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  • Choosing a school

  • A beginner’s guide to choosing a school in London

    Selecting the perfect school for your child can be a bewildering process at the best of times. Finding a school in London, however, brings with it a raft of additional questions and concerns. What do you need to know and how can you navigate the process?

  • Catchment area cheat

    School catchment area frenzy is gripping the nation as anxious parents lie, cheat, and even change their religion to get their offspring into the right school. And as the cost of living continues to soar and many independent school fees remain out of reach for the majority, there’s no sign of the trend slowing down, with hordes of parents willing to do almost anything to get their children into the state school of their choice.

  • Changing school for sixth form

    A change from single sex school to co-ed, day to boarding, private to state, A levels to IB -these or their vice versas are just a few of the reasons for moving to a different school after GCSEs. For some young people the motivation is less specific, they may just feel ready for a fresh start and new faces. If you think that a change of school might be on the horizon for your child then ideally you will need to get the ball rolling towards the end of their year 10 in time for sixth form open days and applications which generally take place the following autumn. 

  • Children's mental health and pastoral care in schools

    Children’s mental health has hit a worrying low, according to a raft of research from charities and professional bodies. From anxieties caused by exam stress and social media to the devastating toll of the pandemic, the picture has never been starker.

  • Choosing a school - tips 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.

  • Educating the gifted child

    Gifted children develop cognitively at a much faster rate than they develop physically, emotionally and socially, posing some interesting problems. For some, rapidly grasping what others cannot can lead to boredom, frustration and inappropriate behaviour. In all these cases there are challenges for parents, teachers and the child, who sees conforming to the norm as a major peer requirement.

  • Find school places for Ukrainian refugees

    The government’s ‘Homes for Ukraine’ scheme aims to enable tens of thousands of people, including school-age children, to flee the war in Ukraine and come to the UK. So how can host families help find these children the right school and apply for a place?

  • From embryo to 18 - how to survive the education highway

    A handful of schools literally demand that you apply for a place as soon as your child is born, which means it’s never too early to start planning your child’s education. In fact, it’s a process that can start even before you’ve conceived – and that goes for all parents, wherever they want their offspring to go to school.

    From embryo to 18, read on to find out how to survive the education highway. Our lively look at education planning for children of all ages and their parents aims to guide you through the schooling stages in both the independent and state sectors, and to tell you what to plan for and when.

    'Before I got married I had six theories about bringing up children; now I have six children and no theories.' John Wilmot

    With school gates firmly closed to visitors, prospective pupils and their parents need to find new ways of getting to know schools before making an informed decision. But in the middle of the Covid-19 lockdown how can you replicate that ‘gut feel’ experience of visiting a school? The experts at The Good Schools Guide talks 'virtual open days' and offers tips to get you on the right track.

    Further reading

  • Getting the most out of parents’ evenings

    Parents’ evenings – not to be confused with daytime TV game shows, speed-dating or the Spanish Inquisition - are a rare chance to sit face-to-face with your child’s teachers.

  • How to prepare your child for entry to a selective independent school

    You’ve done your homework - been to the open days, studied the prospectuses, balanced larger playing fields against smaller classes, shorter journeys against longer bills. And now you’re ready to prepare your child.

  • Inspection reports from Ofsted

    Ofsted (Office for Standards in Education, Children's Services and Skills) inspects and regulates services that care for children and young people, and services providing education and skillstraining.

  • Mix and match state and private education

    All those scary newspaper statistics about the long-term costs of keeping your child in nappies and birthday presents pale into insignificance when set beside the £250,000+ you’ll need to educate a child privately from nursery to university. But paying for a private education from finger painting to Freshers’ Week is not an option for most families. .

  • 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.

  • Northern Ireland education system

    The education system in Northern Ireland has some important differences to the one in England and Wales. Whilst the school year also starts in September, the child’s age on 1 July (rather than 1 September, as in England and Wales) determines when they start school and what school year they are in. As elsewhere, children start primary school at 4+ and move on to secondary school at 11+.

  • Online and virtual open days

    With schools once again closing their gates to all but a few children – and with no certainty as to when they will reopen – the ‘Virtual Open Day’ has become the main tool at a school’s disposal when trying to attract prospective pupils and their parents.

  • Online schools

    Online schooling is an alternative to more traditional schooling, whereby children or young people learn either entirely or primarily online. Online schools and colleges have become particularly popular since COVID.

  • School open days

    They may not truly reflect day-to-day life at a school (this will be school at its best) but they'll give you a flavour of what's happening and allow you to soak up the atmosphere. They are your chance to have the upper hand, get a feel for the school and chat with pupils and staff. Do visit more than one school: it’s useful to compare and contrast.

  • Scottish education system

    The education system in Scotland is completely different from the rest of the UK. It is based on the Curriculum for Excellence which covers education from 3-18 years old. Children in Scotland usually start primary school in mid to late August when they are aged between four-and-a-half and five-and-a-half years old. Your child will be at primary school for seven years (p1-p7) before progressing to secondary school around the age of 11/12.

  • Sexual misconduct among pupils – what you need to know

    As if it wasn’t hard enough guiding your child through the complexities of social media – not to mention alcohol, drugs and sex – along come allegations of sexual harassment and assault among pupils and even a ‘rape culture’ in schools.

  • Understanding the British school system

    Normal primary school admissions are at 3+ into the nursery or 4+ into the reception class. Some are divided into infant and junior schools, the latter starting at 7 years. Most secondary schools start at 11. For a normal application, you will need to apply – with a local address - by around mid-January for primary schools and the end of October of the year before entry for secondary schools.

