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How to Choose an Independent School

school There are many factors involved when choosing the right Independent School for your child. The most important factor is that the child will be happy at the school. There are many high achieving schools, but success is never guaranteed and the child’s ability needs to match the academic level required at the school.

Here are some of the criteria and things to think about when choosing a school.

  • Sizes of school. Large schools often offer the best facilities and good competition. Many children however are more comfortable at a smaller school in a nurturing environment.

  • Distance from the school. The location of the school is an obvious factor, but it is important to consider how your child will get to school, what is an acceptable journey time and the travel cost.

  • Academic Level. When choosing a senior school, it is importable that the academic level of your child matches that of the school. This is less likely as a requirement for a junior school. The main objective for earlier years is to get the best out of your child.

    There may also be special educational needs (SEN) that need to be taken into account. Parents should check out the school’s SEN policies.

  • Combining with State education. If a full independent education is unaffordable or not wanted, an important question is at what age to give a child independent education?

    There are good arguments for choosing junior schools or senior schools. Junior schools are cheaper and could get the child off to the best start, i.e. switched on for learning and ready to achieve their potential. On the other hand private senior school education can broaden horizons, attain the best examination success and placement in the best universities.

  • Joining Age. Many senior schools have fixed entry points at 11 or 13 and 16 for Sixth Form College. Preparatory schools typically start at age 7 or 8. Some, particularly international schools, will take pupils at any stage.

    There is usually a degree of flexibility, but it is advantageous for children if there are others joining with them.

  • Feeder schools. There are many prep schools with strong links to specific senior schools. If the aspiration is focused on a specific senior school, then the choice of prep school is vital. If the senior school does not have its own junior department, it is essential to look for the right junior school.

  • Common Entrance. Many senior schools are selective and require taking the Common Entrance or their own examinations. Most prep schools have a syllabus and ethos geared up for this, however if the child is at a state sector junior school, additional tuition will be required.

  • Back-up choices. It is particularly important to have backups in mind when the favourite school is highly selective, but it is generally a good idea to consider and visit several schools to gain experience and to be able to contrast one school against another.

  • Child’s Opinion. The choosing of a school is as collective process. Children need to be consulted and involved. The favourite school selected should be agreeable to the child.

  • Word of mouth. Word of mouth remains the greatest influence on forging a school’s reputation and receiving first hand recommendations for a school is invaluable. If current parents cannot be referred to via the school, Internet forums and social networking sites are good places to hear from experienced parents. The school itself is also likely to have a parents section on their own website.

  • League Tables. There are academic league tables produced by the Department of Education which do include independent schools where appropriate, for example GCSE and A level results. http://www.education.gov.uk/schools/performance/

    There are also comprehensive education sections on the Telegraph and Guardian websites where a number of tables are published and comparisons made.

School Selection Criteria Continued ...