• Phileas Fox

How to choose a school after the nursery

Many parents in London start looking at pre-preps or primary schools at the same time as they do at nurseries- as soon as their child is born. Demand for school places is high and many families feel the pressure to get it right. What does not help is the wide range of options available- co-ed, single-sex, state, private, until the age of 7 or 11 or 13, international, different curriculum, strict assessments and so on. We see children going to schools every year and have some tips that might be useful when choosing the right school.


1. Be open-minded. We usually have preconceived ideas of how a school should be based on our own experience or other people's opinions. When looking for a school for your child, it is important to see what is out there and compare it. Maybe you will really like the IB programme, or find that single-sex school would be a great fit for your child, or your local church school actually has excellent results and is very nurturing, or could your child grow up bilingual? Research all available options and don't be afraid to look at something new.


2. Visit the schools. Once you have your list, make appointments to visit the schools. Most schools can be viewed early on, and after the first visit you think- this is the one! However, once your child is three, and has developed a personality, you might rethink your choices from two years ago, because it might actually not be such a great fit. Are they shy and would benefit from a smaller and more nurturing environment? Or will they suffer without an opportunity to do a lot of sport as the school only has a tiny garden? See the schools again and remember about point 1.


3. Look at the whole school. Academic results are undoubtedly very important. However, a good school is so much more than that. Your child will spend the best part of their day there, so it really needs to give a bit more. Do you share their vision and values and the way of teaching? What about the other families- they will be your child's close friends for a number of years. Does it have the facilities and offer opportunities for children to learn and develop beyond the classroom? Does it use a growth mindset approach?


4. Think about what works for your family. School and family life need to work in sync and be a positive experience. Think about the logistics- how is the commute? Are you prepared to make packed lunches every day? Are you accounting for extracurricular activities, bus service and the school uniform in your budget? Is there an after school club in case you are held up at work? How important are all these little things and how might they affect you and your child?


5. Stay on top of the process. Schools have their own admissions process and they like for it to be followed. Send in the forms, go to the open days, find out about the assessments. If you are set on certain schools, stay in touch and express your interest. If you are not successful at obtaining a place, try again a little bit later. The experience needs to be happy and pleasant, and not daunting- this is when you know that it is the right school for your child and your family.