  • Шкільні місця для українських біженців
    • Alternative Schools
    • Alternative schools

      Alternative educationAlternative schools – sometimes known as progressive schools - offer an unconventional approach to education. They suit parents who consider traditional schooling a straightjacket and children who don’t flourish in more traditional settings.

      Why alternative schools?

      As parents we are never quite sure if we are doing this right. There are no guidebooks to bringing up children and when it comes to schooling, there is nothing more likely to cause sleepless nights. So much emphasis is put on education that as a parent you feel you just have to get it right…but how do you find the right fit for your child?

      With ever-increasing emphasis on exam results, it takes a brave parent to step off the mainstream carousel of fact cramming, regular homework and testing. If you are the sort of tiger parent who has already, in your mind’s eye, seen your child off to Oxbridge, alternative schooling probably isn’t for you. But one ‘alternative’ parent described it as a refuge from mainstream education where children are ‘criticised and their self-esteem damaged…like workers in a factory’. Read more

      Types of alternative education

    • Forest schools

      Forest schools aren’t actual physical schools. Instead, they refer to regular outdoor sessions, mostly at nursery or primary school level, in natural environments to enable children to develop confidence through hands-on learning.

    • Home education - a parent's guide to breaking up from the system

      First, the myths. Home education isn’t illegal in the UK (though it is in some other countries such as Germany). Nor is it deviant or something undertaken only by weirdos whose extreme religious or dietary views put them at odds with society. You’ll definitely encounter a few distinctly quirky perspectives among home educating parents but probably no more so than in any other community defending strongly held views that set it apart from the mainstream. Read more...

    • Montessori schools

      Creativity and exploration – this ethos puts children firmly at the centre of society. Philosophy:  Based on self-directed activity, hands-on learning and collaborative play. Background: Pioneered by Maria Montessori, Italy’s first female doctor in 1907 to educate the poor in Italy. To the uninitiated, Montessori methods may seem like a free-for-all. Homework, testing and exams are seldom found. Montessori found that children learn best by doing ‘The essence of independence is to be able to do something for one’s self. A child works in order to grow, and is working to create the adult, the person that is to be.’ - Maria Montessori.

    • Steiner-Waldorf schools

      Overview:  Steiner Waldorf aims to provide an unhurried and creative learning environment in harmony with different phases of a child’s development. Background: In 1919, Austrian philosopher and scientist, Rudolf Steiner, whose ideas founded the basis of Anthroposophy, began a school in Stuttgart for children of the workers at the Waldorf-Astoria cigarette factory. This inspired a worldwide movement of schools.

    • The 'alternative' alternatives

      If you thought Steiner and Montessori schools were ‘alternative’, then take a look at The Guide’s ultimate alternative schools, so far removed from a traditional set up that some of them are world renowned. Categorised as ‘learning for life’, these schools take traditional schooling and turn it on its head. There are literally a handful scattered through the UK. Think Sands School in Devon, Brockwood Park and Summerhill. They are one of a kind and completely individual.

    • Grammar Schools
    • Finding a state grammar school

      There are currently around 163 state funded grammar schools located in 36 English local authorities, with around 167,000 pupils between them. There are a further 69 grammar schools in Northern Ireland, but none in Wales or Scotland. Almost half of these are in what are considered 'selective authorities' (eg Kent and Buckinghamshire), where around one in five local children are selected for grammar school entry based on ability. The others are areas such as Barnet or Kingston, with only a few grammar schools.

      Grammar Schools further reading

    • Grammar school admissions

      State grammar schools select pupils by ability. Children are usually tested in the final year of primary school (aged 10/11), by an exam commonly known as the 11+, (see Understanding the 11+). A few schools test for entry at 13+, and many re-open their books at 16+. Some grammar schools now give preference to qualifying children on Pupil Premium. Read more

    • Grammar school appeals

      Your child has passed the 11+, but has not been offered a grammar school place. Or perhaps your child has narrowly missed the required mark or has not performed as expected in the tests. What can you do? Unfortunately passing the 11+ does not always guarantee you a place at a grammar school. Some will select by the highest score, others by proximity to the school. Every year a substantial number of grammar ability children are not offered a grammar school place on National Offer Day. If this has happened to your child you will, understandably, feel both disappointed and, probably, that the system is unfair. Read more

    • 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

    • State grammar school local authorities

      State grammar schools are located in 38 UK local authorities, including Barnet, Bexley, Bromley, Enfield, Kingston upon Thames See complete list

    • Understanding the 11+

      This is the must read article for any parent of a child under eleven years of age who is contemplating a selective or independent school education. We unravel the mystery behind 11+ testing and examinations and explain what you need to do, when and how, to ensure maximum success for your child. Read more

    • Independent Schools
    • Boarding prep schools: what you need to know

      Nearly all boarding preps go up to age 13 (year 8) because they prepare pupils for senior boarding schools that start in year 9. The majority of pupils at these prep schools start ‘proper’ boarding at around age 11 although some may have tried it out previously via flexi boarding or doing the occasional ‘taster’ night. A few prep schools admit boarders under 10 and make special provision for them with bedrooms that look much closer to how things are at home and, because numbers are small, a regime that is flexible.

    • Considering boarding in the sixth form?

      It’s quite common for young people to want a change of scene after GCSEs and some may choose to move to a school where they can board for their last two years. We visit many schools where there are more boarders in the sixth form than lower down the school – largely because 16- to 18-year-olds are keen to concentrate on their studies, socialise with their friends in their spare time and get a taste of living away from home prior to university.

    • Independent school system explained

      Left scratching your head about the difference between public school, private school and independent school? And where on earth prep schools and boarding schools fit into the picture? Fear not – our at a glance guide will set you straight:

      Independent Schools further reading

    • Independent Schools Inspectorate (ISI)

      The Independent Schools Inspectorate (ISI) inspects schools that belong to the Independent Schools Council (ISC) which has more than 1,200 members, including many prestigious schools such as Eton, Harrow and Cheltenham Ladies' College.

