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How do you choose a school when you can’t visit?

Wave a temporary farewell to senior school open days and say hello to remotely selecting your child’s next school from the comfort of your sitting room! Arabella Davies, education and school planning consultant shares some tips on how to choose a school when you can’t visit. 


When schools will reopen nobody knows, but one thing is for sure, tours and open days for prospective parents are unlikely to resume until the Autumn.

This makes it difficult for schools who, at this time of year, would normally be showing off their campuses to prospective families mainly with children in Year 5 in advance of either an 11+ entry in 2021 or a 13+ entry in 2023.

There will of course be plenty of opportunity to visit further down the line but in order not to disrupt the admissions process too dramatically many schools are currently sticking by their registration deadlines, some of which are this coming June (although I envisage many schools will offer some leeway in the wake of the current situation).

Instead of endless open days, this remote method could in fact make the job of narrowing down your top target list even easier and so here are some introductory pointers to get you going.

  • Do look beyond the introductory page of the website. As you are unable to be dazzled by the frills and fluff and stately home image, then instead look deeper within areas of interest for each of your children. The website will have plenty of information on sports, music, drama etc.
  • Do note down any questions that you feel are important as you scour the website. Anything from daily timetable to the amount of sport played each week to distance across the campus between classrooms and other facilities etc.
  • Do download pre-recorded interviews with the head and other staff members as well as current pupils. Some schools are even considering inviting their prospective parents to online live presentations and Q&A sessions so have some good questions at the ready as this offers an opportunity to ask many more questions than at an ordinary open day.
  • Do talk to other families with children at your target schools. This is not the time to keep your cards too close to your chest. Share ideas and ask questions. In particular why they chose the school in the first place, what they like and least like about it and which other schools they considered alongside their final choice.
  • Don’t panic buy – think methodically about what it is you are looking for in your children’s future schooling & education before committing to a registration fee.
  • Don’t focus too much on league tables. With this year’s public exams cancelled it’s irrelevant anyway.
  • Do keep in touch with the admissions office who will be delighted to answer all your questions and are keen to assist you every step of the way.

Finally, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with Arabella at arabella@theirbestyears.com for further information on what online & remote procedures are being put in place and for a more in-depth insight in to your senior school choices.

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