Andrea Ventress, Heatherton School, Amersham
Picking your child’s school is one of the most important decisions you’ll make. Whether you are looking at state or independent education, here are some invaluable tips to making the right choice for you and your family:
1) Visit the school. Most schools will have specific Open Days where they will welcome prospective parents and pupils and show you round the school. Attending one of these will give you a good sense of the school and allow you the chance to chat to the staff and current students. If you can, also ask to visit on a typical school day so you can get a feel for the real day-to-day running. Is there a positive working atmosphere? Do the students appear happy, engaged and interested in their work?
2) Meet with the Headteacher. Have a chat about the school’s ethos and values and ask about the head’s vision for the school and its pupils. It’s also a good idea to ask about after school activities, wrap-around care facilities and any enrichment curriculum provision the school might offer.
3) Speak to your local friends. Current parents and their children are a great source of information on a school and they will be honest about its positives and negatives.
4) Look for results trends. If the school has published exam results, don’t just look at the last year’s, but the past five years’ results to show any trends.
5) Location, location, location. If you’re looking for a state school, you’re likely to be more restricted on your school choice due to tight catchment areas. But if you do have more freedom of choice, think about what works best in terms of location in relation to your home, school bus routes, or options for lift shares with local families.
6) Does the school fit? What type of personality does your child have? Would they benefit more from a small, single sex environment or would a large, co-ed school be a better fit?
7) Ask about sporting opportunities. Don’t just ask about the school sports results (you are bound to receive the prescribed answer), but ask about the extent of the sporting opportunities for children who are not natural athletes.
8) Additional needs If your child is showing any signs of needing extra help, how do the schools you’re considering aim to provide that? Ask to speak to the school’s SEN (Special Educational Needs) co-ordinator if you can.
9) Go online Visit the schools’ website and maybe follow them on Twitter and like their pages on Facebook – this will give you a great idea of the day-to-day happenings at the schools.
10) Listen to your child Finally, and perhaps most importantly, ask for your child’s comments and opinions. After all, it is they who will be spending most of their time at school. If your child was happy when looking round the school or going for a taster day, then it’s likely they will settle in very well.
Heatherton School is the leading independent school in Amersham for girls aged 3-11 with an outstanding co-education nursery. They will be holding Open Mornings on Friday 29th and Saturday 30th September 10am-12noon. Headteacher’s welcome speech at 10.15am. For more information and to reserve a place, call their Admissions Officer Yasmin Rouse on 01494 726433, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.heathertonhouse.co.uk.