    • Prep and pre-prep schools: what do I need to know?

      As their name suggests, the main aim of ‘preparatory schools’, or prep schools, is to prepare children for entry to fee-paying senior schools at 11 or 13. Traditionally, pre-preps take children from 3 or 4 and prepare them for moving on to preps at 7 or 8. There are fewer stand-alone pre-preps than there used to be as their main market, the boarding prep, has declined in numbers.

    • Preparing your child for private school interviews

      While state schools are prohibited from interviewing any but potential sixth form students, the interview is an integral part of nearly every private school admissions process, and tends to send the applicant’s parents, rather than the actual applicant, into a spin. Parents feel considerably more responsible for their child’s social presentation than for his or her ability to do long division or conjugate French verbs.

    • Private school fees, scholarships and bursaries

      You want an independent school education for your children but can’t afford the fees? These days, independent education - especially if you have more than one child - is out of the financial reach of most people. Fees have rocketed in relation to salaries and inflation, and families whose children have traditionally boarded for generations are now looking for cheaper alternatives.

    • Private school fees: what do you get for your money?

      'If you have to ask how much, you probably can’t afford it.' Rewind a few decades and that was the general position on private school fees. Even The Good Schools Guide didn’t publish them in early editions.

    • What type of boarding - full, weekly or flexi?

      If you’re reading this you’ve probably already decided that boarding might suit your son or daughter. If so the next step is to consider the arrangement that best suits your family. Unlike the old days, when youngsters were packed off to school at the age of 7 or 8 and didn’t see home again until the end of term, today’s boarding schools offer parents a choice of full boarding, weekly boarding, flexi boarding or even a combination of these. For instance, flexi boarders may wish to weekly board during exam times or become full boarders in the sixth form.

    • Nursery Schools
    • Childcare choices for under 5s

      What type of childcare suits your family best? We’ve not met a parent who has done birth to school without some form of help. Everyone needs a new perspective on – or a break from - their children at some point in those 5 years. Children also need interaction and to form attachments with those other than their parents for their well-being. Read more

    • Nurseries and early years – your questions answered

      All work and no play? All play and no work? Or something inbetween? Whatever you choose, think safety first. Nursery / early years education should be an exciting, important, formative part of your child's development but finding what's ideal for your child isn't always easy.  Read more

    • Nursery schools – finding the right one

      The right preschool setting will be one in which your child can thrive, flourish and develop - socially, cognitively, emotionally, physically. But there are no hard and fast rules about which ones are best, so try not to have too many preconceived ideas and explore all options so you make the right decision for you. Read more

    • State Schools
    • A guide to state schools

      State schools exist not only in a variety of forms, but with nuances between those.  Some areas continue to have a selective system at 11; others do not. Most secondary schools – and quite a few primary schools – are now academies. Plenty of these are part of large academy chains such as Harris Federation, E-Act or ARK. Other schools are free schools, set up by local groups, often with a faith designation. These are all state schools, funded by the government, but academies and free schools are not overseen by local authorities. Controversially, they are permitted to employ unqualified teachers, set their own admission criteria and ignore the national curriculum..

      However, worry less about the type of school - there are good and bad within all - but look instead at the individual school and how well it will suit your child.

      Englaish education system


      Primary schools - age 4 to 11

    • Primary school admissions – finding the right school

      A good state primary school will not only launch your child into a happy and fulfilling educational journey, but also engage you in the local community. But how do you pick the best one for your child?

    • Primary school admissions – what is the process?

      You must apply through your local authority for a place at a primary school, even if it’s linked to your child’s current nursery. Normal primary school admissions are at 4+ into the reception class. Applications open on different days in each local council area - usually at the start of the autumn term of the year before your child is due to start school. Check your local authority website for details of the catchment area for primary schools nearby, faith requirements and key dates.

    • Primary school appeals – do I stand a chance?

      If you are not offered your first choice school, you can appeal for a place there. But the harsh reality is that you have very little chance of success at appeal for a reception place, especially if you live in a crowded city.

    • Primary schools – top tips when applying

      Parents of children born between 1 September 2017 and 31 August 2018 have until 15 January 2022 to apply for a primary school place for the academic year starting in September 2022. Having advised parents of school applications for more than 35 years, The Good Schools Guide recommends the following read more

    • Secondary school admissions – finding the right school

      You are not ‘free to choose’ the state secondary school you want your child to attend, but you can ‘express a preference.’ Those already in a school may not need to apply formally for places in year 12, but admissions criteria must be the same for both internal and external applicants and should detail any entry requirements eg number and quality of GCSE passes. Schools that offer a wider range of courses can state what courses are available, the entry requirements for each, and how priority for entry to these courses will be determined if they are oversubscribed.

    • Secondary school admissions – what is the process?

      For a place at secondary school, you must apply through your local authority, even if it’s linked to your child’s current primary school. Normal secondary school admissions are at 11+ into year 7. Applications open on different days in each local council area - usually at the start of the autumn term of year 6, though for most grammar schools you will need to register for the entrance test during the summer term of year 5.

    • Secondary school appeals – do I stand a chance?

      Can I appeal my child's secondary school offer? You have a legal right to appeal to any school named on your original preference form. This will come as a huge relief to those still suffering from the shock of receiving an offer for ‘Unpopular Academy’ instead of the high-flying secondary school you preferred. But it’s vital to have a back-up plan alongside the appeals process.

    • Secondary schools – top tips when applying

      The Good Schools Guide has been helping parents choose the right school for their children for more than 30 years. Here are our top tips and pitfalls to avoid on your secondary school application, which is due to land with your local authority by 31 October.

