What to think about when choosing a secondary school

Following on from our article last month about ‘Which secondary school is right for your child’ we’re bringing you some additional hints and tips around what to consider when choosing a school for your child. If your child is in Year 4 or 5 then it’s worth starting to think about some of these things now.  You have plenty of time to make decisions about catchment areas and think about moving to a specific area. If your child is in Year 6 and will start secondary school next September then it could be a bit late to start upping sticks but here are our top ten things to think about:

1.      What works for your child? Would they flourish in an ‘academic’ school with an arts or science focus? Do they love sport and need a school that excels in this area? Or do you already know they are likely to need strong pastoral support?

2.      What facilities does the school have? So if your child shows promise in swimming do they have an onsite pool or access to lessons? If they show a flair for the sciences do they have labs which are fully kitted out?

3.      Exam results and Ofsted reports. League tables and Ofsted reports are often the first place parents turn to when deciding on a school for their child. You can get this information from the local authority, school prospectuses or school visits.

4.      Special attention? Is your child particularly bright or has special needs? If so does the school have gifted & talented programmes and what is their special needs system?

5.      What happens at sixth form? Does the school have an integrated sixth form or feed into a particular sixth form school/college? Some schools don’t and it can mean a great deal of disruption at the end of Year 11.

6.      Getting there. If your child is going to get themselves to school (and face it they won’t be very keen on mum or dad dropping them off) are there good transport links and systems? Is it close enough to walk to? Will they have local friends they could walk with?

7.      What are people saying about the school? We don’t mean local gossip.  What do other parents have to say about sending their kids there? Ask your child what they know about the school and (as they’ll be the one attending) if they like the sound of it.

8.      How deep will your pockets need to be? If you are considering an independent school then you’ll already be paying fees. Will there be additional costs on top? Even in a state school the costs of before and after school care, uniforms, trips etc can add up.

9.      Friends matter. It’s not vital that your child knows people before he/she starts secondary school but it can make the transition easier. Is their current primary a feeder to their chosen secondary? Will they know other people at the school?

10.  Open days. Does the school have an open day? If so then make sure you attend and ask as many questions as it takes for you to be satisfied you have the information you need to make an informed choice.

Once you’ve visited the schools make sure you have notes and a prospectus so you have a basis for discussion and decision making. If your child needs one to one tutoring help during the transition time from primary to secondary education and you live in Manchester or Cheshire we can help.

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