How Do I Choose the Right School for my Child?Tweet
Selecting a school from overseas is a difficult task. In the UK alone, there are 33,000 schools. Often, the number can be narrowed down by your requirements. For example, if you’re looking for a boarding school, there are only about 500 of these in the UK. After you’ve chosen from the different school types, there are still other aspects to think about. Take a look at our tips below to find the right school for your child:
Don’t simply focus on brand names and league tables
When looking from overseas, there are a couple of resources people tend to fall back on: reputation and statistics. Unfortunately, these aren’t always as reliable as they seem.
Many organisations have financial relationships that lead them to promote certain schools over others. When this promotion is successful, it can feel like everyone you know is sending their child to a handful of schools, so these must be the best. However, they’re often just the best at recruitment, and it’s important to take a critical look to ensure they really meet your needs. Make sure to consider schools that are less well-known in Hong Kong in order to get a full picture of the options available.
Since schools know how highly parents value league tables, they can go to great lengths to get the best results. Highly selective schools have a very strong intake, and these students are easy sources of good results. If your child would need more support to reach their potential, these schools may not provide it.
Similarly, some independent schools protect their rankings by excluding ‘underperforming’ pupils before they sit their GCSEs or A levels. This is a sign that the school cares more about its reputation than the students, and you will want to think carefully about whether this is the right place for your child.
A helpful metric you can look at is student improvement. The government provides this for English state and grammar schools: Progress 8 score shows how much students’ standardised test marks improve in core subjects between the ages of 11 and 16. This score is a comparison of schools across England, so scores above 0 mean students are improving more than the national average.
Get a range of perspectives on your child
At i-Learner, our tutors have long-lasting relationships with students, and we see how they grow and change. Often, parents still see their child as they were when younger, or they can only see them through the lens of their behaviour at home.
For example, a child’s father might think she’s lazy because she never tidies her room and starts lots of craft projects without finishing them. But her tutor sees her striving to write an essay with original ideas and asking insightful questions in class, showing that she embraces academic challenge. Both perspectives are needed to figure out the right school for the girl so she’s pushed academically but supported in other areas.
Consider the whole school environment
There’s much more to a school than its academics, and this is especially important for a child moving overseas. A new environment can be a big challenge, and the school will form the basis of your child’s social experience and extra-curricular life. Getting the whole picture of a school will help your child make a new home there.
It’s also important to ensure the school’s method of teaching works well for your child. This can vary considerably, with some schools promoting independent study or focusing on project-based learning, while others have more of an authoritarian style. Students can be great at adapting, but taking time to do this can mean losing precious education opportunities while they find their feet.
Getting a feel for life at the school is a great help, and you should aim to speak to current and former students whenever possible. i-Learner Overseas Education Services speaks to students from a range of schools and uses this feedback when advising parents.
Recently, Ceri Moss, who studied at Sale Grammar School, told us she valued ‘the emphasis the school placed on taking part in extracurriculars and community volunteering, [which] ensured I had healthy working habits and great hobbies to continue once I left.’
Robert Burton told us that during his time at the independent Thetford Grammar School, the teachers ‘were really committed to the development of their students and were also interested in us as individuals. The fact that I had a good understanding with my teachers definitely helped as far as my enjoyment of the subjects and preparation for important exams were concerned.’
At Dwight School London (formerly North London International School), according to Clare Males, there was ‘a strong focus on independent learning. Personal projects encouraged students to take responsibility for their own work, which is key to success at IB.’
Our i-Learner Overseas Education Services consultants bring a wealth of knowledge on schools overseas and work hard to find the best fit for your child. We’re always happy to help with this important decision.