      Other options

    • State boarding schools

      If you think your child would benefit from a boarding school education, but are put off by the high fees and consequent limited social mix of a typical independent boarding school, you may find that a state boarding school is the answer. Read more...

      State grammar schools
      Counties such as Kent or Buckinghamshire are ‘selective authorities’ and most families will have at least one grammar school close to where they live. Elsewhere, for example in Reading or Kingston-on-Thames, there are just one or two grammar schools and competition for places at these is ferocious. Grammar schools are located in 36 English local authorities. Read more...

      Further reading

      Northern Ireland Education System The education system in Northern Ireland has some important differences to the one in England and Wales. Whilst the school year also starts in September, the child’s age on 1 July (rather than 1 September, as in England and Wales) determines when they start school and what school year they are in. As elsewhere, children start primary school at 4+ and move on to secondary school at 11+.

      Scottish Education System The education system in Scotland is completely different from the rest of the UK. It is based on the Curriculum for Excellence which covers education from 3-18 years old. Children in Scotland usually start primary school in mid to late August when they are aged between four-and-a-half and five-and-a-half years old. Your child will be at primary school for seven years (p1-p7) before progressing to secondary school around the age of 11/12.

      Catchment area cheat Pressure for places in the UK’s best state schools is intensifying with state grammar schools leading the way. Popular schools see upwards of 10 applicants for every place. In 2014, almost half of children in some areas have been rejected from their preferred secondary school. Catchment areas are already shrinking as parents who had planned on private schooling join the battle for places in the best state schools.

      Inspection reports from Ofsted As with most reports, there’s a code to decipher and a few questions to ask. The local school gets a glowing report, yet you know half the population are banned from the shopping centre. Puzzling? So just what do inspection reports tell us and have they any value? The answers are lots, and yes, if you know how to read them.

      Understanding the British school system Normal primary school admissions are at 3+ into the nursery or 4+ into the reception class. Some are divided into infant and junior schools, the latter starting at 7 years. Most secondary schools start at 11. For a normal application, you will need to apply – with a local address - by around mid-January for primary schools and the end of October of the year before entry for secondary schools.

      When to put your child’s name down for a school A handful of schools literally demand that you apply for a place as soon as your child is born, which means it’s never too early to start planning your child’s education. In fact, it’s a process that can start even before you’ve conceived – and that goes for all parents, wherever they want their offspring to go to school.

  • Special Educational Needs

  • Special educational needs introduction

    Young boy studying

    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

    • Help and Advice
    • Apps for autism

      We select the best apps which can help autistic children with exploring feelings, coping with stress, gaining greater independence, and painting without getting their hands dirty. 

    • Apps for dyslexia and dyspraxia

      Apps can be a handy way to encourage struggling readers and to help children with writing difficulties. But which to choose? We highlight some of the best on the market for dyslexia and dyspraxia.

    • Apps for mental health

      Apps can be a useful tool for children to deal with bullying or anxiety, or to disclose their concerns when they are unable to do so face-to-face. We look at what's available.

    • Autism in girls

      Girls typically present with more subtle traits of Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD), less associated with the traditional asocial model, but still presenting challenges to their development and interaction. 

    • Autism interventions

      From ABA to Zones of Regulation, therapy programmes for autistic children can be confusing. It is important to understand the approach and to check that the programme you are being sold is based on scientifically proved evidence.

    • Bullying and children with special needs

      Research by the Anti-Bullying Alliance (ABA) has shown that children with special educational needs or disability (SEND) are more than three times more likely to be bully-victims than their non-disabled peers.

    • Clothing for special needs

      Getting dressed can be a battleground when your child has special needs. But the good news is that retailers are waking up to this, with growing numbers of innovative options.

    • Clubs and activities for children with SEN

      Finding something they love to do after school or in the holidays, can help children with special needs to see that we’re all good at different things and that we all have weaknesses.

    • Developing friendship skills

      No-one wants to play with me. Words we dread as a parent. How can we teach friendship skills to children who struggle with appropriate social skills and self-esteem?

    • Emotional wellbeing in children: When to seek help

      You suspect that all is not well with your child's mental health, but how can you distinguish between a transient phase and something more serious, and how do you get help?

    • Fear of needles

      Injections are a necessary part of life for children but needlephobia is far more common in children with learning disabilities, especially Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

    • Flying with children with special needs

      Travel with a special needs child can be fraught and stressful. And airports can be guaranteed to set your holiday off on the wrong foot. We've asked the UK's airports to tell us how they can help families with SEN and disabled children.

    • Gaming and autism

      Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) are typically strongly drawn to gaming. But while the majority of young people enjoy computer games, there are particular concerns for children with ASD.

    • Getting an educational psychologist assessment

      An assessment by an educational psychologist will help a school understand how best they can help a child with special educational needs. The EP may also recommend a referral to other professionals such as a speech and language therapist, occupational therapist, optometrist or a paediatrician, as well as sources of help such as the child and family consultation services.

    • Global learning difficulties

      Children with learning difficulties find it more difficult to learn things than most others of their age. Specific learning difficulties may mean a child of average or above average intelligence has trouble with learning to read, perhaps, or with maths. Global learning difficulties are more generalised and are not caused by a specific neural problem.

    • Handwriting difficulties

      The best way to work on handwriting at home is not to do regular handwriting practice, says our expert.  Read our tips on how to recognise when a child has difficulties with handwriting, and what parents can do to help.

    • Holiday resorts for children with special needs

      From Cornwall to the Caribbean, we've found the resorts where you and your special needs child will be welcomed, and special equipment and support can be provided.

