The time has come for us to choose a secondary school for our oldest. We are lucky in that where we live, almost every school in the town is ranked “Good” by OFSTED. That means that, while we are likely to end up in a pretty good school, we still have to consider the things that matter, to us as parents and to our son, and decide which order to put our preferences in. Here are the factors we’re consider for choosing a secondary school.
Our Number One Factor in Choosing a Secondary School: The Journey
As when we looked at primary schools, I’m keen for my children to go to a secondary school they can walk to. For us, this factor takes our choice for top spot on the application form down to two schools. There are a number of reasons that this a priority for us. I don’t want to deal with driving to school every morning and I’m not keen on paying for a bus pass either. I am keen to squeeze some extra exercise into the day in the form of a walk to school. The biggest reason however is that I would like him to end up with friends who live close by, allowing him more opportunity to play out with them which fits with our free range parenting philosophy.
While the GCSE options choice is a long way off, I am factoring it into the decision. I believe we all do better when studying subjects we care about and so I’m keen for him to go to a school that will allow him to take as many subjects he enjoys as possible. This means that we’re are considering both the subjects a school offers at GCSE and the number of them they can choose for themselves.
The Atmosphere at the School
Visiting a school is the only way you can really judge this one and different people will perceive the atmosphere in a school differently. This year it’s harder to make a judgement on this due to the COVID-19 related restrictions. We have been able to visit both of our closest schools however while one took us into all of the buildings and let us stand outside classrooms, one only allowed us a tour of the grounds and the a short visit to the library. This has made comparing the two tricky.
The OFSTED Report
While both of our top choice schools are rated “Good”, one has “Outstanding” in several areas. Reading the detail of the OFSTED reports gave more incite into what the schools do well in and what they struggle with. For example one school doesn’t do so well as helping more able students to stretch themselves and one highlights some issues with behaviour. Both offer high quality teaching with is something I want having had some pretty questionable teachers myself!
How Well they Support Less Able Learners
As parents of a child who has found school tricky, I’m keen to send him to a school that will support him. I worry that a school will judge him on his SATS results and not help him to achieve his best, whatever that turns out to be. Luckily I don’t feel either of the schools we’re really interested in would do that and both have good records for helping children achieve more than would be expected based on their SATS results.
As a former librarian, I can’t help but take special interest in the library provision. Reading for pleasure has a significant correlation with academic achievement and so I was keen to see a library that was embedded well in the school, providing opportunities for children to fall in love with books.
Where Friends are Going
While as adults, we know they will probably make lots of new friends at secondary school, I know it is important to him. At the moment everyone is in the middle of visiting schools but as it becomes clearer who is putting which school as their first choice, I imagine this will become a bigger factor in his thinking.
Should You Let Your Child Choose Their Secondary School?
It has been interesting chatting with other parents about secondary school choices. Some are very much of the opinion that it’s a parents choice, others, myself included, feel that the child should have a fairly big say. If he wanted to go to a school that would make our lives inconvenient without a very good reason I would certainly be saying no. As we have two good, close schools to choose from, as long as I feel he is taking the right information into consideration, I will likely let him make the final decision.
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