Considering that first school for your child does appear to be a daunting prospect particularly when many school lists in London are only open at birth and close before a child reaches the age of one and are then followed by gruelling assessments when your child is barely 3 years of age.
What is the best way to negotiate your way round this process and what happens to families who suddenly relocate when their child is 3 or 4 years old or who decide to follow an independent school route later in the day.
Arabella Davies, Education Consultant and Founder of Their Best Years shares some valuable tips on how to choose that very first school and what parents need to be doing to ensure they get the very best out of this important start for their education journey.
Registration Deadlines – Most of the leading independent options in and around London will encourage you to register your child as soon as they are born with many closing their books when that year’s intake is full. With many schools becoming more and more over-subscribed, my advice is to register with at least 3 schools at this point. Once you have registered it leaves you plenty of time to visit the school before the assessment which will take place in the Autumn/Winter prior to entry.
Visiting the School – Look for a head and teachers who appear passionate about their children. It’s not so much about facilities but how a school utilises their space and incorporates all the necessary co-curricular activities over and above the national curriculum. Sport is important and so do enquire as to how far the children need to travel to take part in games. Ask lots of questions not just to members of staff but also to current families with children at the school and if possible do a drive-past/walk-past at drop off and at pick up to get a feel for the types of families and children who go to the school.
The Assessment Process – This differs from school to school and there are only so many questions you can ask a three year old. However, there is no doubt that most schools are looking for children who appear curious and quietly confident even if on the day they are not always very chatty.
Place Allocation – The competition for London schools has become even more fierce since the pandemic and the average London family will register with at least 3-5 schools. While many children will be offered a firm place from the outset some will be wait-listed while a few will be rejected. However, there is no such thing as a child wandering down the road with a placard saying “I have no school to go to” and so do be reassured that this process, although brutal is to qualify that your child is the right fit rather than whether they have been tutored to within an inch of their tiny lives.
Occasional Places for those wishing to apply late in the day – Most schools will operate a wait-list and don’t forget many families will sit on more than one place and hence these lists move considerably in the Spring/Summer running up to the September entry. I do encourage you to register your interest on their waiting list as I have seen that these often materialise into a place further down the line. It is however wise to have a back-up option just in case.
Whether you are looking in or out of London, don’t forget that the menu of great schools on offer to you is plentiful, and so don’t hesitate to get in touch if you feel that a more in-depth insight into each of your choices might be useful as well as information on the admissions process in its entirety. Do contact email@example.com
Keep an eye out for: How to choose your first school in the country.
(Photo credit: Glendower Prep School)