    • Holidays with an SEN child

      Our tips on everything from pre-holiday planning to days on the beach, which make the experience less stressful.

    • How to identify Special Educational Needs in your child

      Some special needs are easy to spot, others are only determined once a child has experienced personal difficulties or academic problems.

    • How to prevent your child from getting an eating disorder

      Once youngsters hit adolescence, they become particularly susceptible to eating disorders. So what can parents do to help stop it from happening to their kids? And are there danger signs to be mindful of?

    • Identifying and dealing with PDA

      The signs of PDA, and strategies for dealing with it at home and at school.

    • Just diagnosed? Carrie Grant's advice

      When a child is first diagnosed with a special need, many parents find they are pushed out to contend with it with just a leaflet in their hand. Broadcaster Carrie Grant, who has four children with SEN, gives the benefit of her experience to those with a new diagnosis.

    • Learning Centres

      Learning Centres can be an ideal halfway house for children struggling with maths or literacy. They can offer intensive help for part of the day, whilst enabling children to spend the rest of the time in their mainstream school. 

    • Makaton

      Makaton is a unique sign language using symbols, signs and speech. It helps develop essential communication skills including attention and listening, comprehension, memory, recall and organisation of language and expression.

    • Managing autism - lessons I've learned

      Rosie White gives a personal account of the strategies she has learned and adopted from autism courses, which she says have made her family's home life a much happier one.

    • Mental health problems in adolescents

      If you are worried about your teenager's mental health you won't be in the minority. One in ten adolescents suffers from a recognised mental health issue, and one in three reports feeling sad or down more than once a week. What can you and the school do to help?

    • Music lessons for SEN children

      Music can tickle the intellect, engage the emotions and involve all the senses. But music making for children with learning needs comes with a fair few pitfalls.

    • Puberty: How to prepare girls with special needs

      How do you teach a girl with special needs about puberty, and how to manage periods when she is at school?

    • Revision tips for children with ADHD

      The key to helping teenagers with ADHD to revise for their GCSE exams is to understand how their very special brains work. Once you know this, you can help them with strategies.

    • SEN professionals

      A number of key personnel can advise, assess and treat your child, as well as give them the best possible chances to realise their potential

    • Siblings of special needs children

      Professionals agree that siblings of disabled children can suffer emotional, psychological and social impacts but anecdotal evidence suggests it’s not all negative.

    • Sleep training

      Is night-time the stuff of nightmares for your family? We look at sleep training strategies to enable parents to manage the bedtime routine without meltdowns, and ensure a better night's sleep for the whole family.

    • Social Stories

      Everyday events such as haircuts and trips to the dentist can be terrifying for a child with special needs. How can you use social stories to prepare children and prevent meltdowns and anxiety? 

    • Toilet training children with autism

      Trying to toilet train a child with autism or other SEN can be immensely stressful, and it can take much longer than usual. We look at the impact of sensory and social communication difficulties, and offer some practical tips.

    • University for students with special needs

      University admission departments are keen to encourage applications from pupils with special needs and disabilities, and have well-established systems for putting support in place. We look at how to find the university which will work best for you, and what financial and other support you can expect.

    • What is an IEP?

      An Individual Education Plan (IEP) is a plan or programme designed for children with SEN to help them to get the most out of their education.

    • Schools and SEN
    • Adoption and schools

      Adopted children are much more likely than other children to have experienced abuse and neglect, and the impact of this difficult start in life does not disappear when children join loving permanent families.

    • Choosing a residential special school

      When your child is going to a residential school, the educational establishment is only half of the equation. You need to pay great attention also to the home they will be living in while at school.

    • Choosing a school for special needs

      How do you choose a school for a child with special educational needs? What should you look for in mainstream schools, and how do you get funding for independent specialist schools for children with complex needs?

    • Classroom help for children with SEN

      Children with SEN may need additional help in the classroom. So what help are you entitled to, how can you make sure you get it and is there anything else you can do?

    • Dyslexia: how your school can help

      Most specialists will not test children for dyslexia before the age of 7, so it is likely that your child will already be at a mainstream school when they receive the diagnosis.

    • Dyspraxia: Top tips for the school day

      Schools and parents can help dyspraxic children to identify and incorporate positive (rather than negative/avoidance) strategies to maximise engagement and self-esteem, whilst minimising fatigue.

    • Mainstream schools for special needs

      Many parents of children with special needs want their child to remain in the mainstream system. So how can you make sure it’s the best school for them and that it delivers on any extra provision required?

    • Moving on to Secondary School

      At the beginning of March each year, state secondary school places are announced and parents prepare excitedly for the move to ‘big’ school. For a parent of a SEND child, the next step is far from easy.

    • Nurseries for special needs

      The first day at nursery is a milestone for any child, but even more so for those with SEN whose parents are often more anxious and wobbly than the child.

    • Residential trips for your SEN child

      School trips can be valuable extracurricular experiences. But the sudden change in routine and unfamiliar surroundings can be daunting for children with SEN.

    • Special Educational Needs Coordinator (SENCo)

      A SENCo, or Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator, is the school teacher who is responsible for assessing, planning and monitoring the progress of children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND).

    • Special schools

      What matters to your child with special needs or learning difficulties is finding the school that best suits them as an individual and will give them the best chances in life.

    • Starting a new school: When your child has SEN

      Starting a new school is a big deal for all children, but for children with special needs – and their parents - it can be more frightening than exciting.

    • Surviving the summer holidays with your SEN child

      No school, different routines and round-the-clock care. Parents of children with special needs are faced with their biggest challenge of the year when it comes to the six long weeks of summer.

    • Teaching Assistants

      Most primary or junior schools have teaching assistants (TAs) who work alongside teachers to help with the whole class. Some TAs support individual children with special educational needs.

