Choosing a secondary school is a massive decision for parents and I talk to many making this decision each year. Therefore I have put together my own advice. I have been through the process as a parent but as I am also a teacher I have some inside advice!
1. Firstly don’t leave it until year six before you start considering options. It is a good idea to do some of the school open days when the child is in year 5. Typically Open Days are at the start of October with the preference forms deadline at the end of the month. Visiting in year five will give you real time to think about what is essentially a huge decision.
2. Remember that parental choice does not mean that you can choose where your child goes to school. The form is a prefernce not an entitlement. It is important that you are happy with all three schools you select.
3. If your local area still has Grammar schools and you are considering this option talk to your childs teachers. They will be able to advise on whether they too consider that a Grammar school will be within the child’s capabilities.
4. Once you have decided to enter your child for an entrance test it is important they are well prepared. The entrance exams are IQ tests and not based on the same skills taught in school. This means that a bright child may not ‘pass’ without some practise papers or tutoring. In my local area, children are tutored for a year before the test. The tutoring cost is approx £20 for an hours one to one tutor.
5. Visit the schools during the day. It will still be a glossy visit with lots on and everyone putting on their best faces BUT it will give you a taste of the working school day. Ask questions, look what happens when the bell rings, how are the children behaving? Do the evening visit too as this will include the head teachers speech.
6. Although exam results are not everything – find out what the A-C pass rate including English and Maths is. It is far more important than just the A-C rate. The A*-C can be manipulated with BTec results.
7. Bear in mind how you will get your child to school. Chloe’s school bus pass costs us over £650 for the year. If you choose a school that is not in walking distance you will have to pay for your own transport. The only exceptions are if you have no local school within three miles or your child has a statement of needs which cannot be met at their local school.
If I’ve missed your top tip out – please add it to the comments.
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