It’s that time of year again when parents across the country are having to make the potentially life-changing decision about which secondary school to apply for. Well we've been there, suffered the sleepless nights, dreamed about exams and application forms and come out the other side. If you’re one of those increasingly rare families where a place at a decent secondary school is cast-iron guaranteed, or you’ve been able to move on top of the school of your choice, this post isn’t for you. For everyone else, here are my top tips:
1. Try not to panic.
2. Do your research. Visit as many schools as you can, look up their Ofsted reports and league table results (but remember neither are the be all and end all), talk to other parents about their children’s experience of the school if you can (but remember, all children are different. What was right for their kid might not be right for yours.)
3. Be realistic about what your child is and isn’t capable of. If you think they can pass the 11plus or an entrance exam, go for it. But if you know deep down it’s unlikely and you’ve left it too late for any extra tuition, it’s probably not worth putting them through it.
4. Make sure you consider the pastoral care at the school. Do the kids seem happy, sociable, easy to talk to? That’s usually a good sign. What’s the policy on bullying?
5. Try not to panic.
6. Think about what your child wants to study, what they’re interested in. Does the school cater for this? There’s probably no point in sending a kid who’s interested in the arts to a technology college just because it's close to your home, for example (I know a family who did exactly this and it turned out to be a disastrous decision).
7. Have a look at the 6th form, and the school’s leavers’ results.
8. Try not to make your decision based on where your son or daughter’s friends are going to school. The friends they have at 10 won’t necessarily be the kids they want to hang out with when they’re in their teens.
9. Consider distance – will your child be exhausted by a long journey to school? Remember also that train or bus rides are often a great opportunity for kids to build friendships.
10. Try not to panic.
So those are my top tips. If you’ve been through it, please do share yours – and if you’re going through it, good luck. There is light at the end of that tunnel, I promise.
written by Liz Jarvis