    • The special, special schools

      All special schools do things differently in order to reach pupils who are less engaged by standard teaching. But some are pioneering. Here’s our pick of the best of them

    • When is it best to go specialist for SpLD?

      If your child has specific learning difficulties such as dyslexia or dyspraxia it can be a dilemma whether to place your child in mainstream or specialist education. How do you decide which is the best type of school for your child?

    • Types of SEN
    • ADHD and ADD in girls

      ADHD occurs up to four times more in boys than girls but there is an increasing concern that the condition is picked up so much later in the female population.

    • Anxiety in girls with autism

      High levels of anxiety are commonly seen in autistic people, but it manifests in a different way in girls to boys. Eating disorders, self-harming, and depression can be some of the effects. How can parents recognise and deal with anxiety in an autistic daughter?

    • ASD - autism spectrum disorder

      Autism, or Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD), or Autistic Spectrum Condition (ASC) - is a lifelong condition affecting how people communicate and interact with others and how they relate to the world about them.

    • Attachment disorder

      Attachment Disorder (AD) arises when an infant or child under the age of five suffers an early life trauma and then fails to form normal loving relationships with their primary carers.

    • Attention defecit (hyperactivity) disorders (ADHD)

      ADHD is a behavioural disorder characterised by inattentiveness, impulsivity and hyperactivity. It may occur without the hyperactive element and is then described as ADD.

    • Auditory processing difficulties

      Auditory Processing Disorder (APD) is a condition in which the brain does not process sounds in the normal way. APD can affect people of all ages, but often starts in childhood.

    • Avoidant food intake disorder

      Previously known as Selective Eating Disorder, Avoidant food intake disorder (Arfid) occurs typically, although not exclusively, in children with autism and is gaining increasing recognition.

    • Behavioural disorders

      A behaviour disorder is characterised as a clinically significant pattern of behaviour associated with distress or impairment in an important area of functioning. 

    • Challenging behaviour

      Challenging behaviour is conduct that is either a challenge for others to manage and/or puts the young person at risk.

    • Conduct disorder

      Conduct Disorder (CD) is the name given to a mental health condition, which is fairly common in children and adolescence, and which causes defiant behaviour.

    • Dual or multiple exceptionality (DME)

      Dual or Multiple Exceptionality (DME) occurs when a child experiences high learning potential alongside a special educational need because of a learning difficulty or disability.

    • Dyscalculia

      Dyscalculia is a specific learning difficulty affecting the normal acquisition of arithmetic skills. It usually co-occurs with other specific learning difficulties such as dyslexia or dyspraxia.

    • Dysgraphia

      Dysgraphia is a common name given to Developmental Co-ordination Difficulties affecting writing. Unlike dyspraxia which can affect either gross motor or fine motor skills, it affects fine motor skills.

    • Dyslexia

      Dyslexia is a common learning difficulty that can cause problems with reading, writing and spelling. It is a Specific Learning Difficulty and there are recognised overlaps with these

    • Dyspraxia

      Is your child's room a nightmare? Are you always buying plasters? Do you have trouble deciphering what they’ve written? Your child may have a Specific Learning Difficulty (SpLD) known as Development Co-ordination Difficulty (DCD), often referred to as dyspraxia.

    • Eating disorders

      For some children and young adults, it is not the lesson times that cause most anxiety at school, but the lunch. When your child has an eating disorder, learning comes second place to battling with food.

    • Epilepsy

      Epilepsy is a neurological disorder which affects the brain and is marked by the tendency to have recurrent seizures.

    • Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder

      Foetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) is the umbrella term for a range of defects thought to be a direct result of the mother drinking alcohol while pregnant.

    • Fragile X

      Children with Fragile X may be developmentally delayed and experience learning and behavioural difficulties. Fragile X is the second most commonly occurring inherited condition after Down’s syndrome.

    • Gender dysphoria

      Gender dysphoria is a condition where a person experiences discomfort or distress because there is a mismatch between their biological sex and gender identity. The prefix ‘trans’ is often applied to people who have acted on their gender dysphoria and have taken steps to live as a member of the opposite sex. Most such people prefer the prefix to be kept separate from the noun, eg “trans woman”.

    • Genetic disorders

      A look at genetic disorders: Down's syndrome, Angelman syndrome, Prader-Willi syndrome, Williams syndrome, Rett syndrome. Down’s syndrome is a chromosomal disorder. About 600 babies with the condition are born in the UK each year. Diagnosis is confirmed via a blood test called a chromosomal karyotype.

    • Mild learning difficulties

      A child with a mild learning difficulty is usually able to hold a conversation and communicate most of their needs and wishes. But they may need additional support in some areas.

    • Moderate learning difficulties

      Moderate Learning Difficulties (MLD) is a term applied to children who have difficulties resulting in school attainments below expected levels in many areas of the curriculum, despite academic support and differentiation.

    • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

      A person with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) experiences obsessive recurrent thoughts or images which disturb them and make them anxious. To relieve these unpleasant feelings, they may feel obliged to carry out repetitive behaviours.

    • Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD)

      All children disagree with their parents or teachers from time to time, but ODD isn’t a temporary phase. It involves extreme long-lasting, aggressive and defiant behaviour, often to people in authority.

    • Pathological Demand Avoidance (PDA)

      Pathological Demand Avoidance (PDA) is characterised by an extreme avoidance of everyday demands and an anxiety-driven need to be in control. PDA is recognised as a sub-type of autism by the National Autistic Society and is sometimes known as Extreme Demand Avoidance.

    • Profound and multiple learning disability (PMLD)

      Children with profound and multiple learning disability (PMLD) have difficulties in more than one area, including severe learning disability, combined with other significant problems and complex needs. Many are lifelong wheelchair users.

