20th February 2017
Choosing a school for your child is one of the most important decisions you will ever make and, just like any other major purchase, you need to do your homework and make sure you find out as much as possible about the school in advance. Only that way will you be confident that it will be right for your child. This is the time of year when many parents will be flying over to the UK to see a range of potential schools for their child – our advice –read our top tips, arm yourself with some key questions, and BE PREPARED!
A Check-List of Recommended Questions (to ask yourself and the school) from the Parent’s Perspective
Is this school ideally suited to the academic aspirations that you have for your child? What curriculum is offered? (GCSE, IB, A Levels, Pre-U, BTEC etc). Does it offer all the subjects your child wants to study? What are the results like in those subjects?
Do you understand exactly what your child will need to do to gain entry to the school? How competitive is the school? How likely is your child to pass the entrance tests? Are there any sample tests available?
Make sure that you visit the dormitories or boarding bedrooms and the common areas. Are the facilities modern and comfortable or spartan and unwelcoming? Can the children personalise their space with their own mementos? What happens at weekends? What’s the food like? (ask a current pupil if you can – you are likely to get an honest reply!)
Make sure you meet the Housemaster/mistress. How do they get on with the pupils? What arrangements are made for boarders at weekends? What are the activities? Are children allowed into the local town- accompanied or unaccompanied? Does the school have a strict anti-bullying policy in place? How strict is the uniform code? Does the school’s approach to discipline match your own values and expectations?
What are the costs? Remember you need to add the cost of uniform, trips, books, exams, music lessons, some extra-curricular activities and travel. Are there bursaries or scholarships which might be applicable to you? What are the criteria? Is there published information?
What are the qualifications and experience of teachers? What is the turnover of teaching staff? Could you ask to observe part of a lesson? Ask to see some samples of students’ work. Are the teachers you meet friendly and interested in your child?
What is the school’s examination track record? What proportion of 6th formers goes to university? What are their destinations? Does the school have dedicated higher education and careers advisers? If you are looking at a prep school, how many children gain places at their chosen senior schools?
There is no doubt that the character of the headteacher defines most schools. Did you like the Head? Did you feel you received pertinent and informed answers to your questions? What are his/her principles, policies and personal philosophy on what he/she wishes to achieve at the school? How do the pupils react to the Head – respect? warmth? fear? Did the Head take an interest in YOUR child?
What goes on inside a school is more important than what it looks like. However, a thriving school should be constantly investing in maintaining and improving the school buildings and facilities. What are your impressions of different areas of the school?
10. MOST IMPORTANT, what was your ‘gut feeling’ on a personal visit on a normal school day?
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