rote-style learning, which can get results but at what cost?
Ask students questions and note their attitude towards you. This helps you establish what a school is really like. Are they the kind of students you want your child to mix with and are they the kind of student and young person you would like your child to become?
The aim of education is not only academic achievement. It is also for children to discover who they are, what they are good at and to get the qualifications they need to get on the next step of the ladder, wherever that is.