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How do I choose a school?


Amongst the most crucial choices you will ever have to make for your children is the selection of schools for them. It should be stressed that whatever sources of information you may consult or whatever advice you may take, in the end the only valid choice will be one based upon your own visits to the schools with your children and discussions with their staff, pupils and Heads. What we can do is help to give you some guidance on the approach you might take in choosing a school. In simple terms, you will go through a four stage process:
  • Establishing your personal requirementsIndependent and Special Needs Schools
  • Creating your shortlist
  • Visit the schools on your shortlist
  • Making your decision


Establishing your personal requirements

It is best to begin your search by establishing your requirements. The advantage that an independent school education offers is that it provides more than a one size fits all solution to a child. If the independent sector of education stands for anything, it stands for choice. Most schools will be concerned to offer a rounded education but obviously some will focus their attention on certain elements of that education more than others.

The challenge is to find a school that suits you and your child's own requirements. They will be personal and will depend on which factors you deem most important in choosing the right school for your son or daughter. They will be different for everyone depending on you and your child's own personal circumstances and the qualities you value and consider most important in a school for your own child.

For a list of criteria you might consider when thinking about a school for your child please click here

Creating your schools shortlist

Creating a shortlist can be a cumbersome and protracted process but the isbi website, www.isbi.com, allows you to use over 30 search fields enabling you to rapidly identify Special Needs Schoolsappropriate schools, inspect their details on screen and save them to view later. Obviously our website cannot select the best independent school for your child – that has to be a personal choice – but it will certainly help to make your search easier. See our list of Selection criteria above to help you to develop your shortlist in conjunction with the information you obtain from your search on www.isbi.com  


Your visits to schools

You should visit all or as many as possible of the schools on your shortlist. Most schools have open days or open evenings and a school visit on a normal working day is also an important part of helping you through the decision-making process.

The business of visiting schools is an education in itself for you and your child, in sorting out in your own mind, just what the important factors for you are. While visiting schools these factors will change in relative importance and all the while you will be considering whether this particular school has what it takes to make your child happy, comfortable and keen to learn. 

Top tips to remember before visiting a school

  • Be prepared – ask around beforehand and if possible, talk to parents who may already have children at the school. Compile a list of questions you want answered. Make a list of things you want to see
  • Examine classrooms carefully – are they clean and tidy? Do they offer a stimulating learning environment?
  • Read the notice boards – they give you an idea of the type of activities and sports that are going on at the school
  • Are there displays and exhibitions of the children's work?
  • Talk to staff - how open and communicative are they? Are they enthusiastic about the school and their pupils?
  • Talk to pupils – an informal chat to school pupils may reveal much about the school

To help you during your visit we have developed a visits checklist.  Login to our member's area to download free checklists for school shortlisting and school visits.

Make your decision based on your visits and how each school has impressed you (use our visits checklist to help inform your decision). Ultimately it will be a very personal decision for both you and your child and will be made on the basis of both objective and subjective factors. Ultimately it must feel like the right choice for your child.

Choosing a Special School

Appleford - Independent schools for dyslexic childrenOf course, if you are searching for a special school the choice will often be led by the psychologists and SEN placement officers of the local authority that are funding the school fees and other costs. However, since the changes made in September 2014 parents have a greater choice in the decisions, so whether the decision is one that you will make yourself, or one that will be made with the help of the local authority, you can use the information on isbi to access information about what schools are available, both day and residential schools and what they say they offer the pupil with special needs.




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