13+ schools what are the important questions to ask? (especially boarding schools!)(10 Posts)
Hi when deciding on the 13+ school you want your child to go to what are the most important questions to ask on you visits to the schools?
How large the 13+ intake is (and b to g ratio if relevant) and how they integrate if they also intake at 11+. Do they pretest and if do when. How soon in y9 do they determine gcse options and are all subjects equally available to newcomers?
I always ask the children showing me around 'if you could change 1 thing about the school, what would it be?'
Go on multiple visits and ask the same question each time!
Also look at where the pupils go on to after 18. See if that fits with what you would hope for/is attainable for your child.
Then I would go into high highly music/sport/languages/science (whatever is important to you) are prioritised.
Find out about staff turnover, how long the Head has been there, is the Head likely to leave soon??
Try and ask around socially about peoples experiences at the school.
And then post on MN!!!!
If you want full boarding check on the actual number of full boarders. The definition of full boarding is a bit fluid. especially on ISI reports, but I would define it as sleeping in school 7 days a week and only going home on pre arranged weekends. You might have to thumb screw that info out of the schools. After years of a DS full boarding I personally wouldn't touch anywhere with flexi/weekly boarders but I might have considered somewhere with full boarders and a small number of day children.
If you're outside of the UK find out if your DC can leave a few days early at the end of term (some wont let you) also find out if they can come home for family occasion e.g. granny's 101 birthday again some wont let you. If they wont will this bother you?
I agree try an visit as many times as you can if possible talk to the current pupils when they're just going about their everyday lives e.g eating a lunch rather than on their best behaviour for the open day. Look at the older children do you personally like how they behave (this is how your own DC could turn out). Observe their behaviour with each other, do they look relaxed around each company, boarders often sit physically closer to each other than day children because they're a big family, there should be IMO banter fun and a general air of camaraderie just like you would see amongst siblings. Also look at the relationship between pupils and staff the boundaries are much more blurred in boarding schools especially outside of lessons and very blurred between 6th formers and staff.
If you DCs are avid basketball players/golf nuts/fencers do check that their sport is offered. Many schools will find a teacher for an obscure musical instrument or encourage a child to start a tiddlywinks clubs but none will knock up an 18 hole golf course for a golf obsessed child. Don't just assume that because you're paying 36k+ PA that it will be there (many do). If you DC is keen on what is often called a "minor" sport do find out how often they cam do it and any chances to regularly compete.
Can you meet and choose you're HM? This person is usually pretty key in the life of a boarder.
Depends what stage you're at.
Initial tour visits before pre-tests or individual house visits once you hold one or more conditional offers?
At the former I would really want to see if the reality matches the published version in the prospectus it says X - how does that work in practice? I know you offer Z, how much would my DC be involved
even though they haven't already represented the country in Z ? And I'd spend as much time observing the DC as the staff.
By the time you've received a conditional offer you probably know all the basics so any questions will just be a way into a more in depth conversation - during which every word that comes out of the House Master/Mistress' mouth should persuade you that their entire being is focussed on understanding, nurturing and pro-actively taking care of your child both as an individual and as a member of a community.
thanks all some great advice and things to think about.
I am just starting have a list of 6 schools that our current head teacher recommends for our son. We're already nearly finished year 6 though so I have to get onto it properly!
And are you quite relaxed about the deadlines you have or may already have missed?
no I'm not relaxed but I am confident I'll find the right school.
Is 6 schools too many to look at in your opinion?
Can't rush the decision and have appointments in place for all schools.
Its all about finding the right school. Hence why I was asking for pointers on questions
I would ask about GCSE options, is triple science compulsory, ditto French? and RS? what options for other languages? and what are the non-academic options? Some schools now offer PE instead of Art, drama etc which can be very popular. Also if your DS wants to do drama and music is that possible? (you can often do music as an extra at a lunchtime club). Also check you can take Latin and Greek if that is his interest as that is something I hear parents moaning about a lot having to choose one or the other. I have no idea what your DS is into I'm just throwing suggestions in but ideally a school would give you a copy of their options list they give the Y9 pupils. And the same goes for A levels as well because it won't be long.
I would also check the sporting options and how often everyone gets to train and play at a sport. This can be very important in later years when up to 3 different year groups (11,L6,U6) can get merged for sport. If your DS is sporty check the clubs and training schedules and see how regularly they run and how many attend.
Not all schools have early pre selection. I would be inclined to look at 4 schools, rather than 6. However, now you have 6, keep the appointments. Some may be too far from home. We felt 1.5/2 hours to be the max if you actually want to see your child in performances, sport etc. Some schools welcome parents to lots of things, others are a bit more remote. You can get a feel for this as you go round.
I tend to agree regarding the comments on flexi boarding but unfortunately lots of parents now want this and clamour for change. I think it helps them feel better about sending their child to a boarding school. They come home for the weekend, so they enjoy "quality" time a family life. It spoils the boarding experience for the others though and alters the whole ethos of the school and weekends.
House Mistresses/Masters are so difficult to judge. They can come accross as pleasant caring people, but this is not always reality. Ask the children in the houses for their opinions. Always ask children for their views. They always have them and you do not have to accept their "script" on open days. Probe a bit more. Look beyond the glitz (or "top show" as my Mother would say) and see if the ethos will suit your child.
We found independent schools to be more flexible about GCSEs/A levels than state schools. If your DS is very keen on a certain subject, eg Art, Sciences then check out the teaching and facilities for that. Do they get high flyers in the subjects you are keen on? What are the destinations of the leavers? Have good visits!
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