Sotiria Vlahodimou shares her thoughts on choosing the right school or college.
Choosing the right school for your child is one of the most important decisions a parent can make. It can have a significant impact on their academic and personal growth, and ultimately shape their future, so it is crucial to consider several factors before selecting a school that will best meet your child’s needs.
First and foremost, parents must consider their child’s strengths and needs. Every child has their unique needs, interests, and learning style. Consider what your child needs from a school, such as a varied or altered academic programme, extracurricular activities, individual attention or a specific learning approach. Will a different growth pathway rather than a traditional academic programme be a more suitable choice for your child? Could a focus on life skills combined with functional skills in literacy and numeracy be the right approach? If your child’s strengths can be supported by a more academic program then do ask to have a look at the curriculum. It should be well-rounded and provide a strong foundation in core subjects such as English, Maths, Science, ICT and the Arts. Additionally, the school should offer a variety of extracurricular activities to allow the child to explore different interests and develop new skills. It is also important to look at the resources available such as a varied library, gym or sports facilities, sensory or low-demand rooms.
Parents need to consider the quality of the staff at the school, who should be experienced, knowledgeable and passionate about their work. They should be able to provide individualised attention to students and create a supportive and inclusive learning environment. Academic staff should be able to organise universal learning support strategies in class as well as provide specific adaptations for individual needs.
Parents should consider the size of the school and the pupil to staff ratios. Smaller schools may provide a more personalised experience, with smaller class sizes and more opportunities for your child to interact with their teachers and peers. We find that a teaching class of 10 pupils with a teacher and a learning support assistant offers a learning environment which can be adapted to cater for different needs and strengths.
Another essential factor to consider is the school’s location and accessibility. Parents should choose a school that is conveniently located and easily accessible, either by public transportation or car. Some independent schools will also be able to provide a minibus service which aids, when the time is suitable, travel training and a gradual increase of independence.
Additionally, parents should take into account the school’s philosophy and values and whether these align with those of the parents to ensure that the child’s education is consistent with their beliefs and values. Parents who value a strong religious education, for example, may choose a school that offers a faith-based curriculum. Other parents will raise their children following a wider moral code. Our values are empathy, perseverance, integrity, community and self-worth. They provide our moral compass which our pupils understand and by the time they leave the college, are able to apply in the wider community.Above all, trust your instincts. After you’ve gathered all the information, trust your instincts and choose the school that feels like the best fit for your child and family. Visit your shortlisted schools and make it a non-negotiable request to meet with the Headteacher and the SENCo. Ensure you observe classes, meet teachers and staff, and talk to other parents and pupils. Ask questions about the curriculum, behaviour policies, extracurricular activities and family involvement.
Remember that your child’s education is a partnership between you and the school, so be prepared to stay involved and support your child’s learning journey.
In conclusion, choosing the right school for your child is a critical decision that requires careful consideration of several factors. Parents should consider the learning pathways, the quality of staff, the size of the school, the location and accessibility, and the school’s philosophy and values. By taking the time to research and evaluate different options, parents can make an informed decision that will provide their child with a strong foundation for academic but more importantly personal growth.