How to choose a Secondary or Grammar School
By Rosemary Morrison, Kip McGrath Bangor
Very soon P7s will be finding out which schools they will be going to in September. Some will be disappointed at not getting their first choice, but hopefully most will be delighted and excited when they see the school name
on the letter. Application forms for the AQE test are now available on their website and the GL Assessment test forms will become available on the 17th May, signalling that the transfer process for this year’s P6 children has
started and that the choice of post-primary schools must soon be given consideration.
How do I make the right choice for my child?
How do parents and children go about choosing the school which will be ‘right
for them’ so that they can enjoy and benefit from their next seven years of
For many the choice is easy; nearest post – primary school or perhaps the school a sibling is already attending. However, others may find the task more daunting and it is worth reading the Department of Education’s advice on www.nidirect.gov.uk .
In the meantime, here are some top tips from a parent who has been through this twice!
- The first step is to make a list of possible schools and attend their open days/evenings with your child. These are advertised in the newspaper or should be on school websites. My advice would be to visit as many as you can because only by doing this can you feel the different atmosphere in the schools; and it can be very different.
- Ask your child to try to imagine themselves there, going to class, sitting in a classroom etc.
- Talk to as many of the teachers and pupils as possible and watch the interaction between the two!
- Try not to be swayed by the age of the building as this is not an indicator of the standard of teaching in the school.
- When you have decided which schools are most suitable for your child, you can then put these into your preferred order.
Here are some things you need to be aware of and to give some thought to, before you do this:
- The school may have admissions criteria (this information is available in their prospectus) eg feeder primary schools, eldest child, sibling/parent attending/attended the school. These criteria are taken into consideration by schools when they are processing the applications from would- be pupils. Does your child fit easily into some or, preferably, most of these criteria?
- Have you younger children who may benefit, by getting easier admission into the school your eldest child is attending, through the admissions criteria ‘sibling attending school’? If the sibling is the opposite sex, would this be a good reason for choosing a co-ed school? If you prefer a single sex school and you have a younger child of the opposite sex be aware of the logistics involved with having children attending different schools. This may include being off on different dates for holidays, having to juggle drop off/pick up, school events which clash…etc.
- What subjects are available for GCSE and A level? If your child has a desire to do an exam in a particular subject, make sure your preferred school teaches it at this level. Also, check out the combinations of subjects available to choose for GCSE as sometimes these are limited.
- What about proximity to home? If the school is within walking distance or on a town bus route, transport to and from school is easy and cheap, just shoe- leather and/or local bus fares. Your child may be more likely to take part in after- school activities and play on school teams because the logistics of getting there and back are simplified. Also, their friends are more likely to be living locally which will save a lot of parents’ time and petrol money at weekends and during holidays!
- What if you prefer a school which requires a daily bus trip? There may be a school bus specifically for that school which picks up / drops off pupils on route; or there may be a passing public bus. Either way you may need to factor in the cost of bus fares for the school year, and do be aware that once your child reaches sixteen, they pay adult fare. Their friends may not live locally, and unless the school provides a late bus or there is convenient public transport or you can pick them up, your child may not be able to become involved in the activities on offer after school.
- Another cost needing considered is that of fees. Fees are normally associated with Grammar schools and vary from school to school. Information is usually available on the school website.
Hopefully the school you and your child decide on will be the right one for
them and they will enjoy and benefit from the time they spend there.
Kip McGrath Education Centres Bangor
Tel: 028 9185 9312
Professional tutoring in maths, English and reading for students aged 6 to 16.