Wicked Smart

UK prep schools - finding "the one"

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When it comes to selecting a school for your child, the entire process can be just as stressful as moving house or starting a new job. With so many factors to consider, it can be difficult to know where to begin. Here are items we consider to be top of the agenda when choosing the ideal school.

Think carefully about the type of education you are looking for

This may sound obvious to some, but with so many prep schools available, it’s worth considering what is of utmost priority to you. For example, do you favour a traditional school, or one with a more modern approach with innovative teaching strategies? How about sports facilities or a focus on performing arts? Next comes the decision of a single sex or co-ed school, and for those who are keen to avoid the 11+ exam, it may be worth checking that your ‘number one’ school offers direct entry into the senior campus.

Go on a tour of the school

Open mornings are great for gaining a first impression of a school, but a guided tour around the campus is where you will be able to delve deeper into the nitty gritty of how the school is run. Notice how the receptionist welcomes you into the school and the way in which staff are interacting with one another as this is a good indicator of overall morale. During this time, it’s also great if you are able to sneak away from the admissions staff to chat with class teachers. Asking them about timetables and subjects covered will help you to understand what daily life is like, and it’s worth asking open ended questions such as “tell me about your students”, to find out more about the range of children that attend the school. As informative as handbooks and inspection reports are, only a visit to the school will allow you to soak up the atmosphere and  get that ‘gut’ feeling about if the school is ‘the one’.

Interview the interviewer

During a parent interview with the headteacher, it can be easy to forget that the application process is mainly about you deciding if the school is right for your child. Don’t be afraid to ask your own questions – here are our top ten for helping you make a final decision about the school:

1. What kind of pupil flourishes at your school?

2. Can you explain the key points in your school improvement plan?

3. What learning support provisions do you currently have in place?

4.  What would you say the values of your school are?

5. Tell me more about the specialist teachers at the school.

6. What extra-curricular opportunities are available? (Particularly useful for busy working parents as many schools offers breakfast clubs and after school activities)

7. Can you talk us through the pastoral care provided at the school?

8. Can you put us in touch with the PTA? (It’s always a great idea to connect with other parents as they will often speak more candidly about their experiences)

9. What does a typical day look like at the school?

10. How are prospective students assessed, and how are pupils prepared for exams once they are attending the school?

With such a crucial decision ahead of you, the most important thing to remember is that you can never be too thorough. Don’t be shy to ask as many questions as you need in order get a real sense of the school’s values and take your time before making any final decisions.

We wish all families the best of luck in choosing a school in which their child will be able to flourish both academically and socially – there really is an ideal school out there for everyone!