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Posted: 22nd September 2020

One of the positives to have come out of the last few months has been affording people the time to slow down and think about those big things that often slip down the list in the rush from one ‘normal’ day to the next.

For those with young children, lockdown also gave a very open window into how our young children learn, think and fill their days – much to the exhaustion of their incredible parents! However, as the season starts to turn, and the world starts to feel more normal, thoughts will also be turning to choosing their first school.

A quick look on Google will lead parents straight into questions such as “single sex or co-educational?” and “state school or independent?”, as well as pointing towards catchment areas and postcode checkers. All of these are hugely important and must be given due consideration. However, I would argue that the first question one should ask is “where will my child be happiest?”. Lockdown has shown parents their children at their happiest, as well as what makes them frustrated, bored or disinterested. Parents will have seen what ignites their child’s curiosity, how they tackle problems and the creative ways in which they seek solutions. They will have seen how they responded to friends and teachers on Microsoft Teams or Zoom – when did they engage? When did they switch off? All of these will have given parents a huge indication and insight into what their little one might be like at school.

So, if you are a parent who has a child starting school next year, now is the time to start that school search. Before you begin, jot down how you would describe your child as a learner. Think about the words which best describe what you saw. Start to create a picture of what your child would be like in school, and therefore the kind of school that you could see them joining. As you start the search, this will really help to channel your selection into something far more manageable. Below are a few considerations as you consider your different options:

  1. Do they love being active outside? Choose a school that has regular LOC (Learning Outside the Classroom) provision.
  2. Was singing and dancing a big part of how they amused themselves? Find out how regular music sessions are. Are they led by a specialist teacher?
  3. Do they love learning with others? Is the pedagogical approach based on collaboration, with friends learning together and from each other?
  4. Is physical movement a big requirement for your little one? Make sure there is a commitment to frequent PE and sport sessions covering all areas of agility, balance and co-ordination.
  5. Do not forget yourself in this either. Reflect on what mattered to you as a parent during lockdown and what matters to you when your child is at school.
  6. Did your child have access to activities throughout? Choose a school that has the ability to teach online if needs be.
  7. Did communication help to keep you in the loop? Find a school that is committed to working hand in hand with parents.
  8. Did you miss being part of a community? Look for evidence of a busy and active parents’ association.

There are so many considerations to make when choosing a school, but ultimately it comes down to a few critical factors:

  • Where will my child feel comfortable to be themselves?
  • Where will my child feel inspired and motivated to find out more?
  • Where will I, as a parent, feel like an integral partner in the process to educating my child?
  • Which school offers what we, as a family, need for our child?

When you find the answers to those questions, you have found the best school for your child! Good luck in your search.

– Clemmie Stewart, Senior Head of Prep Schools and Head of the Girls’ Preparatory School

Categories: Prep Schools