Whether your child is about to embark on his or her educational journey, or is moving on to the next academic stage, determining a school to suit his or her needs is an important decision with many factors to consider.
To help you on your way, Neil Roskilly, chief executive of the Independent Schools Association (ISA) provides an insight into how to make the all-important decisions about your child’s future.
He said: “Parents make the most important purchasing choice of their lives when they decide on an independent school. While houses and sometimes even cars and holidays may cost more, making the right choice of private school has life-long consequences for the family members they love.
“It’s easy to change cars and move house as, for the most part, you usually get what you pay for. But with schools that doesn’t always apply, as there are many other factors to consider and you don’t always get a good return on investment.
“But parents should set aside things like tradition and the size of playing fields, and ask themselves, ‘would my son or daughter be happy here?’ Ultimately, that’s all that matters, as happy children learn.
In a nurturing environment and given the right balance between challenge and encouragement, children will not just go on to enjoy success, but to exceed all expectations.
Parents will recognise a happy school as soon as they walk through its doors. Teachers will be talking to and about children, and the children will be enthusiastic about learning. So don’t get side-tracked at the age of buildings and colour of the walls – watch the children and choose the happiest school you can find.”
When considering which school is the correct one for your child, Mr Roskilly has these tips to make finding the right establishment a little easier…
1) Visit when the school is in normal session – don’t rely on a highly-orchestrated open day.
2) Meet the head and ask if you are happy that this is the person you are entrusting your child to. If the head seems inaccessible, look elsewhere.
3) Send an email to the school and see how long it takes to get a reply. Schools that put parents and pupils ﬁrst will get back to you almost instantly.
4) Check the accreditation of the school. Make sure it is a member of one of the heads’ associations within the Independent Schools Council, such as the Independent Schools Association.
5) Ask about value-added data (measuring a child’s progress against national norms), as raw examination results tell you very little. Question it if the school says, ‘we don’t do that.’
6) Check the previous inspection report (mostly it’ll be on the Independent Schools Inspectorate or Ofsted website). Look carefully for comments on the strength of relationships between teachers and pupils.
7) Don’t assume that the higher the fee, the more you get. Don’t dismiss schools just because their fees may be lower than a competitor.
8) Enquire about bursaries, scholarships and fee discounts. Don’t be shy.
9) Ask if fees are fully inclusive or if there are any extras. Sometimes the extras can mount up signiﬁcantly.
10) Ask about ‘wrap-around’ and extra-curricular activities (breakfast clubs, after-school societies and sports, etc.) These ﬁt drop-off and pick-up around busy parents’ professional lives and also enrich every child’s education.