Just when you have stopped feeling grateful that you managed to get your child into a decent primary school, they have made some friends and are progressing well academically, before you know it, the years have sped past and Secondary School Fever hits you.
It affects different areas of the country at different times, depending on whether you are in a Grammar School area, how much competition there is for a decent school place, and it’s incredibly hard not to get swept up in it.
If you live in an area where there is any form of selection process for secondary schools it’s not unknown for children to start tutoring in reception. In some areas, a lot of them start once they reach Junior School and by the time they get to Year 5, then anyone who wants a chance at a place is at it. Sometimes it seems that the 11+ is less a test of academic potential and more a test of how much tutoring parents have managed to subject their child to.
If you thought that choosing a primary school place was stressful, then you may be apprehensive at the thought of having to do it all again but it will help if you can keep your head while everyone else seems to be losing theirs. Some things to consider include:
1/Look at distance. Your child might be able to get into a brilliant selective school on the other side of the County but how much more time is the journey going to add to their school day. As a rule, a lot of secondary school children in the UK tend to make their own way to school. Is there a public transport route or will you have to drive them every single day? Will they have any school friends living locally? How easy will it be for you collect them if they become sick or injured?
2/ Examine Ofsted reports, GCSE and A-level results by all means, but remember they are not necessarily the be all and end all. Everyone wants their child to reach their potential and be stretched that little bit further if possible. A school that focuses on doing this, no matter how academic the child is, will be able to cater for the very able as well as those who need help.
3/ Look at the size of the school. Large schools often enjoy lots of resources and different options but a shy child or one who has social difficulties may really struggle in a large crowd. Some large schools divide their pupils into more manageable houses which they remain in for their school career. Also check out the class sizes.
4/ Consider the specialism of the school, but remember all schools teach the same basic subjects. Check out which universities pupils are accepted at and what they go on to study if you think your child is university material.
5/ Visit the school and try and get a feel for its ethos. Go to an open day and talk to the teachers and students. Watch the students after school and see how they behave in public. Check out the school website to see if it’s well-designed and up-to-date website, and see if you can find copies of recent newsletters, to see what sort of communication the head has with the students. It can also be useful to see if there are any persistent problems with uniform or behaviour.
Whatever you decide, make sure you involve your child in the decision. After all, it’s them who are going to have to attend the school you choose every day, not you.
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