THINGS TO LOOK FOR IN CHOOSING SECONDARY SCHOOLS

It is vitally important that parents consider very carefully to which school they will send their child. However,
all too often, parents do not do so.

COMMON MISTAKES PARENTS MAKE
They base their selection on:

  • Their old school – but schools change, as Heads change! Facilities do not always change.
  • Their other child’s school – but children have different abilities and needs
  • Their friends’ child’s school – but their child is not your child!
  • Their child’s preference – but children do not know or understand what they need or what education is about.
  • Their ‘grapevine’ [rumour-mill] – but most information you hear about schools is not based on fact.
  • Their reputation [What will folk at the office/golf club say…?] – but what has that to do with your child’s education?
  • Their own (successful or failed) ambition – but children will not necessarily follow in their parents’ footsteps. What is right for the child, not for the parent?
  • The school’s results [academic or sporting] – but results are not a measurement of how your child will fare.

Avoid falling into the pitfalls of Prejudice, Presumption and Pride.

COMMON THINGS PARENTS TEND TO LOOK FOR (in no particular order)
Many parents tend to simply look at the following superficial aspects of a school.

  • Resources – what buildings, facilities, equipment does the school have?
  • Race – what is the racial mix?
  • Religion – or lack of
  • Results – academic, sporting, musical

OBVIOUS DIFFERENCES BETWEEN SCHOOLS

There are obvious differences in schools which can be established easily:
Do I want my child to be educated in a:

  • Co-Ed or Single Sex school? Some parents believe single sex schools provide less distraction for gaining good results while others will argue that relating naturally and consistently with members of the opposite sex is of great importance. What is more important for your child, both in the short and long term?
  • Day or Boarding school? Sometimes it is a matter of “Needs Must” for parents who do not live near a suitable school for their child or whose business take them away from home often, meaning the child has to board. However parents must not abdicate their God-given responsibility, by sending their child off to boarding school “so they get some discipline in them” or so that the parents can enjoy their life without the hindrance of children being around!
  • Religious or Secular school? A school will affect your child’s soul as much as their intellectual and physical abilities. Who will look after this side of your child’s being?
  • Specialist or Mixed-Ability school? Whether one’s child is gifted or not, parents may see it as a matter of principle whether schools are inclusive or not.
  • Local or International Examinations? A parent needs to be thinking of what happens to their child after the child finishes school.
  • Broad or Specialised Curriculum? Schools may offer different curriculum.
  • Purely academic or Holistic Education? If academic results are the only issue for a parent, they would be wise not sending their child to a school that offers a holistic education. All ATS schools willoffer such a curriculum, believing that character is as important  as CVs while universities also look well beyond mere academic results.

By answering the above questions, parents will have narrowed down their search considerably! However there is one other very important criteria that should be considered, though each of the above are subservient, and contribute, to it.

HIDDEN CURRICULUM

This is what makes the difference in the school. It is the ‘soul’ of the school that is important. Schools may have all the facilities and resources but be soul-less. Do not confuse this with spirit, as spirit is contrived, manufactured, produced – soul happens and cannot be avoided. It is obviously very hard to see – it is hidden, after all. It is the indefinable yet tangible quality which holds together the atmosphere, character and ‘feel’ of the school, as opposed to the ethos. It is seen in how the pupils behave, interact and present themselves. This is what is going to have the biggest impact on your child during his/her schooling.

IMPORTANT STEPS TO TAKE

  • Make a list of what YOU want from a school, in order of priority [Do not just visit a school unprepared as you will be impressed by whatever you are shown – they will not show you the parts that you might not impress you!]
  • Find out about all the schools mentioned on this website and consider their own website.
  • Visit all schools that might fit your criteria – do not just visit on Open Days [Any school can put on a show!]
  • Ask questions, related to your priorities – some possible questions are listed below.
  • Be open-minded; Be brave; Be sure; Be clear

QUESTIONS YOU MIGHT ASK

  • What is the Mission/Vision Statement of the school? How, and how much, does the school stick to the Mission/Vision Statement?
  • What is the school’s discipline policy?
  • What is the school’s streaming/setting policy?
  • Is there a system (officially or unofficially) of seniority?
  • What form of pupil leadership does the school operate, if any?
  • What level of counselling is available for pupils if they wish?
  • What assessment systems are followed? How often do parents receive feedback?
  • What is expected of parents at the school?
  • What is the school’s policy on religious matters?
  • Can my child be excused Assemblies/chapel services on religious grounds?
  • How are staff members appraised?
  • How much co-curricular activity is required of the pupils?
  • What co-curricular activities are offered?
  • Is music/drama offered? Do all pupils have to do them?
  • How big a part does music/drama play in the school’s life?
  • What is the policy on homework?
  • Do pupils get involved in community service? If so, in what areas?
  • Is there a transparency at the school?
  • What is the make-up of the Board? Who is serving on it?
  • And, of course, what are the fees…?

To all the above questions, and to the responses, remember to ask the question “Why?”

Remember this: One school is not better than another – each one produces a different type of pupil. So, what sort of youngster do you wish your child to emerge from the  school?

In short, though – you will know a school in five minutes! It may be through all sorts of different means but it is usually gained BEFORE you meet the Head, before he/she bombards you with all the wonderful things the school offers accompanied by glossy brochures and sumptuous teas!

The celebrated writer Maya Angelou said that “people will forget what you said; people will forget what you did; but people will never forget how you made them feel.” The choice of Secondary school for your child really comes down to this question: How does that school make you feel? And how will that school make your child feel?