Top 5 questions to ask a senior school

Posted on 12th Sep 2023 in School News, Choosing a school, Which London School?

Kirsten Crossland, Director of Communications and Marketing at Marymount International School London, offers her advice and some key points to consider when choosing a senior school.

When making the final decision about your child’s senior school education, there are so many questions out there a parent may ask. Regardless of the type of schooling your child is entering - whether in the subsidised, private, international or state sectors - over the years, I have found these five to be the most interesting questions asked by parents. They are also the questions that will help you determine which school is the right fit for your child.

Question One: What is your education philosophy, and how does this translate into the classroom? 

Many families may be drawn to a particular school for the name, the prestige or the legacy associated with it. Something which needs to be considered is whether the pedagogy aligns with your own family’s values and goals. As each student has their own unique characteristics and talents, not every school is right for every student. By asking this particular question, you will get an idea of the overall approach and how it will impact your child’s educational experience and whether the fit is the right one.

Question Two: How does the school support students’ mental and emotional wellbeing? 

The focus on mental health has changed significantly for the better in the last several years. On the back of students receiving their education at home for extended periods of time in the last several years, a school’s approach to managing and supporting emotional safety should be as important to the school as it is to parents. Ultimately, schools benefit greatly in educating students 23 who are happy. Asking about the provision for this space is important to understanding how a school nurtures their students, and staff for that matter!

Question Three: How does the school foster inclusivity? 

More recently, I have noticed a drive within schools to create a community environment. Students who have multiple stakeholders involved in their development, who know them individually, thrive. When no one is unnoticed, the security it offers allows for a warm and accepting community. As a parent, you will feel this in the way the question is answered, and it will provide you with a sense of whether the school is right for you. 

Question Four: What are the school’s academic standards and expectations and how do you measure student success? 

Each school has its own set of academic expectations for its students. Some may have a rigorous academic focus, whilst others may have more practical skills and experiential learning models. By understanding the school’s goals and measures of success, such as assessments and standardised testing which your child will be expected to meet, you will have an idea of how to gauge progress and the alignment to your own expectations.

Question Five: What additional programmes does the school offer?

Balance in learning has also started to make headway in educational institutions, particularly with non-academic enrichment. Extra-curricular activities are fundamental to support personal growth, skills development, and community involvement. A school with a strong time commitment to these activities is a school that understands the importance of the development of the whole of the student. By asking about this, you will have a sense of the breadth and depth of what is available to your child. 

Asking these questions will give you a greater sense of the school as a whole. I would recommend asking these to all the schools you are interested in before introducing them to your child. Ask these questions to many different staff at the school, too. A consistency in the answers provided will only solidify your comfort in their provision and provide valuable insights into the school’s priorities, values, and culture. At the end of the day, armed with all this knowledge and a deep understanding of your child, you will instinctively know when a school is the right school for your child.

This article first appeared in the 2023/24 edition of Which London School? & the South-East, which you can read in full below: