Making the right choice...
This month's edition includes Henley Life’s first ever education supplement, The Right Choice, giving you a snapshot of several private
schools within of reach Henley-based families. Click here to browse the full edition and enjot the supplement.
Henley is well placed for schools in Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire and Berkshire as this supplement proves. Here are a few tips when
considering a new school:
• Do you need to cross the River Thames to get your children to school?
This is a major consideration for the school run, as most crossing points get congested in the mornings and early evenings, be they in
Henley, Marlow, Shiplake or Reading.
• Length of school run and therefore length of the school day
There are only so many hours in the day and increasingly research is showing that our children do too much and do not have enough time
or space in their own heads. If you are paying for a school that offers a lot of extra sports and clubs that your child would like to take advantage of, then it is worth considering whether a school day that starts on the bus at 7.15 am and finishes at 6.30 pm (for as young as seven years old) is worth it, and manageable for the child.
• Friendship groups
You may have found the perfect school, but if is a 40 minute drive or bus journey from your home, then there is the possibility that your
child’s new friends may live a further 40 minutes in the other direction from the school. When they are young this does not make for
manageable friendships outside of school so is worth considering.
• Academic vs all rounder
In the light of employers increasing (through the CBI www.cbi.org.uk) requests that young people are better prepared for the world of work,
with a well-rounded skill set, this may play some part in a parent’s consideration of school. It may be that you recognise that a well-rounded education of teamwork, debating skills, community commitments, etc is better for your child than a high achieving academic school.
Make the most of school open days
The next few weeks will see many school open days for families looking to start their children at a new school, probably in one year’s time.
Open days are relevant for primary, junior, secondary, sixth form, prep and public school intakes. They are a chance for parents to view the school during a working day and to assess its suitability for their child.
The advice is to start researching early, maybe two years in advance, so that by now the parent will have a short list of options for their child’s new start in 12 months time.
Top tips for attending school open days
* Draw up a list of questions beforehand, and keep them in mind. Then make sure you ask any unanswered queries of the teachers or pupils you meet.
* It is not always advisable to make a judgement based on a single teacher or head teacher – there can be a lot of movement in education so it is best to gauge the school as a whole.
* Watch, and try to engage, with the pupils particularly – a well managed, happy school means happy and motivated pupils. The pupils are the end customer in the education process, and therefore their most meaningful ambassadors. They are also the best people to tell you about what is expected of them at the school.
* Sit down with your child before you go and ask them to focus on what is important to them, other than where their friends are going.
* Take your child with you – now that you have whittled the choices down it is important to get your child’s view of the schools before you choose the one to which you will apply. Although, be warned, depending on the age, children tend to focus on tiny details like the colour of the walls or the smell, but their opinions should be accepted, and their expectations managed.
* Take time to look around you – is a broad range of ability celebrated in the school through the work on display? Do the classrooms appear ordered and calm, or chaotic?
* Lunch – this is always important to children so find out the system in the school. Do most bring in their own? Cost? Other options?
* Extra-curricular activities – find out what is on offer, are the options open to all pupils and is there a cost involved?
* As a parent, trust your gut feeling and go on the ‘feel’ of the school. As in so many things, instinct is best.