    • Reading difficulties

      Learning to read can be a challenge for some children. Some will simply take longer to master it, but it can be a symptom of dyslexia, vision problems, or emotional difficulties.

    • Selective mutism

      The term selective mutism describes the behaviour of children who are able to speak but remain silent with certain people or in certain settings. It is a form of social anxiety.

    • Self-harm

      Self-harm is when somebody intentionally damages or injures their body. It's usually a way of coping with or expressing overwhelming emotional distress. Self-harm is particularly prevalent among young people with SEN.

    • Sensory processing difficulties

      Sensory Processing Difficulties (SPD) happen when a person’s brain has trouble receiving and interpreting messages from their senses.

    • Severe learning difficulties

      The term Severe Learning Difficulties (SLD), or Severe Learning Disorder, is applied to a child who finds it difficult to understand, learn and remember new skills and has trouble adapting their skills to daily life.

    • Social skills difficulties

      Children with social skills difficulties – otherwise known as pragmatic needs - find it challenging to interact and communicate with others, particularly in relation to following expectations around social norms, unspoken rules and inference.

    • Specific Learning Difficulties (SpLDs)

      Specific Learning Difficulties (SpLDs) is a name given to a range of conditions including dyslexia, dyspraxia and dyscalculia and can be linked to other conditions such as speech and language disorders and ADHD.

    • Speech and language difficulties (Sp&LD)

      When a child is noticeably behind their peers in acquiring speech and/or language skills, communication is considered delayed. This is referred to as Speech and Language Difficulties (Sp&LD) or Speech, Language and Communication Needs (SLCN).

    • Tourette syndrome

      Tourette syndrome (TS) usually starts in childhood, around the age of 7. Symptoms of Tourette syndrome are usually facial tics such as rapid blinking or twitches of the mouth, but TS may start with sounds such as throat clearing and sniffing, or even with multiple tics of movement and sounds.

    • Visual Impairment (VI) and Hearing Impairment (HI)

      Visual Impairment (VI) and Hearing Impairment (HI) in childhood include sight and hearing difficulties and sometimes a combination of both (known as multi-sensory impairments).

    • Your rights
    • Adjustments for pupils with SEN: What is reasonable?

      Under the Equality Act, schools are required to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ so that all children can access their facilities and services. Yet parents often find themselves faced with an additional bill for such provision.

    • Annual reviews

      By law, Education, Health and Care Plans (EHCPs) should be reviewed at least once a year in an annual review. However, parents often have no idea how important the annual review is, or how to manage it.

    • Children with SEN but no Statement or EHCP

      Children with special education needs (SEN) who don't have an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP) should have provision made for them in school through ‘SEN Support'

    • Education Health and Care Plans: What should a good one look like?

      There are many tales of local authorities confusing or rushing the EHCP process, and inadequate Plans written as a result. What does a good Plan look like, and why is it important that provision is written under a particular section?

    • EHCPs and school admissions

      Confused by EHC Needs Assessments, EHC Plans and how they relate to school admissions? We have advice for you.

    • Exam access arrangements

      Exam Access Arrangements (EAAs) are the reasonable adjustments that can be made for an exam candidate and might include things like extra time to complete an exam paper, permission to use assistive technology, or provision of rest breaks.

    • Flexible working - your rights

      If your child has special needs, you are likely to need more time off work than others. The good news is you have the right to request flexible working.

    • Getting SEN funding for an independent mainstream school

      In order to get a placement for their child at an independent mainstream school funded by a local authority (LA), parents have to get an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP).

    • Post-19: New education rights under EHC Plans

      Young people with SEN can now be funded to stay in education up to the age of 25, under the EHCP system. How do you get an EHC Plan beyond 19, and what rights does it give?

    • Refusal to assess for an EHCP

      Local authorities are routinely turning down parents' requests for an EHCP assessment, but do not be deterred. You have a 90% chance of winning an appeal against their decision.

    • School admissions: SEN children without an EHCP

      What's the position on school admissions for children with special needs who don't have an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP)? And how do you overcome any related obstacles?

    • School exclusions: pupils with special educational needs/disabilities

      Children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) are disproportionately likely to be excluded from school; they account for almost two-thirds of all exclusions. What are your rights?

  • Relocation

  • Relocating from China

    China flagOur consultants were contacted by a Chinese family with twin 11-year-old girls. The family had just found out they were relocating to London in the summer and would need year 7 places for their daughters. Most schools had closed their registration for 11+ exams the previous term but our consultant managed to persuade several top schools to take late entries. Some agreed that the girls could take the entrance exams at their current school Read more...

  • Relocating from Russia

    Russia flagA Russian family contacted our consultancy service and asked us to advise them on the best English boarding school for their highly academic 16-year-old son. The situation was urgent because their son had decided at short notice that he wanted to study for A levels in England with a view to applying to Cambridge. Our consultant spoke to the parents and also to the son in order to get as much information as possible about the kind of school they were looking for. Read more...

  • Relocating from Thailand

    Thailand FlagA family moving to England from Thailand at very short notice asked our consultancy service to find a private school for their two children. This urgent situation was complicated further by the fact that the boy needed a year 10 place and the family wanted his three-year-old sister to be at the same school. The family also wanted a school that offered boarding in case this was necessary in the future. Read more...

  • Area Guides

  • Dulwich and Herne Hill

    Excellent state and independent schools. A patch where it pays to pay attention to admissions criteria.

  • South Hams

    Totnes, Kingsbridge, Salcombe, Dartmouth & South Brent schools. Much good schooling, and a strong strain of alternative education, but bits to steer clear of too.

