CHOOSING A SECONDARY SCHOOL  by Sally Fisher

Choosing the right secondary school for your child can be a daunting process, particularly if it’s your first time at it. Everyone has an opinion about ‘the best school’ but its important to find out for yourself. What was a brilliant school 6 years ago may not be true now. Equally, a school that suits one child might not suit another. Be mindful that the school wants to show itself in the best possible light. The pupil guides will have been carefully hand picked as will the lessons you are invited to ‘visit’. Keep aware of the school in general and ‘glance’ in as many classes as possible.

Here are some tips to help you along the way:

Have a short list of the schools you want to visit

Attending Open Days is a MUST. It’s the only way to get a real feel for a school.

During the Open Day look for the following;

  • Are the teachers enthusiastic and lively, and in control?
  • Is there a good relationship between teachers and pupils?
  • Is there a sense of openness, politeness and calmness?

Are the pupils well behaved and engaged in their learning? Do they show the appropriate manners to visitors?

Ask or find out what the school policies are on class sizes, slow/fast learners, bullying and discipline

Ask for or google the School’ most recent OFSTED report (www.ofsted.gov.uk). If there are areas of weakness highlighted ask what plans are in place to address these, generally there will be a 5 Year Plan.

Are there extensive extra curriculum activities, both competitive and non competitive?

Is there a clear channel of communication between school and parents?  Is there a thriving PTA?

Ask where the majority of pupils go upon leaving the school

Is there support for specific learning difficulties, for struggling pupils and for those who need extension.

But most important of all:

  1. Is the Headteacher inspiring and are teachers experienced and qualified?
  2. Are there high expectations of everyone regardless of academic potential?
  3. Are the pupils self confident and do they feel valued in the school?

Remember, the school you have your heart set on now may not be the school you end up liking the most. Trust your own judgement. You know your child better than anyone. Good Luck

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