Arabella Davies, Education Consultant and researcher for Tatler Schools Guide shares her knowledge on finding just the right school.
Selecting the right school for your children should be an incredible journey that parents embrace with energy and enthusiasm. Instead, there appears to be an infectious current of stress and exhaustion tied in with open days, registration deadlines and exam fever.
As a parent myself, and having worked closely with families for more than 15 years, I am only too aware of the anxieties that ultimately parents face when choosing a school and so my advice to anyone starting out down this road is to follow some simple steps in order to ease the journey.
“it is extremely important to consider your child’s needs above your own”
Firstly, it is extremely important to consider your child’s needs above your own. Your ambitions for your children can often hinder the final decision and ultimately, you are looking for a school where your child is going to be happy and where, above all, they will receive a rounded and fulfilled education.
Think carefully about what is important to your child inside and outside the classroom and ensure that your chosen school will cater for their own personal interests.
Accept invitations to open days, however hectic they may sound, as these will give you an opportunity to familiarise yourself with the school as well as meet the Head and other academic and pastoral staff who are not always available on private tours.
Don’t forget to turn up to your school visit having done a bit of website research and some basic homework along the way. It sounds obvious, but many parents can’t remember which school they are visiting and don’t even know the name of the head.
Look beyond the amazing facilities and National Trust style buildings – your children won’t notice the beauty of a school. Instead look out for heads with vision and teachers who appear passionate about their subjects and their pupils.
“Most importantly, look to see if the children appear happy”
Ask plenty of questions, not just to academic and pastoral staff but also to the children and current parents as they will be the most truthful. Prepare a list in advance and ask yourself what you really want your child to get out of your chosen school. Most importantly, look to see if the children appear happy.
For those considering a boarding option, you will soon discover the multitude of boarding choices open to families and today’s accommodation bears absolutely no resemblance to those of the 70’s and 80’s. It’s goodbye to drab dormitories and seemingly uncaring matrons and hello to Ikea style clean and contemporary sleeping areas and friendly, cheery and ultimately responsible house parents who genuinely take a vested interest in the future of your child.
Be organised and allow plenty of time for registration and admissions deadlines which, particularly for senior schools, are getting earlier and earlier. I now advise parents to assume that Easter of Year 5 is the cut-off point – this is not the case at every school but it is better to be safe than sorry and schools will happily take your enquiry at any point even if they then encourage you to come back in 6 or 12 months.
Finally, don’t get too stressed or bogged down by the pre-testing and examinations that are in place. More often than not these are to qualify that your children are the right fit rather than whether they have been tutored to within an inch of their life.
For any further information required on selecting just the right school do contact Arabella Davies at www.theirbestyears.com