In these days of educational choice how can parents make informed decisions about their child’s school? Grebot Donnelly is the leading marketing, PR and communications company for the education sector. Their research into what parents are looking for when choosing a secondary school reveals the following top ten parental criteria:
· education and teaching standards
· academic success of the school and its students
· strong discipline and good behaviour
· the school’s reputation locally
· behaviour of students (as observed outside of school)
· evidence of good communications between home and school
· good leadership of the school
· the school is close to home
· good help and support for the children
· attendance at an open event provided a good impression
However, when deciding on a school preference parents can do some homework of their own – here are some of the basics to keep in mind.
Academic performance – Look up the league tables for schools in your area. You can view and compare data for your prospective school/s readily online. The latest Ofsted reports can also be useful, but don’t immediately rule out schools with a less than impressive report. Substantive and rapid changes are not uncommon following a poor report and it pays to delve a bit deeper.
Visit as many schools as possible – Secondary schools host open events throughout September and October for prospective parents and pupils. Primary schools tend to host events during October and February.
Take the time to ask questions of staff and pupils at the school, look at the facilities and importantly the demeanour of pupils and teachers – is the school a happy place? Tours taking visitors directly into classrooms where teaching is taking place suggest a school with confidence in good behaviour and teaching standards. If you aren’t provided with the opportunity to visit classrooms ask why.
Word of mouth is a key influence on parents’ school choice – so linger longer at the nursery or school gates and get chatting to parents already in the know.
Be practical – Parents have the right to express a preference for a school but that does not guarantee a place. You will need a copy of the admissions policy and procedure for each school you apply to. The key admission criteria are usually based on distance from school, having a sibling at the school, faith (if a faith school), and special needs. Every school also gives looked after children first preference.
Grebot Donnelly’s research in to pupils’ top ten criteria (when choosing a secondary school), was relatively consistent with parents’ views but included a stronger preference toward remaining with established friendship groups and the opportunities the school offered for extra-curricular activities. More surprisingly, a ‘smart school uniform’ made the pupils’ top ten!