The schools have sent you their prospectus and laid on an Open Morning for you to explore, and now the ball is in your court to decide what to do next. The fundamental question you are trying to answer is: ‘Which school is right for my child?’. Some of this will be based on instinct but it’s good to reflect on your instincts and where they have come from.
Principal of Emmanuel Christian School in Oxford and Mum of two, Lizzy Nesbitt provides her top tips.
A practical way to do this could be the following:
For each school you visited, write down five things you saw in the prospectus or the Open Day and the impression they gave you. It might have been a conversation you had with a current child or parent; it might have been a conversation you had with a member of staff or the head; it might have been what you witnessed of children’s learning in the school; it might have been your own child’s response to the people in the school and the learning going on there.
Having reflected on this, can you sum up what is distinctive about the school in around ten words? This will not necessarily be what the school says about itself but what you experienced.
Write down five special gifts or characteristics of your child that you would like to see grow and develop through their time in school. Based on this, consider which school your child would feel secure in so that they can grow and flourish to be the best version of themselves.
You could then follow these three A, B, C steps:
Ask more questions: An application is not an ironclad commitment to send your child to a particular school so you can apply to more than one school and continue to ask questions to find out more. Schools should not be put off by this. It is in everyone’s interest that your child goes to a school which is a good fit for them.
Be broad minded: Don’t set your heart on one school above all others. If your child doesn’t end up at that school, it is not helpful for them to feel that they are in your definition of second best. They will be in the school that is best for them.
Choose Culture: A school where you are confident your child will be loved, known and nurtured is far more important than any label. Sometimes brand awareness may be an indicator of quality but it may just be an indicator of good branding. Seek out and choose a school which promotes the positive values you and your family treasure as it is in that culture that your child will thrive.
Above all, be courageous. The choice you make for your child will not be the same as the choices other parents make for their child, but that is because every child is unique and different. There is great freedom and joy in not having to follow what others do, but in finding the school which will best suit your child and watching them grow into the person they were made to be.
If you’re considering a private education for your child, you can find a list of all the independents schools in Oxfordshire, Berkshire & Buckinghamshire on Red Kite Days. There are also a regularly updated guides to when all the open days are in Oxon & Berks and in Bucks too.