Skip to main content


Loughborough Grammar School14 September 2021

In-person open days are back up and running (for now, at least) and head teachers are poised to take your questions, hoping that their school fits the bill for young Charlie or Charlotte. But will the usual ‘what are the lunches like?’ or ‘how much homework will they get?’ tick the right boxes in pandemic times? 

The truth is, not really. The educational landscape has undergone a seismic shift, with Covid now having its feet well and truly under the table. For parents, this means having to think along totally new lines if they want to maximise their child’s chance of an education that’s free from damaging disruption. While most independent schools delivered a solid home-schooling performance during the height of the pandemic, the reality is that there’s no end in sight for weekly lateral flow testing in schools and it’s likely to continue to be usual for pupils to be sent home to isolate in the event of a positive test in their circle.  

‘Parents need to understand how a school will respond in the event of isolation periods or even future lockdowns’, says Melanie Sanderson, managing editor of The Good Schools Guide. ‘Depending on the age of the child in question, they should hold schools to account on the issues that may affect their child’s physical or mental wellbeing as well as their academic progress.’ 

Technology and the agility of schools in using it has never been as important. Ask the school to explain its plans to continue teaching if your child is sent home to isolate. Will he or she be able to access the class live from home or will it just be a case of worksheets and catching up from friends’ notes when they return? Consistency and continuity in subjects such as maths and languages is particularly important; how are these taught remotely? Another good question - especially for your pupil guide - is whether many children had extra tuition outside of school when they were not attending in person; the answer will speak volumes about whether the school itself was doing enough to keep parental concerns about falling behind at bay. If your child has special educational needs, how this will be managed by the school in the event that they are not able to attend? Push for detail and if you are not given immediate reassurance that their needs will be met, look elsewhere. 

Good schools should be able to demonstrate with ease how they kept pupils of all ages physically active during the pandemic, so consider asking for concrete examples of how they did this. For primary pupils this might be something as simple as a nature walk, while older children may have been set skills challenges relating to their team sports. Either way, a commitment from schools to ensure that pupils’ education is more than just screen based is critical. In relation to mental health, ask your pupil guide how staff checked in with them when they were learning at home. Did they know who to ask for help if they were struggling? Were pastoral resources made available to those who needed extra support? 

Equally, we saw the very best schools keep clubs and societies afloat during the pandemic, making sure that pupils kept their interests alive and social isolation at bay. Ask schools how they handled this and how many clubs kept going remotely. Were concerts and plays performed? Did pupils have the chance to pick up new skills and hobbies such as cookery or arts? What lessons has the school learned overall that have enabled them to improve their offering moving forward? 

If you’re moving an older child before GCSEs or A levels, it would be useful to understand how pupils’ public examination grades were awarded in the 2021 exam season. Again, pupils should be able to give you the inside scoop on their own experiences. Did the school seem organised? How were tests and exams carried out and did most pupils feel that their outcomes were fair? In the event that A level students missed out on their university places, how did school support them? 

Every pupil is different and all parents have their own ideas of what makes a school right for their child, so devise a list of questions relating to the things important to you. Remember that in the case of fee-paying schools, you’re the customer and you shouldn’t be afraid to ask tough questions – the way in which schools respond (or don’t) will tell you everything you need to know. 

Photo credit: Loughborough Grammar School

Subscribe now for instant access to more than 1,300 reviews

Our impartial, candid school reviews have been helping parents make educational decisions for more than 30 years. To see what we have to say about the schools which interest your family, you can order one of our books from the shop or alternatively, subscribe online now to get instant access for as little as £0.29 a day. 

Most popular Good Schools Guide articles

  • Special educational needs introduction

    Need help? Perhaps you suspect your child has some learning difficulty and you would like advice on what you should do. Or perhaps it is becoming clear that your child's current school is not working for him or her, and you need help to find a mainstream school which has better SEN provision, or to find a special school which will best cater for your child's area of need. Our SEN consultancy team advises on both special schools, and the mainstream schools with good SEN support, from reception through to the specialist colleges for 19+. Special Educational Needs Index

  • The Good Schools Guide International

    Coronavirus As a result of the coronavirus outbreak, The Good Schools Guide International offers the following guidance:  Determine the global situation and that of individual countries on government mandated school closures by accessing the UNESCO information on this link:   For updates on the medical situation, go to  the World Health Organisation website at  If you wish to contact one of our GSGI listed schools to discover their current status or any plans for alternate learning strategies, please go to our database to find email and phone numbers for each school If your company makes you brexit, The GSGI should be your first stop.…

  • Uni in the USA... and beyond

    The British guide to great universities from Harvard to Hong Kong. We tell you how to choose, how to apply, how to pay.

  • Grammar schools best value added

    We examined the value-added from KS2 to GCSE for 2017 to see which state selective grammar schools added the most value to their offspring. A note of caution - the more highly selective a grammar school, the less scope there will be to add value. Read more

  • Music, drama and dance at Performing Arts schools

    At specialist music, dance or performing arts schools, the arts aren't optional extras. They’re intrinsic to the school curriculum. Students are expected to fit in high level training and hours of practice alongside a full academic provision. It's a lot to ask any child to take on, but for those with exceptional performing ability this kind of education can be transformative.

Subscribe for instant access to in-depth reviews:

☑ 30,000 Independent, state and special schools in our parent-friendly interactive directory
☑ Instant access to in-depth UK school reviews
☑ Honest, opinionated and fearless independent reviews of over 1,200 schools
☑ Independent tutor company reviews

Try before you buy - The Charter School Southwark

Buy Now

GSG Blog >

The Good Schools Guide newsletter

Educational insight in your inbox. Sign up for our popular newsletters.