How to choose the right school for your child

This article aims to shed some light on one of the biggest dilemmas for parents: How to choose the right school for your child.

The homework

Choosing a school for your child at any stage can be daunting and bewildering. This true whether it’s a change in school driven by a family relocation, or the move from primary to secondary education.  However, armed with the right information and your in-depth knowledge of your own child, it is possible to find the school that’s the right fit and where they will thrive.

It sounds obvious, but the first step is to thoroughly research the schools. Check them out online, noting Ofsted reports or Independent Schools Council (ISC) inspection reports, plus GCSE and A level results and University places for senior schools. Speak to other parents and teachers at the schools if you can. Establish entry requirements, particularly if the schools are academically selective. Competition for school places in London seems to get more competitive by the year. 7+ entrance is becoming an increasingly popular route into selective independent schools, but the 11+ remains the major pressure point for entrance to both independent and state selective senior schools.

The school visit

Open Day events can give you an overview of the facilities and how a school rises to an occasion, but it’s also very important to visit schools during a typical working day.  First impressions are very important. Just like buying a new house, you will get an immediate feel for a school, based on its architecture, atmosphere and people. Pay attention to the class sizes and pastoral care, and whether students seem focused and well-behaved. Ask questions about extra-curricular activities on offer. Establish whether the school has special resources that might fit your child’s interests, e.g. a music recording suite. 

Take your child with you on visits and watch their responses to the school as you move around it: do they seem engaged, relaxed and enthusiastic? Schools have different styles and it is important to choose one where your child will feel comfortable and motivated.

The choices

For secondary school, the basic options are: state, state selective and independent.  For state schools, the admissions criteria will often simply come down to the distance you live from the school; for state selective and independent schools, your child needs to pass the entrance assessments! 

Take time to weigh up all the different aspects of possible school options before making important decisions. Each child is different, so you need to think in terms of the best school for your individual child. If a school has entrance exams and interviews, have your child academically assessed to ensure their innate ability is appropriate for the school. Tutoring for entrance exams should only be introduced to understand specific exam requirements and learn any necessary curriculum not being taught at the child’s current school. It shouldn’t be used to get a child into a highly academic school that’s beyond their natural abilities, as they wouldn’t thrive there.

The final word

Our advice is to do your homework early and if appropriate, ensure that your child has the right preparation to achieve a place at a school where they will thrive, be happy, and achieve their full potential.  The “best school” for your individual child isn’t necessarily the one at the top of the league tables; it is always the school that best suits them: academically, socially, ethically and geographically!


JK Educate specialises in bespoke support for children’s learning, with assessments of academic potential, advice on school choice, specialist subject tutoring, entrance exam and interview preparation, and study skills.  Contact JK on 020 3488 0754 or via





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