September is the time when children go back to school, it’s also the time when secondary schools hold their open days. If your child is in year 6, this the chance for you and your child to view prospective schools and decide which ones they want (and don’t want) to name on their preferences form.

It’s a big decision, and there are lots of factors to consider. Your child may want to attend the school that’s closest to home, or the one that most of their friends are going to, but that may not be the best option for them.

Here are 4 things that every parent and should consider when they’re looking round a new secondary school.

Where is the secondary school

Location is key when choosing a school, The first question you need to ask is this: is the school within reasonable commuting distance? After all, making a 2 hour round trip 5 days a is a LOT of travelling for your child, especially if it eats into their after-school activities. It’s also a lot of travelling for parents, so ask yourself if doing such a long school run will fit with your other work and family commitments.

Public transport offers a cost-effective travel option that allows your child to build their independence, especially if your chosen school is on a direct bus train route. However, you need to consider the safety issues. Are you happy for your child to travel long distances on public transport, especially on dark winter evenings? If not, you may need to consider other options.

What is the school’s ethos?

You need to ask yourself what matters most to you about a new school. Or, more accurately, what are the school’s priorities?

Some schools focus on results and league tables, while others take a more holistic approach that supports children to develop emotionally and prepares them to thrive in a rapidly changing world. Some schools also focus on excellence in specific subject areas, such as STEM. So, it’s worth considering whether your child is interested in those subjects.

Ultimately, every secondary school has its own unique philosophy and values. Your job as parents is to make sure that ethos it aligns with your own values and priorities.

What facilities does the school have?

The physical learning environment has a big effect on the quality of your child’s learning journey. It could even affect their willingness to get involved with new activities and experiences.

Are the classrooms spacious, and are specialist teaching spaces such as labs and I.T. suites well-equipped and properly maintained? You should also look to see if non-teaching spaces such as dining areas – are spacious and well laid out.

Don’t forget to check the outside spaces too. For urban secondary schools in particular, space is a valuable commodity that enriches a child’s life. A small, tarmacked yard is no substitute for green space where children can decompress and connect with nature.

Does the school offer extracurricular activities?

The experiences that students have outside the classroom are often the ones that enrich their education the most. A good school will offer a host of activities to choose from. These activities will vary from school to school but may include clubs, plentiful sporting opportunities, and the chance to participate in the Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme.

Parents should also ask whether the school is involved in charity events where children can learn about real-world issues.

Can you visit in-person?

It’s important to visit a school open days in person – virtual tours simply aren’t the same. Stepping inside the school allows you to get a better feel for the school environment and their community dynamics. So, if you can physically visit the school, take a little time to observe quietly. Do the children seem happy and relaxed? Do they engage confidently and respectfully with their staff and peers?

One last thing – don’t place too much focus on exam results

As we mentioned above, parents are often drawn to certain schools for their excellent academic credentials. However, we always advise parents to never judge a school on its examination results alone; they only show how academically selective a school is. Instead, consider exam results should in the wider context of the experiences and opportunities available to pupils.

George Alexander Tuition provides specialised maths and science tuition for students aged 10-18. We are based in central London, and our 1-1 lessons are available online or in-person. To make an enquiry, or book a tutor, you can contact us on, or call us on 07494 672719.



Leave a Reply