Finding a Secondary School to Suit your Child
As a parent or guardian, you obviously want the best for your child. It will be during their secondary school that they will likely discover the academic direction that will define the rest of their life. The most important education they receive will occur at secondary school; it will be in this environment that they discover the pathway to adulthood and their future. Given all this, it is vital that you choose a school congenial to your child's character. It should provide the right setting for their natural abilities to flourish, as well as illuminating different directions their skills could take them.
The first quick and easy way to help you narrow down the possible list of secondary schools is to ascertain which are actually available to them. State schools only have places for those living within the bounds of a certain catchment area. A quick phone call to a school will reveal whether or not it is a candidate. All secondary schools hold open days, enabling parents to visit the potential place of their child's education. Go to as many of these as you can - even to some schools you are not considering, for this will make you a better judge in the future.
Note how welcoming the schools seem to you: does the atmosphere feel threatening or ominous? This is where your child will be spending many years of their lives - you want them to be happy and safe. Observe all the facilities on offer: what condition are the sports fields in? How big is the swimming pool (assuming there is one)? What kind of IT facilities will be available for the pupils? If the computers are outdated, antiquated models, what does this say about the school as a whole? The science department should be paid special attention to. Does the room look like a modern and exciting place to learn, or does it seem dreary and uninspiring? The music and art departments should be seen too. Ask if the school has an orchestra - if it does, and performs public concerts, you could think about attending one. The experience would be instructive: the ability of the school to fashion an adequately performing music ensemble may be commensurate to their skills in general education. Enquire into the school's extra curricular activities - a broad offering is desirable, as many universities look favourably on a CV stating the involvement in a wide range of pursuits, chosen by the pupil.
OFSTED reports should be checked. This is an independent board, which investigates schools teaching methods thoroughly, and at random times. These reports will show if a school has persistent problems in certain areas, or whether it is on a steady decline academically.
Check amongst your friends to see whether any of their children are currently at, or have been a pupil at any of your potential schools. It may be that they have a child who has been a student for some years at the school. If this is the case it would be judicious to meet with them, enabling you to raise any questions or concerns. The first question you should ask is whether they are happy at the school, but they will also be informative in other areas, such as teaching methods, and extra curricular activities.
Take your time over the decision - it is an important one. Your child should accompany you on all open days. Be sure to ask how they feel about each school - after all, it is they who will be the pupil of whichever school is finally decided on.