There is an unwritten guide to schools that you may have subscribed to in the past, or perhaps you have listened to a self-appointed expert on such matters. The consensus is that schools like Eton, Harrow, St Pauls and Westminster are very much ‘top of the pile’ and the others are in some way second division. A visit to one of the 240 odd schools listed as member of the Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ conference, will soon open your eyes to the many other outstanding schools that we are fortunate to have in the UK. With so much choice on offer, this very important decision can be an overwhelmingly complicated one. It does not have to be that way, and John Ing, Director of Dukes Education Consultancy, has written a brief on some of the most important factors to consider and help you make that all-important decision.
Once you have narrowed down the initial choices with some obvious parameters; single-sex vs co-ed, rural vs urban, highly selective academic hot-house or a more inclusive school, you are then ready to search for the ideal school for your child.
Armed with The Good Schools and Tatler Schools Guide, the two publications I would certainly recommend, you are now ready to prepare a long list of schools.
Many schools will have excellent websites and this is clearly a first port of call: however, the most revealing information will probably be the latest inspection document on the school, available at www.isi.net. Focus on the findings (look for words like outstanding and excellent) and any recommendations that should have been acted on since the report was written - worth checking when you visit the school.
When you have shortlist of schools, book yourself in for a personal visit if you can. Most schools will operate personal visits alongside the more impersonal open days. You are then in an excellent position to evaluate the school first-hand. It is important to ask lots of questions!
If you are sympathetic with his/her vision, ask how long he/she will be there!
Do not forget that these tables are dominated by highly selective single-sex schools, and do not necessarily give an idea of how well the school performs relative to the average standard of entry.
Good schools will have an integrated programme.
If you are considering a boarding school, a good question to ask is what the full boarders do at weekends. Good schools will have a full programme of activities and the full boarding examples will have a 7-day programme.
Furthermore, if you are viewing boarding schools, look for Housemasters or Housemistresses that know their charges well, manage their Houses efficiently, but most importantly, do so with empathy and sensitivity.
If you are not too driven by league tables, or influenced by smooth-talking Heads extolling the grandiose plans for development, and can consider what would really suit your child, there are many outstanding schools on offer; jewels in the British education crown!
John runs private consultations with families who would like expert advice on selecting a school and making a strong application for entry. If you want to know more about how we can help you find the perfect match, please do get in touch with us.