The education system in the UK can be complex. Firstly, it is split into State provided and Independent schools, plus parents can choose to home educate their child. Each school type has different names, for State schools they are knowns as ‘Infant, Junior, Primary, Middle, Secondary, High and Upper Schools’. In the Independent sector they are known as Pre-Prep, Prep and Secondary Schools.

Secondary Schools

In most cases, children move to Secondary school at the age of 11; although, this may depend on which area or school system you are in. The first step to choosing a school is to visit as many as possible to see which is right for your child. Some schools are more sporty or creative, others are just academic.

Finding the right school for your child is obviously really important, and the more you see the better. Furthermore, I am a huge advocate of your child visiting the schools with you. This is their education, their future, so it should be, at least partially, their choice. If your child has not bought into this next step the prospect of exams, long commutes or being away from their friends could be a hard sell.

When to start looking?

I would start looking at schools and start listing your local and favourite schools in Year 4. Schools normally run open days in Autumn and Summer each year so knowing which are on your list will help you plan your visits. Once you have seen a selection of schools (often many parents choose to do this without their child), short list your top 6-8, making note of any exams and application dates that are relevant. Later that year/in Year 5 visit again, this second visit is a great time to get answers to your questions.

How to choose schools?

The first and most obvious answer is – does this school fit your child? As previously mentioned, focusing on your child’s interests and how a particular school can nurture, support, and challenge them is key. However, there is more to consider than that. Ofsted is an important factor in many parents search, as it is not just the outcome you need to look at. When was the Ofsted inspection undertaken is a key question. Some ‘Outstanding’ schools may not have been visited in 5 or 10 years and this may mean the school is not still ‘Outstanding’, just that Ofsted is yet to reinspect it.

GCSE results are another great indicator. With this there are three main areas to consider:

  1. Percentage of children who received 8 GCSE grades in specific subjects.
  2. Percentage of children who scored a grade 5 (seen to be the average grade and the old ‘C’ equivalent) or above in English and Maths.
  3. Progress 8 score, which means how much progress was made between Key Stage 2 (Year 6) and Key Stage 4 (Year 11) in the 8 qualifications indicated before.

Progress 8

Progress 8 is really important when choosing a school. If a school selects their pupils based on academic achievement at 11, then they should continue to do well in school and achieve higher GCSE results. This does not necessarily mean that the school was good at teaching them, but that they were high achieving children who attained good GCSE results. When you look at the progress that each child made, or the Progress 8 results, is this percentage as high?

Other non-selective schools may have slightly lower GCSE grades but high Progress 8 results. Thus indicating that the teaching and progress during the past 5 years was good, but the starting points for some children may have been lower.

Independent schools

Independent schools are monitored by the Independent Schools Inspectorate (ISI). Just as with OFSTED schools are reviewed on a rolling programme and reports can be found on the ISI website. Many independent school pupils take GCSE qualifications, but these are not ranked on Government websites as State Schools are. Instead, you will need to complete a web search of the GCSE performance tables or directly review grades on individual school websites to compare results.

How we can help

Growing Young Minds support children aiming to enter a range of secondary schools. Here at G.Y.M we do not simply prepare children for the exam but develop a continued love of learning, broad and balanced understanding and deepening knowledge as well as problem-solving skills which will aid children throughout their Secondary Years. To join our lessons simply complete this form and we will be in touch.

Alternately, if you are looking for Verbal and Non-Verbal Reasoning preparation for Independent School or the Wandsworth Test or Lambeth Exam complete or Verbal & Non-Verbal Reasoning booking form.

For our help and advice on Secondary Schools contact us at [email protected].


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