Secondary school selection and how to make the most of school open evenings
The school open day season is upon us once more for children in year six who are moving to secondary school next September. This can be can be one of the most important decisions you will ever have to make in your child's educational career, which can have a major impact on their future life prospects and wellbeing. When comparing your options, there are a huge range of issues for you to consider, it isn't just about opting for the school with the best academic results; this may not be where your chid will be happiest. If they feel out of their depth, under stress, they may end up doing less well than if they had gone to a school with a wider intake . Whether you are looking to send your child to a state or independent secondary school it is important to ensure that it offers the right balance between pastoral care, education and extra curricular activities, especially if your child has a particular skill in sports, music, performing arts or another subject.
You have looked at the brochures, the website, the Ofsted report, the league tables and the exam results but it is important to make the time to go along to school open days. Make a list of possible schools with your child. However we would urge parents to be realistic. There is no point in taking your child to a school where they are unlikely to get a place, whether because it is highly selective or because of distance or other criteria. Your child may love it and be very disappointed when their application is not successful.
On open days, it is very easy to be seduced by what you see and hear. All the schools you visit will be putting on a good show – from the art work adorning the walls,showcase the IT, technology and science facilities; the bright and polite students who are chosen to escort you around; to the displays provided by subject teachers.
Here are a few suggestions to help you get a better feel of the school's ethos and whether they are actually adding value to the children who enter the school in year seven next September.
How is the school intake structured? Are the classes streamed in some or all subjects?
What can you find out about the headteacher? Strong leadership is vital in any successful school, but headteachers should be approachable and willing to engage with pupils. Important indication that the school can offer a happy and caring environment.
On average, what is the ratio of teachers to pupils in a class, in different subjects and at different ages?
Does the school have a clear homework policy? How often is nomally homework marked? You can find out more about the amount of homework provided by talking to some of the students.
What happens when a child needs extra support, or faces some kind of family problem? What is the school's policy on bullying?
How often does the school hold parents evenings? How does the school and individual teachers communicate with parents? How often are parents given progress updates?
Does the school have an active PTA? What can you find out about the governing body?
Do pupils regularly participate in community and charity events?
Does the school have a sibling policy?
Does the school have a structured careers programme and encourage pupils to seek out work experience opportunities and work related learning?
Can the school provide a breakdown of which universities and other educational establishments that their pupils move on to?
Ultimately there is no substitute to seeing a school in action during a normal working day, so don't be afraid to ask whether this would be possible. Being able to observe and assess for yourself how children are behaving around the school and in the classroom is a good yardstick of how well the school is performing. Bored children are disruptive children who make it hard for other pupils to learn.
If you come away from a school wishing you could go back thirty years and join it as an eleven year old, then almost certainly your child will thrive!
If you would like a confidential assessment of your child to help you to make these all important school choices, please call Vassos Vassilou on 020 8440 8586 to book a FREE consultation.
Please visit www.afterschoollearning.com
The school open day season is upon us once more for children in year six who are moving to secondary school next September. This can be can be one of the most important decisions you will ever have to make in your child's educational career.