After choosing a name, surely the most difficult decision you make for a child is their school. It's so easy to fall for the glossy ads and brochures, so do your research, listen to others and read the reviews. Plus, of course, arrange a visit!
All children are different, and you don’t want to join a school that just ticks the boxes without nurturing individualism. It may well be that a certain school excels at achieving high academic records, but this may be to the detriment of children who have differing abilities and outlooks on learning. Check the dates of any reports you look at and read carefully between the lines. Schools and classes vary from year to year, class to class. Ask about the league tables and, if you see any weaknesses, ask what the school is doing about them.
These can be very tiring, but look carefully at the standard of work and the facilities. After all, this is as good as the school is going to get. Also, see how the children behave and how the teachers address the children. I’m aware of a case where a new Deputy Head was favourite in the running for the job, but it was decided that he shouldn’t get the position as he ignored a child behind him when going through a door.
Try to find out how many children have been excluded in the past year, what the staff turnover is, and whether or not the Headmaster knows the name of every child.
Ask teachers whether they would send their children to the school and watch their body language. Find out about their bullying policy and whether it's adhered to, and talk to the students about homework, marking and what they like and dislike. Also, go further afield and check newspaper websites and local shopkeepers.
Look at what the school’s ethos is and find out what the Head Teacher’s values are. If you visit at break time, you will soon find out whether the children are happy and whether discipline is in place as a structure. You don’t want to see children hanging around outside the school gates. Another good indicator is the range of clubs and activities on offer outside the classroom. It’s those extra touches that help create a happy, positive environment where teachers and pupils alike work together to make a great school.
Talking about the environment, look at the state of the furniture — is there rude graffiti? Are the walls covered in creative work and positive messages and information? What are the toilet facilities like? And are the school grounds clear of litter?
Basically, are students respected and cared for?
Ask yourself all of these questions before your child starts going to school this year and ask others about their opinion of the school. Check forums, blogs and so forth to be sure you're making the right decision.
Finally, even if you aren't happy with the school you choose for your child and you see that they're falling behind on a certain subject — don't worry. You can always find a tutor at TutorExtra. We have a great database of subjects and a variety of teachers to choose from. Create your parent account and find the best tutor for your child at TutorExtra.