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Independent schools in UK
Independent schools in UK


Choosing the right secondary school can be a daunting task, it’s where your child will learn the most valuable skills for life, form friends that ultimately become a good (or bad) influence on them, make memories, and gain a valuable education to shape their future. In this article, we will break down the most important things to look out for when picking somewhere to ensure your child spends the next five years gaining a happy, beneficial education. Not every school is perfect and will have exactly what’s on your checklist, so be open-minded and curious, it’s recommended to book a tour or open day with at least three different options, and we recommend starting researching and booking places when the child is in year five or six.


Have a look at the school's website and social media accounts, this will provide you with more of an insight into how they operate, the extracurricular activities, the pupils, and how the school looks. Better yet, book a visit! Get in touch and find out about open days and tours, it’s recommended to book at least three different schools to get a real feel of its atmosphere, don’t forget to bring your child for their opinion too after all this is the school THEY will be attending! Whilst on the tour don’t be afraid to ask questions, when meeting the teachers are they proud to work there? Do they engage with you and your child? There might also be some student guides there that will give you a more honest answer of what it’s like to be a pupil. Take a look at the facilities from classrooms to toilets, do they focus more of their budget on appearance or more on education facilities? What other extracurricular activities or after-school clubs do they offer? After each visit, sit down with your child and make a list of things they (and you) liked and if any you both didn’t like, to put things more into perspective.

Any School could give you a shiny exciting brochure and tell you they’re the best school, but get some insight from other people such as parents and pupils who will tell you honestly their experience. Social media is a great way to connect with other people, try asking for advice on your local community page or look at Ofsted parent view, you can access survey results from the parent’s throughout the years. Talking of Ofsted, the main governing body of the majority of schools, you can access Ofsted reports by using https://reports.ofsted.gov.uk, however, take the results and dates with a pinch of salt, as it may have been under different management or staff, and have since improved (or not). 


Take a look at each prospective school's Ethos & Values, you should be able to find this on their website. This will give you a good indication of the school's way of teaching. The values of the school can vary greatly, it may be the result of a long-term tradition, or it may simply reflect the attitude of the current headteacher. Some places put more pressure on their studies than others, and some specialist institutes have more pressure to be successful in music, sports, or extracurricular activities. Some will be full of loud and enthusiastic students, others will prefer the quiet courteous students. Different places will be more stern on minor infractions, others will be more relaxed.


The location is important, is it quickly accessible, is it easy to get to from home or your place of work? Do you trust your child to be able to walk or catch public transport, and is public transport easy to access? It’s important to remember, the majority of pupils that attend the school will be local, so this will also be an area where your child’s likely to want to meet up with friends and socialize. Also, be mindful that children who live more locally will often be given priority in acceptance.


  •       State

These are schools that are funded by the Government and provide free education for children aged 11-16. They’re inspected by Ofsted, and most of them have to follow the National Curriculum.

  •        Academy

Academies are funded by the government but run by an academy trust: who decides how the budget is spent and the way the school is run. They control their own admissions criteria and don’t need to follow the National Curriculum, however, they should provide a broad and balanced syllabus and are still inspected by Ofsted. Some academies are a part of a chain that manages several schools locally or nationwide.

*Academies were initially introduced to improve failed schools, this is still applicable, but many excellent and outstanding schools have also chosen to become academies to give them more flexibility. Today, 61% of all high schools are now academies.

  •      Private/Independent

As their name suggests, independent, or private, are not ran or receive funding from the government. They also charge fees for pupils to attend, but sometimes offer scholarships to gifted students. They don’t have to follow the National Curriculum, however, they do need to be registered with the Government and inspected regularly. About half of the private institutes are inspected by Ofsted; others are inspected by the School Inspection Service or the Independent Inspectorate. Some independent schools take pupils of all abilities, whilst others only offer places to selected children who are predicted to be the highest achievers, usually, this is based on an exam such as the Common Entrance exam or talent in subjects such as sport, music, or another specialist skill.

I’ve chosen my school, now what?

Once you’ve decided on the best secondary school for your child, it’s time to apply! The deadline is usually 31st Oct the year before your child starts school, and you can apply either by filling out an online or printed application form that you can find on your school's website. It’s recommended you apply for more than one school, so you have a backup plan should your child not be accepted.

We wish you the best of luck in your search, and hope your child will be happy in their new school!




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