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Choosing the school that’s right for your children

Posted: 1st March 2019 10:59

It’s the all-important task, choosing the ideal school for our children - so where do we start? Well, the first thing to remember is that every child is different. Each child has qualities that would make them more suited to one particular school over another. These qualities can be anything from their academic abilities, right down to their gender. The second is to identify your values towards education. What are the most important attributes you wish for a school to possess? We are fortunate enough in the UK to have schools to suit every kind of requirement; all you have to do is identify the type of school that suits you and your child best. iStudy have helped you with the difficult process by compiling a detailed list of what type of schools are available, as well as the major considerations to factor into your decision. Good luck!

Public/ State Schools

State schools are offered to all children without charge, and are funded by the state through taxation. They are inclusive to all, no matter race or religion, as long as they fall within the ‘catchment area’ or geographical area allocated by the school. The operation of these schools is structured to reflect the civil community in which it functions in an aim to smoothly transition students from an institution into wider society. All state schools are fully standardised by the government to give a monitored level of quality teaching, care and facilities to children, ensuring equal opportunities for all. The Office for Standards in Education (Ofsted) is a government department responsible for inspecting state schools and ensuring that each school stays in line with the set government standards. They aim to ensure every child is receiving an education that is good enough to assist them in adult life.

Academy

Academy schools are state schools directly funded by the Department of Education and independent of any local authority control. Academies are also non-profit charitable trusts, able to receive funding from personal and corporate sponsors. They were originally introduced as a way to boost struggling schools in deprived areas that could not rely on local funding. This benefits children from deprived areas by giving them access to an institute that has the possibility to become as equally equipped as schools in privileged areas. Academies are also not obliged to follow the national curriculum, although English, Maths and Science are obligatory. However, academies are run on the same ‘equal opportunities’ basis as state schools, with the same rules on admissions, special educational needs and exclusions. Freedom over budget allocation in academies makes it potentially easier to put in place better teaching, leadership, curriculums and better standards, leading to better educational standards for children.

Private/ Independent Day Schools

Private schools are fee-paying schools governed by an elected board of governors and are independent of many regulations and conditions that apply to state-funded schools, like the National Curriculum. Unlike the standard curriculum, theirs also has a focus on ‘soft skills’ such as debating and music. Class sizes tend to be smaller, meaning each child gets more personal interaction from the teacher. Since the fees make private school more exclusive, parents are often of a wealthier calibre with professional jobs; a great networking opportunity for children and parents alike. In 2018, nearly half of A-level entries in private schools received an A* or an A, almost double the national average of all schools inclusively. The statistics suggest private schools have a better academic standard and therefore an increased likelihood of children becoming high achievers, able to go on to gain higher quality further education and better jobs than state school children.

Boarding Schools

A boarding school is an independent residential school where pupils live and study during the school year. Like a private day school, boarding schools are funded through annual fees given by parents, which in this case go towards a child’s accommodation and food, as well as their education. The residential school environment ensures that students are fully immersed and focused around their education and not distracted by irrelevant external influences, whilst still instilling a sense of independence. Boarding school children benefit from a heightened social interaction with peers and teachers, whereby their shared experience allows them to gain trust, friendship and honesty. As boarding schools place such a high importance on academic success, students can be more prepared for the academic challenges presented to them at university. Studies have shown that boarding school graduates not only excel at university, but in their professional careers too.

Grammar Schools

Grammar schools are state funded selective secondary schools that only accept pupils based on their academic performance in 11-plus exams, which include verbal and non-verbal reasoning, English and Mathematics. With a limited number of spaces available at each school, only the highest scoring students are accepted into the school they applied to. Effectively, pupils at grammar schools will have a better academic capability than average and will therefore benefit from the higher level of expectation that is practised at grammar schools. Since the selection of students to grammar schools is merited solely on academic ability, children from all backgrounds and geographical locations have the chance to apply and get a higher standard of education than their local comprehensive school can offer. Also, by pooling the most academically able children together, teachers can cater to their more advanced academic abilities better than a comprehensive school, which has to cater to all ability levels.

