In the week that parents across the country receive their secondary school allocations, Headmistress and mother of three, Natasha Dangerfield, considers how parents choose the right education for their child:
Choosing the right school for your child, or indeed having one allocated to you, can be a bewildering process. As a mother of three, I am constantly reminded how different they all are, each with their own individual characteristics and preferences and how balancing their needs and aptitudes is a difficult job. Cutting through the marketing material, to find out if a school is really the right one for your child, can be hard work.
Each school is unique, with its own feel and character, and the only way to really know whether it is the right one for you is to go and visit. Speak to the Head, to staff and other parents to get a feel for how they view the school, but especially speak to the students, they will invariably be honest!
All parents want their children to achieve their best academically, of course, but education is about so much more than results statistics. For me, looking at what goes on outside the classroom - the range of activities and leadership opportunities, the way in which staff and pupils interact, or that intangible sense that the school builds confidence and character are key in finding a school where your child can truly thrive. Essential for me is that a school sends each child out in to the world with confidence, ambition and resilience. The foundations of these strengths can be built on the sports field or on a hillside during Duke of Edinburgh, as much learnt during the rich tapestry of extracurricular life, as in the classroom.
At Westonbirt, smaller classes and the boarding ethos allow us to cater for individual needs and day students benefit as much as the boarders from longer school days. We fill the extra time with activities, clubs, sport, music and drama - so that each individual has the opportunity to find something that really inspires them. Variety of opportunity enables breadth; it is perfectly possible to be academic and musical and sporty, with time in the week to undertake debating, rugby, concert band and history of art club, as well as lessons.
Decision making about something as impactful as your child’s education is never easy but my advice would be to speak to the headteacher, talk to parents with older children and look for a holistic approach to learning.