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8 questions to ask when choosing the right school for your child

8 questions to ask when choosing the right school for your child
Rachael Hobbs

Firstly – consider your child. What type of career do they aspire to? What are their strengths and weaknesses? What type of environment would help them develop and improve? Giving some thought to this will help you know if a school matches your expectations. For example, a child with special needs may feel overwhelmed in a large class. A shy child can get lost in a very large school. A sporty child will need the opportunity to train. 

 

  1. What happens to learning if my child is sent home to isolate?  

We hope that we have seen the back of disruptions to education caused by Covid-19, but the reality is that we probably haven’t. With this in mind, it pays to be prepared. 

The Good Schools Guide says“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?” 

Has the school planned for virtual learning or distance learning, if it becomes necessary? How do they advise that parents prepare the home for remote learning? What training and support have the staff received? How can the school ensure that students remain engaged and make progress? 

 

  1. How do you structure the curriculum and plan your lessons? 

Independent schools do not have to follow the national curriculum. Many of them do, but they have more freedom in how they deliver it, so it’s important to understand the potential benefits of their approach. 

For example, are A Levels taught in a modular or linear fashion? How frequent are formal and informal assessments? Do they embrace hands-on, exploratory learning, or follow a more traditional teacher-as-lecturer approach? Do they use technology to flip the classroom

 

  1. What are your class sizes? 

Class size can have a big impact on the quality of education. Smaller class sizes can lead to more individual attention, personalised instruction, and engagement. Some schools also offer ‘office-hours’ where students can book extra 1-on-1 time with teachers. 

If you are considering an online school, ask about the level of interaction in live lessons as well as the number of pupils in the class. Are students expected to have their cameras on? Are they able to participate using audio, or can they only use the chat box? 

 

  1. What opportunities does the school provide for personal growth? 

While academic studies are important, children also need to develop socially, emotionally and ethically. What extra-curricular activities, projects, trips, events or programs are arranged by the school? What happens to these in the event of Covid disruption? 

Some schools offer guest lectures, the chance to get involved in competitions, and electives that can be studied for enjoyment rather than a qualification.  

 
 

  1. What are the teacher’s qualifications? 

Ask about the teachers’ backgrounds and talk to them about their teaching approaches. You want their passion for the subject to shine through, as it will rub off on the pupils they teach. Sit in on a class. What happens if a student is not performing? How do they identify those that need extra help? How well supported are the teachers to deliver high quality remote learning if the need arises? 

 

  1. What opportunities are there for parents to get involved? 

How does the school communicate with parents? Is there a parents’ association? Do any events take place during the school year that involve parents?  

If you can, talk to parents of current students. 

 

  1. For pupils thinking about university, how are they supported on this path? 

How does the school guide pupils to select the right course, and through the application process? Is there a staff member dedicated to this? What support is there for applying to Oxbridge? If your child hopes to study outside of the UK, how familiar is the school with university systems abroad? What support is there for writing a personal statement, and performing at interview? Does the school arrange work placements? 

 

  1. What results does the school get? 

Exam results are a great indicator of the school’s academic standing, but also look at where the children go after school. Which universities are they accepted at? What courses do they go on to study?