Gender Specific Schools

Since schooling was originally only a boy’s privilege and schools were catered specifically to fit boy’s needs, some feel that although girls were later introduced into the schooling system, the system was never adapted to fit their needs too. Studies have shown that boys and girls learn in different ways and by offering separate educational institutes, teachers will be able to focus on the gender specific needs, and both genders will then have the opportunity to perform to the best of their abilities. It is also believed that co-ed institutes reinforce stereotypes about personal identification and identification with certain academic subjects, whereas gender specific schools are less likely to influence gender intensification and conformation into stereotypes. Instead, they allow children to be freer from unnecessary influence and allow each child the freedom to flourish in their own authentic way.

Faith Schools

While faith schools follow a general curriculum, they also focus on teaching and practising a religion within their syllabus to develop a child’s faith as well as their education. Specific criteria are used to qualify a child’s acceptance to their religious school of choice based on evidence of their faith, which differs depending on the faith. Both state-funded and independent schools offer religious options. At a faith-specific school, children can find commonalities with other pupils who share the same faith, which can help children to form tight bonds that affirm their faith and encourage their practise of it. Faith can offer a disciplined approach to life, encouraging children to focus on staying on their path of happiness and success instead of being distracted by unimportant trivialities. It also provides a deep understanding of morals and living morally, which can encourage children not to be truant and instead concentrate on education.

Special Needs Schools

A special school is a school catering for students who have special educational needs due to learning difficulties, physical disabilities or behavioural problems. Such schools will be specifically designed, staffed and resourced to provide appropriate education and care for children with additional needs. There are four types of special needs children that may benefit from attending a special needs school; those with physical disabilities, developmental disabilities, behavioural and emotional disabilities and those that are sensory impaired. Although the 504 Rehabilitation Act prohibits any school from discriminating against children with disabilities, they still may not be able to provide the facilities, equipment and specialised care needed by disabled children. Special needs schools, on the other hand, have this kind of support in place for children and carers. Often, parents and carers find that their duties are alleviated a little by the special needs school that can provide aid such as physiotherapy, medical care and transport.

Elective Home Education (EHE)

EHE is education provided outside of the schooling system. Parents do have a duty to ensure their child is educated, but the educational legislation in England and Wales does not differentiate between in-school and out-of-school education. The roles and responsibilities of parents and the local authority towards EHE are in The Guidelines For Local Authorities, published by the Department of Education. Mainly, it states that the National Curriculum is not compulsory and an efficient education is one that achieves what it sets out to achieve, which is to prepare the child for adult life in their own community. Local authorities don’t have the responsibility to monitor the quality of home education. For parents who think an institutional education is not suitable for their child’s learning and development, or disagree with the curriculum or values of schooling institutes, they can choose EHE to tailor their child’s education to fit their personal requirements.

Considerations

Now that you know the different options available to your son or daughter, the next step is to choose the right one to meet their needs. Below, we have outlined a couple of additional considerations that are worth keeping in mind.

Postcode Lottery

The postcode of your address determines the selection of primary and secondary state schools that you are able to select from. Therefore, it is important to consider the postcode of your house when choosing the right school for your child. If there aren’t any ideal schools within the given catchment area, then unless opting for a private school instead, it might be necessary to move to a location where the postcode is in a more desirable catchment area. Unfortunately, the better schools are usually in wealthier locations where the local government can afford to distribute a higher amount of funding.

Siblings at the same school

It is often considered beneficial for siblings to attend the same school. Not only do they get fair treatment by receiving equal education, but they will be able to act as a body of support to each other throughout their school career. Younger siblings benefit from this especially, as they will feel more comfortable attending a school where their older sibling can look out for them. However, it is important to ask your children their opinion because they may feel like they would benefit more from having the freedom to be themselves, away from the influence of a family member.

Academic ability

State schools cater to children of all academic ability levels; therefore if your child is at an extreme end of the learning ability spectrum, they may feel hindered by the pace of teaching, and would instead benefit from attending a school more specifically catered towards their particular academic ability. Children of above average intelligence may excel more in an environment where they are amongst other high achievers, like in a private or grammar school, whereas those with learning difficulties might benefit from special needs schools or other schools catered to those who learn at a slower pace.

Disability

If you find your child’s strengths, endurance, or stamina cannot keep up with regular school activities, then it might be worth considering a special needs school instead. Here their disability is seen and accounted for, and their education is tailored to their strength and ability levels so that they get a better opportunity to thrive. However, you also have to consider the extent to which your child’s disability is affecting them in a regular school environment. Sometimes the slower pace of a special needs school is a hindrance to a child rather than a help; they may have a disability, but can they conquer it by being challenged at a regular school? 

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