Whether your child is just starting out in Reception or moving up to a secondary school, knowing where to send them can be a challenging experience for parents. There’s so much to consider, from the location and facilities to previous exam results and inspection reports. However, by knowing what to look out for and by putting in enough research, you are sure to make an informed decision that you and your family can be satisfied with. Here are some tips from an international school in London.

Find some time to sit down with the other members of your family to discuss what your priorities are. For example, does the school need to be located en route to yours or your partner’s workplace so that one of you can drop your child off on the way? Perhaps you’d prefer that the school were within walking distance so that when your child is old enough, they can get there on their own. Think about what you want your child to achieve whilst at school; are academic results the most important thing to you as a family, or would you like them to attend a school that focuses on extra-curricular activities and enhancing personal development? Does your child have special educational needs that need to be accommodated or a language barrier that they will need extra support with? Would you prefer them to attend a single-sex or a co-educational school? Are independent schools an option for your family?

Once you understand what you want from a school, then you can start your research. Have a look online at the websites of schools in your chosen area. You should be able to find out quite a lot just by browsing through each of the pages on the site; what are their aims and ethos? What is the curriculum like? You should also be able to download some of their policies and inspection reports. This process should help you come up with a shortlist of schools you’d like to visit. At the moment, with the global pandemic wreaking havoc for the nation, you might need to look into virtual open events. However, if you’re hoping to visit the schools once lockdown is over and everything feels a little safer, get yourself booked in as soon as possible.

When visiting the schools on your shortlist, make sure you have mentally prepared plenty of questions for the teachers and current pupils; make the most of your time there. Pay attention to things like the general cleanliness of the school and whether or not it feels safe. Think about whether or not the students seem happy and well-adjusted. Listen to the Headteacher’s welcome speech and consider whether their values resonate with your own. The chances are, you’ll have an idea of whether or not it’s the right fit for your child as soon as you walk through the doors.

There’s nothing wrong with talking things through with your friends and family, especially if they have gone through the same experience in the past. However, it would be wise to take their opinions with a pinch of salt, as you know your child better than anyone and only you can decide what’s right for them. Try and involve them in the decision as much as possible, so that they feel a sense of control – this will help the experience seem less daunting for them and might help them settle in better when they do eventually start at their new school.