Tatler’s Education Editor, Tori Cadogan, who edits the Tatler Schools Guide, gives her twelve top tips for choosing the right school for your child.
Here Tori gives advice on choosing the right school for your child.
1. Know your child.
This may sound trite but really talk to them about what makes them feel happy, confident and settled. A happy child flourishes, and once your children reach the teen years you’ll increasingly realise that nothing is as important as good mental health.
2. Really do your research about schools
Read The Tatler Schools Guide, listen to our podcasts and look at the school’s websites. Yes, talk to friends, but understand that parents are very invested in their school and just because it works brilliantly for their child doesn’t mean it will for yours. Try and narrow your choice down to a top three and then book to visit, and if in doubt, visit again. In our Guide we feature 242 schools: they are all fantastic and there is genuinely a school to suit every child be they sporty, academic, artistic or struggling with a learning difference. No child needs to be shoehorned into the wrong school when there are so many brilliant options out there.
3. Talk to your child’s current school or nursery about where would be a good fit
Some Heads are absolute geniuses at this, and it is well worth taking their advice and listening closely to their suggestions.
4. Don't over tutor your child
Please don't try and tutor your child into an uber academic school if they are not that way inclined. Some heavily tutored children may slip through the admissions process but they really are not going to be happy or confident at an academic hothouse if they are having to get extra help every evening just to keep up. This is a one way ticket to burnout and definitely best avoided.
5. Try not to be blinded by a name!
Yes there are certain schools that are accompanied by incredible cache and historical gravitas but, if it’s not the right environment for your child then take a look elsewhere and focus on ensuring a good fit for your child and your family as a whole.
6. Look ahead
We often look at senior schools three or more years before our children will actually go there. It’s very easy to look at these enormous campuses with up to 1000 teens milling about and never in a million years imagine your little darling being big enough to survive there. Trust me, especially for those going in at 13+, the change in that last year is enormous and they are more than ready to move on and fit into the bigger environment. It’s easy for parents to choose too small a school, only for their teen to be desperate for wider horizons come 6th form.
7. Take a fresh look
Just because you went somewhere 30 years ago, doesn't mean it’s the same health and safety free fun park! Strangely enough schools change and you need to take a fresh look without pre-conceived bias.
8. Don't be influenced by gossip
This is a hard one but try not to get too influenced by dinner party gossip - every school, especially those providing a home to 800+ teenagers are going to have some interesting moments. If a school says it’s never had a student vape, drink or take drugs they’re just not looking in the right places! What you need to check is that the school deals with these issues in a way that aligns with your beliefs.
9. Go with your gut
When you arrive at the school does it feel right to you? Does it smell strange? Do the children look happy and relaxed? It’s easy to dismiss these feelings but they are incredibly important. It’s essential that all the family feel happy and invested in your choice of school.
10. Check if there is a learning support department
Check if there is a learning support department, and that they will be able to accommodate children who need extra support. This is especially important if there is any family history, as many learning differences have a genetic predisposition.
11. Meet the head
Yes it’s really important to meet the Head, and if your child is heading to boarding school to meet their housemaster or housemistress, but staff do change and it’s a mistake to be too reliant on one member of staff for your choice. You need to love the whole school and know that despite inevitable staff changes this is still a school your child will feel happy in.
12. Pastoral care and wellbeing are essential
What is the school’s policy on mental health and do they actually walk the walk and not just talk the talk? School is for so much more than pure academics. It’s here that children learn to make friends, socialise, work together, play sport, evolve their creative talents, develop resilience and hopefully learn to enjoy educational enrichment. Happy, relaxed and engaged children gain so much more from school than pure academics, and choosing the right school for your child can give them the very best foundations to go out into the world.
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By Tori Cadogan