The Schoolist

The Schoolist: How to choose the right independent school for your child

By Rachael Holden at

We’re lucky to live in an area with some excellent state secondary schools as well as some highly competitive grammar schools.

But how do you begin to know how to choose an independent education that’s right for your child?

Rachael Holden, founder of The Schoolist, gives her expert advice on what parents should consider when deciding.

What you should be doing now

  • Consider what you’re looking for in a school and compile a longlist. Don’t discount any schools at this point without a good reason. Contact each school for a prospectus and join their mailing lists for advance notice of open days and application deadlines.
  • Open days are an essential first step in your application as they allow you to view a wide range of facilities, meet teachers and listen to a Head’s talk. This will give you a feel for what each school offers and (depending on how busy the event is) how much competition there is for places.
  • If you’re visiting several schools, make notes after each one. It sounds obvious but after the second or third school, it’s hard to remember which one had the inspiring teacher or which gym looked like it needed some TLC.

Later this term

  • Book a working day tour even if it’s not your first choice as it will allow you to see what the school is really like. These tours usually involve a brief meeting with the Head, allowing you to discuss your child in more detail.
  • Register your child for entrance exams. Usually parents apply for two or three schools, just in case their child has a nightmare during one of the exams. During registration you can also apply for financial assistance. Remember that bursaries are means-tested and each school can give you an idea of what your maximum income should be before applying. Conversely, scholarships aren’t means-tested, and although they are less valuable (they usually represent a 10% discount in fees) they flag your child up as being particularly able. Usually academic scholarships are awarded to the highest achieving applicants based on entrance exam results, meaning that you don’t have to apply for these.
  • If you are considering an independent senior school, first think honestly about what type of school will suit your child. Schools will be happy to talk to you about what they can offer but do your own research too so that you can ask the right questions before you apply.

The Schoolist is a free impartial website for parents considering independent senior schools in South Manchester. Compare the latest fees and results, read parent reviews and get advice from experienced professionals at www.theschoolist.co.uk. The Schoolist is also on Twitter @TheSchoolistMcr.