As Eaton Square School prepares to welcome its first pupils into the new Upper School in Mayfair, School Report Online asks Headmaster Sebastian Hepher what he considers to be the 10 most important things to consider when choosing the right Senior School for your child
What to look for when choosing a Senior School? A difficult matter to reduce to 10 questions. There are so many different aspects to look for and each person has their own, personal and individual tastes to factor in.
However, below are the main areas I always consider when looking for my pupils at school or indeed when I was looking for my own four children. What all parents must remember is that they are choosing the school for their son or daughter and not one which they themselves may have enjoyed. Equally, one school may work for one child but not the next; indeed, my children went to four different senior schools.
1. Are the pupils happy?
If they are relaxed, smiling and at ease within the environment, with each other and with the staff, then it is a clear indication that the school is doing something right.
2. Are the staff engaging the pupils?
If one has the opportunity to see some lessons taking place check whether the staff are interacting with the pupils and, if so, how. Are they leading from the front? Are they having good natured, informed discussions with the students? Is there a clear rapport and respect shown, both ways. The answer should be ‘yes’ to all of the above.
3. How are the pupils looked after and cared for?
What level of pastoral care is in place? How are pupils who are struggling academically encouraged and supported? How does the school communicate with the parents? If boarding, how are the boarders looked after and how do the House Tutors support the House Master / Mistress?
4. Can you speak to the pupils?
If one has the chance to speak with the students, then ask them how they find the school. What has impressed them the most since joining? If they could change one thing about the school what would that be?
5. What does boarding mean?
If one is looking at a Boarding School, you will need to research whether it is truly full boarding, weekly or flexi. Always ask the Registrar and, if at all possible, the students too in terms of how it actually works.
6. If a Boarding School what is the weekend provision?
Are the pupils given plenty of activities to keep them busy and occupied? How many students go home for the weekend and how many stay? If weekend visits home are allowed, what does this mean in reality? Mid-afternoon on Saturday to Sunday early evening or the full weekend?
7. What are the facilities like?
Although it should not be the overriding factor, it should be considered. Is there reinvestment in the school? What is the ambiance like? If it is a beautifully designed or old building like Eaton Square Upper School, Mayfair, this may well attract those students who are artistically inclined and attuned with architecture / history. Modern buildings can be equally exciting and inspiring.
8. Is there enough space for the students to exist comfortably?
Try to picture your son or daughter at 16 and 18, rather than 11 and 13. Are there areas where the seniors and sixth form can relax and have their own space? If so, how are these being used?
Does the school offer the IB, A levels, or a combination of the two? What A Level Boards are used? Would the system employed fit with your son or daughter and their own, individual learning style?
10. Where do students exit to?
Are the students all going down a limited path to a narrow group of Universities or does the school send to a large number of different institutions for further education? What are the statistics and how are the students supported through the UCAS process? What is the school’s overarching aim with this – the best Universities for the school records or the best Universities for each pupil?
Ultimately, the choice comes down to parents to pick the right school for their child and one which suits their child’s individual needs, talents and interests. The right senior school will encourage and shape a child into a confident young adult.
This is especially relevant in the case of a boarding school, where your child will be more influenced by those whom he or she is surrounded by than if he or she attends a day school. In both cases, it is vital to consider whether the atmosphere of the school is one in which your child will fit in to.
Eaton Square Upper School aims to create an atmosphere where pupils feel safe, happy, nurtured and able to learn, no-matter where their specialities and interests lie. We will cater to specific interests to ensure they ignite curiosities across both the curricular and extra-curricular spheres. This, we feel, is at the heart of education.