Your guide to choosing a secondary school

School sign
The move to secondary school is a big turning point in your child's life. Here are our tips on making the right choice of school.

If your child is now in Year 6, it’s time to start thinking about what secondary school they’ll go to. Talk to your child's teacher and ask about what sort of help the school provides and what information you can expect to receive from the local education authority (LEA).

Information gathering

Visits
Find out what ‘taster’ visits are organised by local schools. These are opportunities for children to visit during school hours and spend time as pupils. Encourage your child to attend as many as possible.

Open evenings
Most schools will also hold open evenings for you to look around the school and talk to teachers and current pupils. You will be able to find out information about facilities, uniform and lunches, as well as see mini lessons.

Other sources of information

  • School prospectuses: Get these from each school you are interested in. They provide lots of information about the school and how to apply.
  • LEA booklets: These list schools in your area and give information, such as the size of each school.
  • Ofsted inspection reports: A report is available for every school and you can ask for a copy or a summary of the main findings.
     
  • Performance tables: The Government publishes tables every year that give information about GCSEs and other exam results, absenteeism and other key facts.
     
  • Other parents: Find out what they think but bear in mind that it’s the facts that are important, not just opinions.

Important things to consider when choosing a secondary school

  • What does your child think and where are their friends going?
     
  • Bear in mind that reputations, both good and bad, can often ‘stick’ for a long time and may not tell the whole truth about the school now.
     
  • If you are particularly impressed by the headteacher check whether the school is already aware of any changes in headship in the near future.
     
  • Just because other children do well at a school it doesn’t mean that your child will be happy there. Be honest about the type of school in which you believe they may do best.
     
  • If your child has special educational needs, find out what’s offered in terms of SEN provision.
     
  • Does your child have a particular interest, for example, music. If so, is this a strength in the school?
     
  • How will your child travel to the school? Homework and other responsibilities increase greatly at secondary school and a difficult journey can be extremely tiring. On the other hand, travelling to school can be an opportunity to develop confidence, so don’t immediately be put off by a bus or train journey.

Applications – when and how

Many local education authorities now encourage parents to apply for their child's school online. You will usually be able to select up to six schools, in preference order. It’s a good idea to apply for more than one in case your first choice is oversubscribed.

You’ll be given information about how to apply from your school at the end of Year 5 or the beginning of Year 6. You should make a careful note of the application deadline. You’ll finally be told about the place your child has been offered at the beginning of March.