For any parent, the decision we make about our children’s education is probably the one that will have the most impact on their future lives, as well as their present happiness. A good school experience can leave them confident, outgoing, respectful of others, capable, imaginative, happy, independent and open to life-long learning. A bad school experience can leave them fearful, insecure, needy, apathetic, aggressive and depressed. This is before we even get on to exam results and how they shape our future career choices.
We all want to give our children the best, so that’s why we should think very carefully about how they are educated. Children with special needs or particular talents may be best served by attending a school that caters particularly to them, but this is not always the case. Sometimes mixing with children of all abilities in every sense can be the best option for a child.
Private schools should provide the best education money can buy. Often these are boarding schools, which teach children self-reliance from an early age. They will also be automatically encouraged to think of themselves as part of an elite, and will not be mixing with children from a wide range of social backgrounds. You may want to consider whether this is a good thing. Knowing that their parents are paying a great deal of money for their education may also put a great deal of pressure on a child.
Do it yourself
Home schooling similarly can isolate a child from its peer group, although there are measures that can be taken to prevent this, such as enrolling them in out-of-school clubs. The advantage is that you can educate them as you see fit and their needs will be completely focussed on, rather than them having to compete with up to 40 other children in a classroom. Of course, this takes time and resources that not every parent has at their disposal.
The right area
If your child is going to attend a state school then they will have to be living within the appropriate catchment area. Competition for the better state schools is fierce, and families are often prepared to pay high housing prices to live close to a good school. The Kingsdale Foundation School in Dulwich is a very popular school, with admission controlled by Southwark Borough Council. This mixed state secondary school is situated between Dulwich Village, West Norwood, Forest Hill and Crystal Palace and has academy status.
How to choose
While high league table results are the obvious indicator of a good school, they aren’t the only ones. Many schools achieve misleadingly high places by restrictive entry policies or the achievements of a few high fliers. They don’t always reflect the all-round teaching quality or the overall culture of a school.
Take your time when choosing a school. Visit it in person; get to know the teachers and pupils. Listen to what your child has to say as well; after all, it’s their life that will be affected. The best school is the one that’s right for them, and that will set them in good stead for the rest of their days.