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What To Consider When Applying To An Independent School

Choosing an independent school for your child can feel like a minefield; there are so many decisions to make and it can feel so difficult to choose which school will be the best fit for your child.

Here are some questions to help you decide on your independent school:

  • Do you want a boarding school? Here it is useful to bear in mind that some children will board through the week only, or perhaps even only one or two nights here and there. Choosing a boarding school gives you the option of allowing your child to sleep at school from time to time, depending on the policies of the school. Boarding school doesn’t necessarily mean that children board at school from the beginning of term until the end.
  • What is your limit for travel? For boarding school, people will usually increase the distance they will travel to school but if you’re choosing a day school the morning commute will be an important consideration.
  • Is Common Entrance an issue? Many senior schools will require applicants to sit the Common Entrance exam, and it is often advised that children sitting Common Entrance should attend a primary school that prepares them for this. It is also worth noting that those schools that don’t require Common Entrance will probably still require an applicant to take tests in Maths and English and perhaps other subjects.
  • What sort of environment would suit your child? All children are different; some will flourish well in a competitive environment whilst others will fare better in a smaller, more informal setting.
  • Are you primarily concerned with academics? Are you looking for a school that will help your child to aim for Oxbridge, or are you more concerned about pastoral care, support for learning difficulties, sports or other subjects such as drama or art?
  • Are you looking for co-educational or single-sex? Most parents have an opinion one way or another on this, and it will dictate which schools you even consider.
  • Do you have more than one child to put through school? Many schools will have bursaries or sibling discounts which can make a big difference if you have two or more children.
  • Are you prepared to bring your child to school on a Saturday? Many independent schools will schedule lessons on a Saturday, and many parents will feel quite strongly against this - so it is an important question to ask when considering a school.
  • Are there sporting practices and events which may take place at evenings or weekends which may be hard to accommodate? This is especially important to consider if your chosen school is a fair distance from home and you have work or other children to factor into the equation.
  • Is there a good community among the parents and families? Some schools have a strong community where parents will get together at weekends and during holidays, holding get togethers for children too. With other schools, many of the parents live abroad or a significant distance from the school so this sort of thing doesn’t happen. It’s an important point to consider as children often like to socialise with school friends out of school hours - and parents too!
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