Don’t be afraid of choosing the wrong school. Follow this advice and choose the right school for your child

Everyone will have different reasons for sending their child to a particular independent school, but one thing is certain – a parent wants their child to go to a good school. A school can take a number of years to gain a good reputation and there are many factors that contribute to making a school a good school.

  • Academic

Whether it be prep schools or senior schools, academic results play an important part in the success of a school. In prep schools, success is often measured by the destination of the school’s leavers. In senior schools, many people look at the GCSE and A Level League tables. But league tables should be looked at with caution: if a school only takes the brightest pupils, the GCSE and A Level/IB results should be excellent. Don’t forget that some schools do not submit their results for inclusion in the league tables. Also, some schools although not high up in a league table might be doing really well with their pupils in terms of ‘value added’. For example, a good school is a school with a pupil who does much better in their A Levels/IB than in their GCSEs or their Common Entrance compared to their entry exam. This could be due to excellent teaching and a strong work culture in the school.

  • Pastoral Care

Happy and contented pupils usually perform well in schools. Thus, a good school is a school where their pupils are well looked after and they are resilient and well equipped to cope with the pressures thrown at them. Much depends on the quality of the Housemasters/mistresses at a boarding school and the quality of the pastoral care system. Is there a strong tutor system or Form Teacher role? How often does a pupil meet with their tutor? Much is said nowadays about mental health and some schools are way ahead in terms of the programme that they have in place. A good school prepares their pupils well to deal with life’s difficulties and have an excellent support structure in place. If there is a difficulty in a school, good schools deal with the problem in a considered and careful manner and are stronger for this.

  • Extra-curricular

A good school is one where pupils are educated in the broadest sense and offer a wide variety of activities outside the classroom. A prep school literally prepares a pupil for senior school and explores areas of interest and ability whether it be in the world of art, fashion and design, on the games field, in music, in drama and in ICT. A good senior school is able to build on a pupil’s interest in these areas and/or open a pupil’s eyes to other opportunities. Thus, a good school should be measured by the standard and breadth of these extra-curricular activities. For example, a visit to the art room can often show how good a school really is! And the quality of the facilities, although not essential, will certainly help to make a school a really good school, whether it has a fully equipped theatre or an outstanding sports hall.

  • The pupils themselves

A good school is as good as its pupils. How well do they engage with each other and with adults? How comfortable are they in dealing with all the issues thrown at them? What is the atmosphere generated in the school? Is it purposeful? Are the pupils outgoing, positive and friendly? Good schools think carefully about the character and personality of their pupils.

  • The community and parental relations

A school will benefit greatly from a strong relationship with the local community. Charitable Status schools are very conscious of public benefit and will look to share facilities and provide generous bursaries or scholarships. Also, they will be keen to support local and other charities. Different schools will have different views about the relationship with their parents, but good schools encourage their parents to participate in school life and consider their views carefully.

  • The Head and their team

And finally, an inspiring head will appoint really good staff who will bring the best out of the pupils.

Thus, a really good school has an outstanding head and staffroom focused on outstanding results and pastoral care, a breadth of extra-curricular activities, a positive pupil body, and good community and parental relations. But perhaps the most important point to remember is that good schools always put the pupils first.

Newton Bright Educational Consultants