Choosing A School - Thoughts For Parents
What do you want for your child?
State school or fee-paying? Day or boarding school? Single sex or co-education? It helps to have a game plan, even if you change it at a later date.
What do you want from the school?
Undoubtedly you want to find a great school, one that's ideal for your child, with great teaching and possibly good facilities to match.
It is crucial you decide what is really important to you and your child.
Make an honest list for yourself of everything that you want for your child, however ambitious, frivolous or peripheral it may seem.
- a nurturing environment
- social status
- very local - very convenient
- before and after school care
- a traditional approach or a relaxed outlook
- beauty of architecture
- state of the art facilities
- a stepping stone to a top-notch senior school or university
- curriculum flexibility
- offers Japanese
- choirs, orchestras and ensembles
- sport for all
- help with learning difficulties
- support for gifted, talented and able....
- awards and scholarships/bursaries (for independent schools)
- religious outlook
- parental involvement
And for boarding:
- full or flexi-boarding
- exeats/holidays that fit in with your career
- doesn't cost too much (if anything).
- all in fees or flexible extras?
- environment - bustling town or away from it all country setting
- care and support
- contact - how much, how often and how?
- Saturday school
The list is endless, so where do you begin?
Beware the danger of judging a school exclusively by the bottom end because your child is young; look at the end product
Choosing a school is a process of elimination. It is vital you see several schools, even if the first school you visit feels right, you should visit others to confirm or counter this instinct.
- How, and where, you want your child to end up.
- Your gut reaction - the atmosphere should be tangible and excite you.
- The head - is he/she impressive? You don’t have to like him/her but it helps; the head really does make or break a school.
- Staff - Is there a member of staff at the school who is on the same wavelength as you? If your child is boarding there must be someone you can turn to and feel in tune with.
- The pupils - do you see your child sat amongst them?
Do be prepared to revisit, refine and re-prioritise your wish list.
Did you walk into the school and feel at home; did you come out from a school visit feeling good? If it doesn't feel right, it isn't right.
We have a whole series of articles and advice to help you every step of the way; whether tentatively embarking on choosing a school, or part way through the school choice process.
Results, performance, care
As well as great advice (see reading list at foot of this page), Subscribers to The Good Schools Guide Online will find detailed exam results and performance information on schools via their individual school pages.
If you haven't yet identified schools of interest why not use our Advanced Search to Find Schools - here you can search by any or all of:
- Location - town, postcode or Local Authority (but not by county*)
- Type - Independent/State school
- Review - limit your selection of schools to those reviewed by The Good Schools Guide (or not)
- Age - Specify ages that must be included
- Features - IB, Ofsted Outstanding, CReSTeD, International Study Centre, Polo and more!
*Schools tend not to record county so we exclude from search
Remember - ask not only 'Is this a good school?' but:
'Is this a good school for a child like mine?'
Fortunately, Subscribers** may use this site to find out:
- How well a school performs.
- Which schools do best by the brightest, the average or below average child.
- Who adds the most value.
- Which schools a particular school recruits from and where children move onto.
- The universities sixth-formers go on to and the courses they follow.
- The types of courses available - just GCSEs and A-levels or vocational, IB Pre-U and other options?
- What subjects are popular at a school and where the best results are.
Even good schools can have weak links:
- great results can mask a poor showing in an individual subject or department - make sure it isn't a subject that matters to your child.
- try to establish how many children are having extra tuition outside of school.
If it is an English state school (or independent senior with at sixth form) you can even see the value a school adds to its intake. The graph above shows a school that is failing many of the least able (they are the 4th set of bars) - note the tall blue bar - ideally you want 100% red not tall blue and green!
The graph below shows the overall value added, separated by gender. Here value-added is better for girls than boys.
For examples of the university information we carry please see University Entrance Data.
Once you have a short list of schools why not compare school performance
If you are a registered user you can save lists of schools to 'My Schools'.
Simply save your schools to my schools (the video below/ instructions explain how to).
You must be a subscriber, not just a registered user to compare school performance by:
- Selecting schools they are interested in and saving them to 'My Schools'
- Once selection is saved click on the My Saved Schools box (located near top menu RHS just under shop).
- Select the 'View All Saved Schools' link within My Saved Schools
- You should now have a list view of all saved schools - click on the 'Compare' button.
You could opt for the school that has the uniform you like best or, if you are a subscriber, you could compare the schools via My Schools to see which really is best for your child.
Do consult our check-lists of questions to ask when visiting schools (see below).
Can I find the best schools for say chemistry and geography at A-level?
Yes, if you are a subscriber you can either:
- Use My Schools (see above) to find the best performing schools from your selection or
- Use Six of the Best - which ranks schools according to the criteria - you choose.
The Good Schools Guide - Can you afford not to read it?
Authoritative, sought-after, truthful...
"It is highly opinionated: the only guide that offers parents a genuine flavour of what a school is like." - The Daily Telegraph
Revered and feared by schools, loved by parents!
- We hand-pick state and fee-paying schools.
- Schools cannot buy their way into the Guide.
- We visit schools, talk to parents, pupils, staff, the head and moles.
- We independently write the reviews.
Discover all the inside information including:
- What the head is really like.
- How to get in - and where pupils go on to when they leave.
- What's really on offer; both in and out of the classroom.
- The facilities, frippery and finery to be found - or not!
- The atmosphere - who will the school REALLY suit?
- The funding you'll need and the financial health of the school.
- Our opinion - what parents think, what we've uncovered...
Try before you buy - click on the links below
The influence of the head is pervasive, rooting the school in values of right thinking and right conduct..
Power point demos by all, from Primary 7; Primary 6 are observers, and rector then discusses the P7 presentation with them (face lit up like a beacon when he described this).
Engaging, inquisitive, interested youngsters many with ready smiles, welcoming of visitors; yes the children do have ASD but forget the myths; most children here communicate and interact.
Why not subscribe to The Good Schools Guide online. £9.99 for one month or £39 for one year - equivalent to just £3.25 per month. All the reviews from the printed guide - plus data too!
Subscribers** to The Good Schools guide can examine:
- School performance data* for KS2, GCSE and A-level
- Value-added data* .Does the school make a difference to all pupils or just some?
- University information*. Details of which universities pupils go on to and what they study.
- And, for English state schools, make sure you make the right move by examining catchment area data and seeing which schools pupils come from and which schools they move on to.
*We indicate on a school's page here data is available. We do not have data for schools outside of England.
** An introductory one month subscription costs just £9.99 or subscribe for a whole year for just £39 - the equivalent of only £3.25 per month.
For those new to the process:
For those visiting schools:
For those contemplating the admissions process:
The Good Schools Guide advice services provide personal, one-to-one consultancy advice for finding schools at home and overseas. Our most knowledgeable and experienced school experts work with you, to find the right school for your child.
Find a School...
Education News Feeds
Latest Education News from around the web.
- Moocs are the clever way to keep up to date
- Elizabethan child actors 'kidnapped'
- Stephen Twigg: Labour would let all schools choose curriculum, not just free schools and academies
- Lord Adonis: The academies programme will continue to flourish under Labour
- Signing 'should be foreign language'
- Labour would halt free schools expansion, says Stephen Twigg
The Good Schools Guide is not responsible for the content of external internet sites