  • Torbay

    Schools in Brixham, Paignton and Torquay. Good grammar schools, a variable picture elsewhere.

  • Curricula and Exams

  • At a glance curriculum guide

    Our curriculum guide lets you know what stage of education your child will be at according to their age, as well as what exams they may be taking.


    Age School year Stage of curriculum Exams
    4-5 Reception Early years Foundation Stage  
    5-6 Year 1 Key stage 1  
    6-7 Year 2 Key stage 1 KS1 Sats
          More >>


    Age School year Stage of curriculum Exams
    4-5 Reception Foundation Phase  
    5-6 Year 1 Foundation Phase  
    6-7 Year 2 Foundation Phase  
          More >>

    N Ireland

    Age School year Stage of curriculum Exams
    4-5 Year 1 Foundation Phase  
    5-6 Year 2 Foundation Phase  
    6-7 Year 3 Key stage 1  
          More >>


    Age School year Stage of curriculum Exams
    4-5 P1 Early level  
    5-6 P2 First level  
    6-7 P3 First level  
          More >>
  • National curriculum for 14 to 16 year olds

    It's not only the type of qualification you need to think about; the subjects you opt to study at 14+ can have far reaching consequences on A level and beyond. Careers and university options may seem like distant dreams, but it's important you check out advanced course requirements now to ensure that your options will enable to you take the courses you want at A level and university.

  • National curriculum for 16 to 18 year olds

    What you study post-16 is likely to shape a huge chunk of your future. If you are considering university study or apprenticeships at 18, make sure you scrutinise course requirements before choosing your advanced level study courses. It's important to think about the type of examination you opt for - A level, Highers, Pre-U, IB etc.

  • National curriculum for 4 to 14 year olds

    All state schools in England and Wales must follow a national curriculum which is divided into different key stages. Key stages 1 to 3 cover school years 1 to 9 and ages 5 to 14.

    Primary Schools

  • Primary school: SATS, what are they?

    Sats (Standard Assessment Tests) measure children’s educational achievement in years 2 and 6, with the ultimate aim of holding schools to account for the attainment of their pupils and the progress they make.

    Secondary Schools

  • Progress 8 and Attainment 8 what are they?

    Progress 8 aims to capture the progress a pupil makes from the end of primary school to the end of secondary school. It is a type of value added measure. Attainment 8 measures the achievement of a pupil across 8 qualifications.

  • Secondary school: common entrance (CE)

    Common entrance (usually shortened to CE) is the name of the examination taken for entrance into some senior independent schools at age 11 (usually girls) or 13 (boys and girls).The 11+ CE examination is used mostly by girls’ boarding schools it consists of papers in English, maths and science. The 13+ examination covers eight core subjects at a higher level.

  • Secondary school: Northern Ireland transfer test

    Entrance to grammar schools in Northern Ireland is via an 11+ exam called the transfer test. There are two types – known as the AQE and the GL. These two separate tests have been in place since the state-run 11+ exam came to an end in 2008. The AQE’s test is called the Common Entrance Assessment (CEA) but is commonly referred to as the AQE. This is used mostly by the controlled (non-denominational) grammar schools. The PPTC’s test is called the GL and is mostly used by Catholic maintained grammar schools.

  • Secondary school: Scottish Nationals

    Curriculum for Excellence (CFE) is the Scottish curriculum for ages 3-15. Exams are set by the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA). They are National 1-5, Highers and Advanced Highers. The CFE was developed by the Scottish Government to deliver a much broader education with greater emphasis on independent learning. Schools have been given greater flexibility to design the curriculum for their Senior Phase pupils according to their area’s requirements. For example, some parts of the Highlands may focus on the Gaelic language or an Aberdeen school may have a focus on engineering.

  • Secondary school: understanding the 11+

    The 11+ is the entrance exam procedure for getting your brightish little button into a fee-paying or state grammar school. Much of the country abolished the 11+ several decades ago for state schools, but a few local authorities, such as Bucks and Kent, retained a large number of grammar schools and run county-wide entrance tests. In some other areas, such as Barnet and Kingston, a few grammar schools exist in tandem with the comprehensive system found in most of the country. These grammar schools set their own entrance exams.

    Sixth Form

  • Sixth form: EPQ (Extended Project Qualification)

    An EPQ (Extended Project Qualification) is a sixth-form qualification that involves students choosing a topic, carrying out research, creating a report (or ‘product’ and report) and delivering a presentation.

  • Sixth form: Oxbridge entrance

    For many A level students and their parents, Oxbridge is the sine qua non of a university education - a golden ticket to fame and fortune. But Oxbridge is certainly not for everyone, even some of the brightest, and certainly doesn’t guarantee riches, or even a job. Critics say that Oxford and Cambridge are too focused on academic ability.

  • Sixth form: subject selection, helping you choose

    If you thought it was difficult choosing GCSE subjects, there is added pressure at A level, IB or their equivalent. Whittling down GCSE choices from eight or more subjects can be tricky. If your school only offers A level and you prefer the breadth of IB, depth of Pre U or vocational orientation of BTec qualifications and the like, you may need to consider changing schools at 16.

  • Sixth form: T Levels

    T levels are new two-year courses that follow GCSEs and each one is equivalent to three A levels. They offer a mixture of classroom learning and ‘on-the-job’ experience in the workplace.


    Further reading

  • Top ten tips for parents: revision

    The Good Schools Guide's top ten tips for parents of children revising for exams. Exams are undoubtedly nerve-racking for children and their parents. Fraught mums and dads watch over their children during the holidays or 'study leave' and wonder to what degree they should be helping. So, with that in mind, here are our top ten tips on how to help children to revise effectively.

    Understanding the British school system

    State schools

    Independent schools

    Grammar schools

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