Choosing the right school for a child is one of the most difficult choices a parent faces. Above all, the key is deciding whether a child will be happy wherever they take up a place. A happy child will gain the most from his or her education.
I’ve always thought that a school is not its buildings, but rather the community of its staff and pupils. As a parent, that’s what I would focus on in judging where I think my child would thrive. Can you imagine your child in that environment, sitting with fellow pupils and enjoying the atmosphere in which he or she would be immersed? Of course you need to visit every school that appears on your ‘shortlist’.
It is important that schools open their doors on normal days, so parents and pupils can gain a feeling of what makes that institution tick. For example, at The Manchester Grammar School, we aim to help parents make their decision by giving their sons the chance to see us first-hand as we attempt to get to know the boy, rather than his preparation for exams. A good school will tell you that unlocking potential is the key to successful education and will try, as we do at MGS during our assessment days, to analyse a child’s passion for learning. It’s our belief that parents would much rather have a school judge its applicants by their abilities in the classroom and enthusiasm for engaging with teachers, than the somewhat impersonal judgement on statistics alone.
Choice of one school over another is a very stressful time, and there are things that will impact on that decision for a particular family that a school can’t influence – including an ability to get to the school and having friends or family already at the school, automatic entry to the senior school or sixth form. However, if there are reservations with an otherwise favoured institution, then it’s always worth mentioning them to the school in question – they might be able to offer solutions or reassurances. This is just as worth doing if there are concerns about a state ‘catchment’ school an independent one. Each family will prioritise different things in choice of school, and ultimately it falls down to where you feel your child will be most suited to. If, like at MGS, a school offers places on more than exam results alone, having met your child, then there is a reassurance that the school also feels that it will suit the child in question. At MGS we believe strongly that parents can be comfortable that, if we make an offer to a boy it is because we have the best possible view of their abilities and have judged that he will thrive in the environment our school offers.
Michael Strother, Director of Admissions
The Manchester Grammar School