What is the best method of comparing schools?


Inspection reports, websites, reviews and school league tables are all useful indicators of a school’s success but there is no substitute for visiting and having a look around. If possible it is always a good idea to talk to pupils at the school to get a sense of the type of student your child will become in that environment. Are the children confident, friendly and happy? When visiting a school it is advisable to take a list of questions to ask the person showing you around. Some examples of things to ask are:

  • Typically, how many students are in a class?
  • What access do boarders have to the facilities after lessons have finished?
  • How much direct contact will we, as parents, have with teachers?
  • Do you cater for pupils with Special Educational Needs?
  • What is the percentage of school leavers that go onto university?
  • What support mechanisms are there for those who struggle with maths and English?
  • Are you considering offering any other curricula in the future like the IB or Pre-U?
  • What clubs and extra-curricular activities are on offer for students, even if they aren’t boarding?
  • How many hours of compulsory sport are there?
  • Does the school offer the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award or any volunteer schemes for students?


Today’s primary school league tables are compiled from government data on 10 and 11-year-olds’ test scores in English, math’s and science tests. These tests – known as Sats – are taken in May each year at more than 15,000 state primaries in England.

The tables show the proportion of pupils who gained level four – the expected standard of a pupil in their last year of primary school – in each of the subjects. The data also reveals the “value-added” score for each school.

Private Education In UK

Once you have identified a Private School which is of interest, you should contact them for a prospectus. It is always best to use a consultancy service as well as your own search methods.

The most important way you will find out about Private schools, however, is by visiting them. Most Private schools have open days for prospective parents, but try also to make an appointment to visit on a normal working day.

Amongst the important things you should look out for are:

  • The pupils: How do they look and behave? Do you have a chance to speak to them yourself?
  • The head: How does the head deal with your questions? Does he or she show an interest in YOUR child?
  • The staff: How well are they qualified? Is there reasonable staff stability?
  • Pastoral care: Do the arrangements for looking after your child’s personal needs satisfy you?
  • Discipline: Is discipline stricter or more relaxed than you would expect?
  • Curriculum: Is it broad and balanced? Will your child have an adequate range of options?
  • Exam results? Don’t be tempted to go just for Private schools which are high in the “league tables”.

Exam performance reflects Private schools’ academic policies and a high-flying Private School might not suit your child’s needs. Many Private schools admit pupils with a wide range of abilities.

If you are expecting more individual attention for your child, make sure the classes are small. Private schools vary: in most prep Private schools, classes will be between 15-20, but in some senior day Private schools they may be as big as 30.

In this edition, we have chosen The King’s School in Canterbury for more in-depth research and discussion for your benefit.