Over the years Keystone has successfully helped many families in their search for suitable independent schools for their children through our Schools Advisory Service. We have outlined the key points that you should consider when looking for a school for your child and where to find the information in this article.
What are the key considerations when choosing a school?
Early planning – you will need to register for schools a minimum of 1 year before entry and for some schools this can be 3 years. The research and preparation will need to begin well before school registration deadlines.
Single sex or co-ed – some schools cater only for boys or girls; others are co-educational throughout or in just the sixth form. Which is more suitable often depends on your own preference, the character of the individual child and the age of entry. Do take a look at this blog which discusses the merits of a single-sex or co-ed education.
Boarding or day – would you like your child to be a day student, a full boarder or a weekly-boarder? To attend a day school, you would need to live nearby whereas boarding widens the geographical area for you to choose from. If you like the idea of full boarding you need to consider the proportion of students that board full-time to ensure the weekend provision is strong.
Location – for day schools you need to consider the commuting time and whether the child can do this independently. For a boarding school you would need to consider proximity to where you live and whether travel would be practical for weekends at home (exeats) and school holidays. You may also consider whether you want your child to be at school in a town or in the countryside as this will affect the amount of interaction that a student has with the outside world.
Academic level and curriculum – you will need to consider which schools are academically suitable for your child so they will be challenged but not overwhelmed. Many parents will consult league tables and whilst these need to be viewed with caution, do take a look at this article about how to gauge the academic level of a school. For senior schools you need to consider the choice of qualifications on offer; most schools offer GCSEs and A Levels, but some offer the International Baccalaureate. Thus, it is important to consider the best option for your child.
Extra-curricular strengths – if your child has a particular talent or interest you will need to ask schools if they can cater for this – do they have the facilities and the expertise? Most schools will have a range of sports, music, drama and creative opportunities but they may focus on some activities more than others.
Special Educational Needs – where required, check whether schools can support students with learning difficulties, English as an Additional Language, or any medical conditions.
What are the best sources of information?
At Keystone we have built up a significant knowledge base through frequent contact with admissions staff at schools and talking to parents and students. However, there is a certain amount of research that you can do yourself using these resources:
Ask friends and family
It may seem obvious, but you should start by asking friends, relatives and of course their children (if they attend or attended the schools you are interested in). Remember that many teenagers may not be forthcoming about the positives of their school days, though their insights might nonetheless be illustrative.
Study the school’s website in detail
The less prominent pages (e.g., news sections and extracurricular clubs) can reveal the life of a school more than a glamorous homepage. Many schools have uploaded videos of their campus and general school life and some now offer virtual tours.
Visits or virtual open days
Pre-COVID-19 we always recommended visiting a school so you can see it in action and speak to the current pupils. Many schools are now offering virtual open days and uploading resources to their websites which provides a convenient alternative to a school visit.
It has been written for almost 30 years and has a full roster of experts who visit schools before writing a review. Their reviews cover everything from academic matters, sport and the arts, to the atmosphere of the school, staff, discipline, fees, facilities, feeder schools and results and destinations. Schools are selected on merit and cannot pay to be included.
The Independent Schools Inspectorate (ISI) is a government approved organisation that regularly inspects and monitors the education and boarding provision of independent schools against standards set by the government and produces reliable objective reports.
The Tatler Schools Guide offers a pithier look at the top 350 independent schools in the country.
Keystone’s team of experienced consultants have built up an in-depth knowledge of schools and can give families a comprehensive insight into UK independent schools across all entry points.
How can Keystone help?
- recommend schools that will best meet the needs of your child and your family
- prepare your child accordingly for the entrance tests using Keystone’s outstanding team of tutors
- use our close relationships with admissions staff to ensure your child’s application is seen in the best possible light
- liaise with schools on your behalf
- help to arrange school visits (or virtual tours)
If you have any questions about how to choose a school for your child please get in touch to arrange an initial complimentary 15 minute consultation with one of Education Consultants who will be happy to discuss your options and provide any advised next steps. Keystone offers comprehensive advice for families considering UK schools and universities from all over the world. Contact us via firstname.lastname@example.org.