Choosing an independent school for your child is a big and exciting decision that requires serious consideration. Private schools are known for their ability to not only improve a child’s academic success but also to turn them into well-rounded individuals, prepared for the world beyond education. In choosing an independent school, the goal is both for your child to have the best school experience they can and also to be happy in their new environment.
It can be useful to compile a list of your wants for your child and expectations of a school to help you hone your choices and ensure you have considered all options. Read below for a comprehensive list of factors to keep in mind before choosing an independent school.
- School results: Where does the school sit on the league tables? If it is a high-flying school, will it be academically selective?
- Location: If it is a non-boarding school, are there easy transport links?
- Classes offered
- Class sizes
- After-school support
- Availability of scholarships or bursaries
- Focus on academia and sport: Is one prioritised over the other?
- Extracurricular activities: How are they managed and how much variety is there?
- Sports facilities: What are the coaching staff like and what level of sport is offered? What options are available to non-sporty children?
- Links to higher education facilities
- Disciplinary procedures
- Option to change to boarding
- Ethos, priorities and educational mission
Alongside these core factors, there are practical considerations to keep in mind when choosing an independent school. These can include:
- Application date: In some cases, schools can ask for applications up to two years in advance. Most schools will have an Open Day, usually in October.
- If the school requests applicants to sit the Common Entrance (CE) exam and whether your child’s current school offers preparation for it.
- Affordability of fees.
- Whether the school is co-educational or single-sex.
- Whether or not the school is boarded.
If you are opting for boarding, it will be useful to think about:
- Whether the school offers full, weekly or flexible boarding
- Holiday timetables
- Visiting schedules
- Saturday school options
- Local environment
Listing all these factors will help you establish a list of potential schools, which you can then shorten after researching your options and visiting different schools.
How important is it to visit an independent school?
Ultimately, you want to find an independent school that both you and your child feel comfortable with, so it is crucial that you visit a few before deciding. Prospectuses and websites can be informative and detailed, but nothing beats stepping directly into the environment your child will be in. During a school visit, you might want to think about:
- Your gut reaction: It always helps to trust your instinct. How did you immediately feel when you entered the school? Was there a welcoming attitude?
- The head: While you don’t have to like the school head, it is vital that you trust and respect them. They are ultimately responsible for shaping your child’s education – are you happy giving them that duty?
- The teachers: The staff will be central to your child’s experience of school. Will they direct and guide your child? Do they seem motivated and fulfilled by their roles?
- The pupils: The other pupils are the best reflection of your child’s upcoming experience at an independent school. Do they seem happy and successful?
Choosing the right independent school can be an extensive process. What is the most important factor for you? Is there anything you wish you’d considered earlier? Let us know by leaving a comment below.