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Choosing a Secondary School

Prefect badge pinned on a secondary school student's blazer

As we settle back into the Autumn term, for parents of children in Year 6 and for some in Year 5 who want to get started it is also the time to begin thinking about which secondary schools you will be choosing for your child. At Learn Happy we know that this can be a challenging and stressful process to navigate so we have put together this helpful guide to support you with this.

Let’s take this process as being several steps;

Step 1 – Get Started / Set Priorities

Before you even begin any research we suggest you sit down with your child and come up with a list of priorities ( things you will be looking for in a secondary school).

  1. Will you be looking at selective/non selective schools?

  2. What subjects and curriculum areas interest your child?

  3. Is pastoral care important for you?

  4. What extra curricular offering is there?

  5. What does the SEN support look like at the school (if applicable)?

This might well be something that you have in fact already begun and it is the perfect starting point.

Student jumping for joy in a school corridor

Step 2 – Research

You will already be aware of the different schools in your area so get online and start investigating the school websites and information and Ofsted reports.

Here you will also find information about open evenings & mornings and links to book onto these. It is also a good time to start speaking to parents and pupils that you may already know at some of your preferred schools – getting a current perspective is always helpful but remember that this can be just one person’s view!

Step 3 – Making the Shortlist

Once you have gathered a bit of research and had some conversations, it is time to put together your shortlist.

  • Be realistic, you really don’t want to be looking at more than 6 schools or this process will absolutely become overwhelming.
  • Get yourself booked onto any events and organise that diary as it does get really busy.

Step 4 – Visits

If you can take your child with you on open evenings and visits then this is ideal as they too can get a feel for the different schools. There will be loads for them to try out and get a real taste for what goes on in the school.

At this point you might be thinking about what you may want to ask while you tour the school. Below are some of our top questions to ask and things to look out for, remember it’s always good to get answers from both staff and pupils as this can be really enlightening.

Our Top Questions and Things to Look for during School Visits:

  • Ask about curriculum coverage – time spent on different subject areas

  • Class sizes, groupings, streaming for core subjects

  • Clubs and enrichment activities and what is offered during unstructured/playtimes

  • Pastoral support and wellbeing – how are pupils supported?

  • What does their behaviour policy look like/how is it structured?

  • Exam/curriculum pathways – do they offer alternatives to GCSEs and A levels?

  • What does their transition or induction program look like?

Once you have completed your visits then it is time to start bringing together all your information and thoughts and put the schools into preference order for your online application.

For dedicated support with where to start choosing a secondary school, why not book one of our parent coaching calls where we can advise, discuss strategies and support you with helping your child.

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