History holds it that the average Englishman prides himself of knowledge – acquired through education and training. Today! People from all over the world aspire to acquire English education; parents and guardians endeavor to train their children or young ones in England and Wales. Over the years, the most singular challenge especially for parents and guardians from abroad is how to find the right school for their young ones. In response to the piles of inquires from our esteemed readers especially from Africa.- Western Africa Magazine (WAM) is introducing this column to search and publish regularly answers to those basic guides on how to find the right school in England and Wales. This, as the first edition, we start with answers to key questions as follows.
TYPES OF SCHOOL IN ENGLAND & WALES
There is a wide variety of types of independent school in England and Wales. These are:
- All-Through Schools (Ages 2/5-16/18)
Many schools take pupils all the way through from early ages to 16 or 18/19, though usually in quite separate departments or separate schools under the same management
- Pre-Preparatory Schools (Ages 2-7)
Pre-preparatory schools – also called nursery schools or kindergartens – correspond to nursery and infants stages in local authority schools. In pre-preparatory schools children are taught to read, write, develop numeracy and learn to play. Pre-prep schools are often attached to specific junior schools.
- Junior Schools (Ages 7-11+ or 13)
Junior schools, often called preparatory or prep schools, have a full range of subjects leading to admission to senior schools at 11+ or through the 13+ Common Entrance Examination.
- Senior Schools (Ages 11-18)
These schools offer three years of general studies followed by two years for GCSE and two years for AS/A2 or the International Baccalaureate. Schools which admit pupils at 11+ sometimes have a lower school for children aged 11-13. There may be a special entrance examination to the upper school at 13.
- Senior Schools (Ages 13-18)
Some boys’ senior schools still have the traditional age of entry at 13. These schools offer one year of general studies followed by two years for GCSE and two years for AS/A2 or the International Baccalaureate.
- Sixth Form (Age 16+)
Many senior schools admit students at 16+, usually for two year AS/A2 courses, the International Baccalaureate, vocational courses or GCSE retakes.
How do I Decide Which School is best for my Child?
In the digital age of instant news, interactive review sites and numerous school league tables how do you decide which independent school is the best for your child?
Should I take notice of school league tables, that are produced by reputable organisations such as the Times and BBC?
Each year several organisations produce academic league tables of A-Levels and GCSEs as well as giving schools ‘value-added’ scores. The thing to remember with school league tables is that they all have their own criteria and methodology for calculating which school is the ‘best’. One thing to remember is that the ‘best school’ for one pupil might not be appropriate for another pupil. Every child is different and not all pupils will benefit from a school that is consistently at the top of the school league tables year on year. ISC represents all of its 1260 member schools equally so does not rank independent schools based on a set criteria.
Independent school year books are a great resource for reviews aren’t they?
There are many books that are published each year stuffed with reviews about many of ISC’s 1260 independent schools. They are useful tools if used in the right way but parents must remember that these are subjective opinions based on one person’s experience and not to be taken as gospel. Indeed, your thoughts on the school could be drastically different. So, as long as you keep this in mind they are not to be disregarded altogether. If you are looking for a more succinct report based on strict criteria it might be worth reading the Independent Schools Inspectorate’s (ISI) report on the school by visiting their website. As with all resources looking at independent schools it is always a good idea to put them into context and consider why someone is writing the review and who that person is. Are they looking to promote the school? Are they giving accurate advice? Once again, by all means use these guides but as a complementary resource along with other research.
How do I make the final decision?
All of these resources are available easily but nobody can make your mind up for you. Ultimately it is up to you to decide which school is best for your child. The independent sector is successful because of the flexibility its independence affords it. This means that you can choose a school that matches your child, effectively giving your child a bespoke education. Use the reviews, school league tables and websites but remember that none of these can even come close to experiencing the school for yourself. Visit the school and ask lots of questions!